Shoelace Diaries

Expanding Opportunity with Grass-Roots Marketing
October 23, 2008, 10:12 am
Filed under: Blogroll

The below article was written for the July 2008 Doba eNewsletter. I work for Doba as an Education Specialist in the Marketing Department. Visit for more information on Doba.

It’s not breaking news that marketing has changed dramatically through
the years. The extreme advancements in technology present marketing
with new and exciting opportunity and resources, but also cast a shadows
over the founding principles of marketing. The challenge for online
retailers is to not forget what has worked for so many years in the
past. In this article, I will discuss how to combine old and new strategies
in becoming a hybrid business and expand business opportunity through
grass-roots marketing.

Seeing Green

I was riding my bike home from work the other day and saw a bumper
sticker that read, “Green is the new Black”–meaning
that natural or organic things (referred to as the color green) goes
with everything (just like the color black in a fashion sense). Coincidentally,
I noticed this sticker attached to the back bumper of a Honda Civic
a type of vehicle that combines a gasoline engine and an electric engine
for a mixture of fuel that powers the car, conserves energy, and provides
“better gas mileage.”

It seems the current economic state has everyone going back to their
roots and thinking “green.” With everything from the food
they eat to their mode of transportation, as a society we are analyzing
our lives and expanding our options; keeping available resources from
becoming extinct and opening opportunity’s door at the same time. Online
retailers can do the same by using a blend of new and old marketing

Available Resources

Especially as online retailers, sometimes we need to stick our heads
in water and shake it out and say, wait a minute, what time is it, and
where do I go to get lunch? (Translation: Stop, step back,
look at the overall picture, and move forward accordingly) Make it a
habit to analyze your business practices and strategies on a consistent
basis. An ever-changing market presents a situation where your business
marketing, strategies, and practices may not work as well as they have
in the past. You may be asking yourself, “With so many markets
available to sell in, which one should I choose?”

Well, the real question should be, “Which one’s should
you choose?” Putting all of your eggs in one basket might not be
the safest bet. Start with the available resources.

Grass-Roots Marketing

Grass-Roots marketing was born and became successful long before advanced
technology showed it’s face. The Four P’s of Marketing (Product, Price,
Place, and Promotion) introduced the marketing
which created an equal opportunity for retailers to compete
on the same grounds with the same end goal–satisfying customers
and making a profit. Customers looked to more than just a good product
for a good price to determine their satisfaction, they looked for a
relationship and a good overall purchase
; a relationship deeper than the wallet.

I remember my grandpa saying, “Back in my day, you never bought
something from someone you didn’t know and respect. Now, people will
buy anything from complete strangers.”

Although the times have changed, my grandpa shares an important customer
trait that has not changed that much; customers will purchase a product
from whoever presents the most comfortable overall situation.

Classified Advertising

Classified Advertising is just one way to market your products. With
classified ads, you can list products easily (and free!) locally through
newspapers, community boards, and online without needing a physical
store–targeting members of your local community. Beneficial to
both retailers and buyers, purchase experiences within the community
bring more comfort, security, and trust to the table.

Last year, a Doba employee purchased a chocolate fountain off of Doba’s
website to use for parties and game nights with friends. After receiving
plenty of comments and questions about the chocolate fountain, he listed
the same fountain on the classifieds of
(local Utah news station website). The listing including contact information
(with address for those interested to come see if first), photos he
took himself, a detailed product description, and a personal story that
paints a picture of love, laughter, and good times with the chocolate
fountain being the center-piece. He also included a list of possible
occasions the fountain could be used for. Within a month he averaged
selling 2 or 3 chocolate fountains a week.

Note: When using a supplier that drop-ships and selling
in a classified ad market, it may be necessary to communicate to the
customer that the product will be shipped directly from the warehouse
and allow for necessary shipping times. Or, you may have to take on
inventory by pre-ordering the product and shipping it to yourself.

Marketing in your local community changes the situation overall; suddenly
sellers are not just some one reaching for your wallet anymore, they
become an actual person just like you, someone you can personally relate

Here are some classified ads to consider (Most are free
to list products):

  • Local television, radio, and news classified boards and websites
  • Local community, business park, and college classified boards and
    (An eBay company)

Word of Mouth Marketing

Word of Mouth Marketing has always been a free and fun way to market
products with virtually no rules. It’s all about doing something to
stand out in a crowded marketplace. Use your imagination and creativity
to get the word out about your products. The more you have people talking,
the more people will talk.

On the same bike ride home I previously mentioned in this article,
my attention was caught by what I thought was a lemonade stand. Unfortunately
for me (in that particular situation), reality struck when I stopped
next to a small table on the sidewalk and noticed it was a table full
of all types of hand made cards, paper and previously designed pages
for sale, instead of some type of cold thirst-quenching beverage. There
were 3 little girls trying to get their piece of the business pie by
selling scrap booking pages and supplies on the side of the road.

I know of some people who host a “Pants Party,” where people
look at, try on, and purchase brand name jeans. Similar parties are
thrown to promote and sell other entrepreneur’s products or services.

Word of mouth marketing, for the most part, can be free and can be
argued as the most effective marketing in terms of return on investment.
Adding creative and original touches into word of mouth marketing will
expand your opportunity to reach out to more potential customers…and
get them talking as well.

Amazon is another excellent resource to consider in addition to the
markets you are already selling in. Amazon is a market for any type
of seller, with a platform that offers many different seller accounts
to best suite your business style and needs. And, just like classified
ads and word of mouth marketing, it is free to list products through
on Amazon. They will not charge you until the product you listed has

Former eBay University Instructor and Online Retailing Instructor,
Steve Lindhorst
teaches people how to expand their online business with Amazon in his
book, “Selling
on ‘the River’- The eBay Seller’s Guide to
.” Known
as a competitor to eBay, the title quickly sets any assumptions straight
by emphasizing that this book is not one to bash eBay, but to assist
eBay sellers in considering multiple markets to sell in, along with
other options.

for more information on how to start listing products today.

Increased Success: Going Hybrid

Technology has played a major role to help provide opportunities and
resources that work in the favor of online retailer’s today. When it
comes to marketing, businesses have neglected the old to make way for
the new–when they should be using the old with the new to create
a hybrid business–fueled with grass root marketing and new-age
technology to expand their business options. Becoming a creatively hybrid
business will extend the life of your business, improve the value of
your business, help your business run cleaner and smoother, and give
you better gas mileage (return on investment).


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