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The Pros and Cons of a Grassroots Approach to Marketing

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Published: Aug 19, 2022

Did you know it’s not always necessary to perform large-scale digital marketing initiatives? In fact, these can come with some pretty serious financial and reputational repercussions if you don’t do them well.

So, what can you do instead? Well, grassroots marketing strategies are a cost-effective approach that prioritize the generation of high-value customers. Instead of targeting the masses with a broad message, they target a niche audience with a tailored one.

This article is going to explore what grassroots marketing is, discuss the pros and cons, and then finish with some quick tips on how to execute a successful grassroots strategy.  

What is Grassroots Marketing?

The goal of most marketing strategies is to reach the masses with a (somewhat) universal call to arms. A grassroots approach does things differently, targeting a niche audience with an emotionally impactful message. This encourages them to share this with their family and friends, resulting in organic growth. 

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Grassroots marketing aims to turn a select group of consumers into brand advocates i.e. loyal, high-value customers who share your content with a larger audience. This could be on their social platforms or through word-of-mouth recommendations to family and friends, or even promoting your business through their own internet radio show.

With referred customers boasting a higher lifetime value than non-referred ones, creating brand advocates is essential for business growth.

Almost every business can apply a grassroots approach to its marketing strategy. Whether you’re an eCommerce startup figuring out how to start a business or an established nonprofit aiming to deliver your message to a new market, grassroots tactics can help you reach your goals.

If you’re unsure of how to implement grassroots marketing, it could be worth your time to hire a virtual marketing assistant with the appropriate experience.

Pros of Applying a Grassroots Marketing Approach

From eCommerce to nonprofit organizations, marketers are increasingly embracing the grassroots approach as a small business marketing strategy

But why? Here are some of the pros to explain it.

Cost-effective

Targeting a niche audience means you’re focused on a much smaller group of people. Ergo, grassroots marketing doesn’t incur the same significant expenses as large-scale campaigns. Also, because the content is hyper-personalized for customers in a niche market, it often has a higher return on investment. 

The specific methods you use within a grassroots marketing strategy are inherently cost-efficient too. Instead of expensive traditional methods like PPC, you can utilize low-cost strategies such as SMS marketing, referral programs, freebies, discounts, and your social media management tool of choice.

Increased authenticity 

Customers like brands who stay true to their core values and messaging. According to Nosto, 90% of consumers cite authenticity as an important factor when deciding which brands to support. However, many feel most content created by brands doesn’t resonate as authentic.

Large-scale marketing strategies can certainly fall into this category. Consumers don’t like being bombarded with irrelevant ads or generic, sales-y content. They want to engage with a brand that stays true to its core values and understands their specific needs.

Grassroots marketing concentrates on appealing to a niche audience and tapping into their unique idiosyncrasies to create content that’s engaging and authentic. 

Increased customer trust and loyalty 

Consumers are much more likely to trust recommendations from friends and family than brand representatives. According to research by Kantar, 93% of consumers cite these as their most trusted information source when it comes to influencing purchases. This is closely followed by customer reviews at 91%. Unsurprisingly, advertising is regarded as the least trusted information source.

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Grassroots marketing is all about creating authentic, shareable content, which makes it a great strategy for building customer loyalty. Loyal customers are vital to your business’ success because they don’t just buy repeatedly but make higher-value purchases, boost engagement, and advocate for your brand.

Cons of Applying a Grassroots Marketing Approach

As with all marketing strategies, there are also a few downsides to be aware of. Let’s take a look at the main ones.

Less control 

A grassroots approach relies on word-of-mouth marketing to spread brand awareness and drive business growth. The problem with this is that brands have a lower level of control over the information that’s disseminated. 

If a brand’s message is misunderstood, the company’s voice on its own may not be powerful enough to quickly rectify the damage. This can result in harm to your reputation, misaligned messaging, and more.

While you’ll never be able to govern the spread of information as you would in a traditional marketing campaign, there are things you can do to increase control. For example, brand performance marketing enhances visibility and governance over your brand partnerships. Not only can you monitor the success of these, but you can get valuable insights into what’s working and what isn’t. 

Lacks size and scale

If you’re looking for a fast-acting growth strategy, a grassroots approach may not be right for you. 

Grassroots marketing involves targeting a small niche and allowing organic growth to occur through word-of-mouth marketing. This is a much slower growth process than traditional or growth marketing strategies – a reality some businesses fail to anticipate. 

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On the plus side, organic growth does generate a higher-value customer base, which is what you want. High-value customers are the backbone of your business, advocating, defending, and promoting your brand. 

Because they’re trusted by their peers, they’re also good at luring in more high-value customers, increasing revenue, loyalty, and retention rates. 

Unpredictability

All marketing strategies have a level of unpredictability, but with less control comes more uncertainty. After all, the spread of information is primarily in the hands of your influencers and customers – how do you know they’ll do a good job?

That being said, as long as you create genuine, high-quality content and deliver a message that appeals, you should meet your marketing goals. 

If you’re not seeing the results you expect, it might be worth going back to the beginning and conducting a more in-depth analysis of your target audience. 

Top Tips for Implementing a Successful Grassroots Marketing Strategy 

The best thing about a grassroots approach is there’s no set methodology for success. While there are a bunch of techniques and research-backed advocacy strategies to try, the versatility of this type of marketing gives you the freedom to get creative and attract your audience in unique and interesting ways. 

That said, there are some best practices you’ll want to take note of. 

Know your target audience

All marketing strategies rely on creating accurate buyer personas. Because grassroots marketing is focused on fostering connections with niche audiences, an intricate buyer persona is essential.

Identify your customers’ pain points, desires, and motivations. Tap into the language they use as well as their core values and attitudes. Track their online behavioral patterns and how they interact with content. 

This information can be used to drive your content marketing, social media, and mass email strategies. This enables authentic communications and the creation of relevant, relatable materials. 

Harness the power of social media

Amassing an entourage of engaged social media followers is one of the main goals of a grassroots strategy. Social media is the perfect place to share niche content, host competitions, and announce exciting promotions. 

It’s also a space where you can engage in valuable conversations with customers by asking provocative questions, joining conversations, and conducting surveys.

And, with the average person being connected to 600+ friends, family, and colleagues on social media, just one share can drive significant brand awareness. 

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Data from Social Toaster 

Picking the right social channel is crucial. Instead of jumping onto the trendiest platform, take the time to identify where your target audience exists online. From there, focus on establishing a presence on that channel. 

Support a cause 

You can also unite with your audience by supporting a cause you both care about. Audiences tend to hold charitable businesses in high regard, with such actions increasing online trust and brand authenticity. 

This is especially true if the cause is something that inherently relates to your core values and message. 

There are plenty of ways you can get involved with local or online causes. For example, you could start a social media fundraiser, make a donation, create a charitable partnership, or encourage your audience to support the cause too. 

Create a localized campaign

If you’re expanding into a different market, creating a comprehensive localized campaign is essential. Without one, you risk alienating or distracting audiences with embarrassing translation errors or misaligned messaging. 

By using multilingual affiliate advertising networks and localizing your branding, messaging, content, etc., you can pull off a grassroots marketing strategy that produces results regardless of location. 

Utilize video marketing to go viral

If you want to generate highly-targeted, shareable content, video marketing is the perfect way to do it. A recent Lemonlight survey found that 99% of people enjoy watching brand videos, and 94% admitted video content influences their purchasing decisions. 

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YouTube is a particularly powerful platform for lead generation. Not only are videos easy to share, but the algorithm is effective in suggesting these to your target audience based on their content viewing history. This enables you to grow organically, which is the very point of a grassroots marketing approach.

When you’re making and sharing videos, try to avoid common video marketing mistakes. Consumers love this type of content because it’s easily digestible, visually appealing, and naturally engaging. So, prioritize creating short, sweet videos with a clear and authentic message.

Use storytelling to foster positive relationships

Connecting with your audience on an emotional level helps create authentic brand-customer relationships. Storytelling facilitates this by placing your customer at the heart of your messaging. 

If you’re targeting a niche audience, it’s important they relate to your brand on a deeper level. This means your message needs to be intricately reflective of your customers’ motivations and desires. 

For example, if your target audience is students, create a video highlighting the highs and lows of student life. This would directly appeal to their emotions, forging a connection and triggering a reason to engage.

While you’re busy developing awesome content for your audience, be careful not to overlook the importance of SEO. Using everything you know about your niche market, create a search engine optimization strategy that ensures your content is discoverable. 

Track your SEO results across your website, social media, and video platforms to monitor your campaign’s success. 

Leverage influencer marketing

Influencer marketing – which comes under the wider umbrella of partners marketing – is a more modern and accessible version of the celebrity endorsement strategy. 

With large social media followings and intimate relationships with their audiences, influencers have incredible power over the buying decisions of their online followers. By persuading an influencer to promote your product, you can significantly increase brand awareness, credibility, and the size of your customer base.

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Keep in mind that when it comes to influencer marketing, it pays to be selective. Don’t throw free products at as many influencers as you can, as you risk appealing to the wrong market and negatively affecting your authenticity. 

Instead, take the time to identify influencers who align with your values and possess a following full of your target audience. 

Wrapping Up Grassroots Marketing

If you’re looking for a marketing approach that generates lots of high-value customers (as opposed to one-time or infrequent buyers), grassroots marketing is a great option. It enables you to create a buzz around your brand without having to do all the legwork and while sharing a message you believe in.

You can use a grassroots approach to build your social media engagement, plan a successful affiliate marketing campaign, spread an important message as part of a nonprofit organization, and much more. 

Whatever your unique business goals, implementing a grassroots strategy (even if it’s alongside other large-scale marketing initiatives) can significantly boost your chances of success.

Author:

sam-o-brien

Sam O’ Brien – Chief Marketing Officer, Affise

Sam O’Brien is the Chief Marketing Officer for Affise—a Global SaaS Partner Marketing Solution. He is a growth marketing expert with a product management and design background. Sam has a passion for innovation, growth, and marketing technology. Sam has written for domains such as Brightpearl and Simplybook.me. Here is his LinkedIn.

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