The Business Digest - Santa Barbara County, June 1999
Praise from your peers is praise, indeed. Paul Burri has been an e-pen pal of Jay Conrad Levinson for some time and considered Levinson, author of 17 books on guerilla marketing, his "guerrilla guru." Well, it appears Paul had been feeding Jay Conrad ideas, and when they finally met in person, Jay Conrad called Paul a genius, right to his face, and said he'd already mentioned Paul in his newsletter.
Burri has a company out in Goleta called BrandNew . He sells custom branding irons to woodworkers, leather workers and plastic manufacturers, or anybody else who wants to permanently identify something.
He credits guerrilla marketing with the tremendous growth of BrandNew . "We have been growing at a rate of over 260% per year for the last four years," he said. "In this fifth year we are well on our way to doing that again."
So what's this guerrilla marketing? "It's doing all kinds of creative approaches and techniques to increase your sales which don't cost a lot of money," Burri said. "Anybody can spend a million and buy the back cover of Tim," (anybody with a million bucks, that is). "Guerilla marketing gets the same kinds of results for a hundred bucks."
This is how Burri does it. First of all, he advertises all over the place. His target customers are in the U.S., Canada, England, Australia and other English speaking countries. He takes out small ads in trade publications. By the way, one of these magazines claims a circulation of 1.2 million, so the market is broad. It includes not only professional, but amateur woodworkers, leather workers, etc.
From these ads he gets potential customers. "We get 150 calls per week from people asking for our literature," he said. "Even those who see us on the Web want our literature. So we mail out a brochure. Nothing new so far. But one example of what we do that is differing is about a week after we mail the brochure, we send a color postcard of Santa Barbara. This works particularly well in the wintertime when you're mailing to South Dakota or somewhere cold."
"On the back of this postcard," Burri continued, "handwritten, it says, 'Dear George, (or whoever), This is where God rested on the seventh day.' Then we remind the person about the discount coupon we sent them with the brochure." What this does is raise the dead, in a manner of speaking. If the brochure came in the mail along with several others the customer receives every day, pretty soon the brochure is under a pile. Mailing follow-up cards is a way to get the potential customer to dig up your brochure and resurrect it to the top of the pile.
Does the method work? "Conversion rate is the rate of sales compared to how much you mail out," Burri explained. "Traditionally the conversion rate with mail order is about 1.5%, but using that one technique, our conversion rate last year was 50%."
This guerrilla method was developed by Burri, who admits to making a few false starts in the beginning. He also depends on good, old-fashioned quick service to keep his little ship not only afloat, but in front of the regatta.
"We do a lot of quoting for people," he explained. "They send us their design, and I fax a quote back. First of all, I promise that 90% of our quotes will be back within four hours, and 100% will be back within 24 hours. Our competition usually takes about three weeks."
Hustle pays off. "We have frequently shipped the order before our competition has quoted the job," he said. "That's also guerrilla marketing."
So what about those quotes he hustles off so quickly which don't engender a response? In about two weeks he sends a special letter on bright orange paper. When the customer opens the letter he sees a big tropical fish with "something's fishy" written below. Inside the envelope is a plastic fishing lure just to keep the theme going and to add an element of curiosity to the customer who wonders what this lumpy thing could be inside.
Burri continued, "Then we say, 'Hey, something's fishy.' We know we're the most competitive. We know we're the fastest and we know we're the best, so we wonder why we haven't hear form you." Guerrilla marketing seems to be massaging your potential customer base with creative ideas.
Burri went to high school in Brooklyn and has been a woodworker since he was 12 years old. Consequently, he got pretty good at what he was doing and he wanted some way to sign his worker. So he made his own branding iron by bending a piece of wire into shape, heating it up and pressing it on the work.
"Over the years I started making smaller works, cases, jewelry boxes and such," he explained. "So I needed a smaller branding iron. It took me two years to develop a method to make one with extraordinary details. I first made it for myself then realized there are a lot of others out there who might like one of these for their work. That seems to be the case."
BrandNew has four part-time employees who work the telephones and get the orders out. The company recently took over a larger area at the same location in Goleta. They doubled their size to around 1,000 square feet. It seems when you play in the world of Guerrilla marketing you've got to have room for the gorilla.