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Successful Grassroots Marketing
Master the three F's of an effective campaign.
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 by Kyle Potvin
Splash Communications, LLC

Kyle PotvinThe power of a successful grassroots marketing effort is striking. Grassroots momentum is getting consumers and influencers in your key markets to care so much about 
what you are doing that they become your cheerleaders 
and most vocal supporters. Suddenly, you have a credible, voluntary sales force that is carrying your message forward with more velocity than a single marketing department.

We call it the ripple effect. Start with an initial splash of local partnerships, frequent message reinforcement and loyal support from (unpaid) brand ambassadors. From there, each positive association or interaction produces ripples about your product, company or services that continue to expand throughout the community.

For instance, I once worked on a campaign for a cable TV network where we needed to create stronger awareness in a local market or risk cancellation.  Instead of forcing an untested program on the audience, we went in and asked influencers, “How can we help you?”  With that feedback, we created a Nutrition Symposium that brought together government, medical experts, foodies, local media and others to discuss issues that were important to them.  The result was a strong, vocal group that showed immediate and sustained loyalty to the network. When other networks were being pulled off the air, ours grew.

Ready to launch your own program?  Remember the Three F’s of grassroots marketing: Feel-good, Frequent, Free.

Feel-good: Make it a memorable, feel-good campaign that motivates people and brings out their passion. Even if your program supports a serious cause like cancer research or homeless relief, you can excite the public by getting them involved in helping the organization. Spending time in the market meeting with local influencers is the best way to create ideas that resonate with that audience. A program that works well in a Hispanic community in Florida may not in a suburban community in Ohio. Each approach should be tailored for that specific market. 

Frequent: Grassroots is about permeating a community and building relationships locally on many levels so the buzz grows.  To do this, it’s important to have multiple layers of communication to keep the messages and excitement fresh, frequent and strong.  Elements might include a kick-off announcement, multiple sampling events, assorted interview opportunities, a presentation at a town meeting and more. This also means tapping into the valuable resources of your partners. For instance, if you are working with the City, they may offer for a top official to participate in a media event, post news on their web site or in their employee newsletter, notify residents via an established list-serv, distribute a news release or even pitch their own media contacts to cover your story.

Free: One of the best ways to get people excited about your product is having them taste, feel or use it. Sampling free products builds that desired word-of-mouth. Food companies, especially, have the advantage here. Who doesn’t want to try the latest new chocolate bar – and then tell all their friends that they had a sneak preview? Just remember, your product must deliver. You can’t fool consumers with a product that is tasteless, frustrating to open or just plain boring.

Grassroots marketing is about building strong, lasting relationships with a specific group or community. By being a valuable resource and helping tie your business objectives to the community’s needs, you can create a win for everyone. Ultimately, this leads to loyal consumers, enhanced reputation, strengthened awareness and increased sales.

Kyle Potvin is principal at Splash Communications, LLC, a consultancy of communications specialists with experience serving some of the world’s most visible brands. She can be reached at or visit

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