Grassroots: Building Your Business from the Ground Up

Lee Groeger - 03/24/2014

leeDon’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there aren’t companies that are super successful regardless of whether or not they offer incentive…now; but I’d bet good money that wasn’t always a luxury they enjoyed.

I’ll try to paint a picture for you. Let’s say you created a new granola bar. “This will be the most successful, high-earning granola bar in the world!” you say. But wait. There’s something missing. Oh, yes…people (i.e. customers). You need people to try your granola bar. “That should be easy—these are the best granola bars ever created!” you say. You soon find this is not the case. People have been eating other granola bars for years. They’ve developed a loyalty to those brands. This is what you want.

grassroots-freesamplesSo, how will you get people to try your product? You might not like the answer. Here it is…ready? Give it away. Well, don’t give it all away, but in the midst of trying to sell those granola bars at farm stands,trade shows, and supermarkets, get it into the hands of as many people as you can. This is what “we in the biz” call a grassroots approach. It’s called this because it starts from the ground up (clever, huh?). Instead of trying to communicate a message you hope will appeal to the masses at once (since you need to build your audience), this method targets your efforts to individual people and smaller groups in hopes they will spread your message to a much larger audience. You might know this as the ripple effect.

Grassroots activities are a strategy Public Relations professionals have been using since the early 20th century, when it was recognized as a profession. Since Public Relations has been reported as one of the most misunderstood professions, some background might be helpful. The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) defines it as, “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” Now, if we connect the dots, what could be more mutually beneficial than providing consumers with a granola bar they are able to enjoy, while they pass along their fondness of that granola bar to others?


For a young start-up, the key (and sometimes your only choice) is to invest more energy and ideas into your business than money. This is why so many companies *wisely* choose to opt for Public Relations support instead of advertising and other more definitively costly marketing initiatives. The possibilities are endless, and it’s just more cost-effective.

Grass Grows on Social Media, Too

There are many ways to employ this strategy. It could be as simple as going door to door, or asking your local gym to sample free product at the front desk during peak traffic times. That said, the more innovative, creative, and inspired an activity is, the more visibility and response it is likely to get. Think: viral.

grassroots-social-media-logosSocial media can also play a big role. Creating a presence for your brand on the proper social media platforms can increase exposure and engagement exponentially, but there is a science to it. OK, maybe not a science exactly, but there are certainly methods and best practices that should be utilized to optimize activity. There are almost too many platforms to count, never mind keeping track of the etiquette and changes that take place on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, et al. on an ongoing basis. It can sometimes be overwhelming, and if you don’t keep pace, it can also end up being a waste of time and effort.

Successful social media marketing requires awareness, ability and time—something many business owners cannot provide, themselves. Designating a person or team to your social media marketing efforts is a smart move, and that is something a public relations agency or consultant should be able to provide.

“Don’t walk before you run,” “Take Baby Steps,” “Don’t put the cart before the horse.” Whatever you want to call it, just remember that there are a thousand and one ways to market a business—you just have to find the ones that work for you.

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