Innovation is becoming a key way for marketers to stay ahead of the competition.

In 2014 marketers set aside 9 percent of their budget for innovation, seeking new ways to deploy digital marketing strategies and harness emerging technologies, Gartner reported. The number of firms with a budget devoted to development in areas such as the Internet of Things, real-time social listening and marketing analytics climbed from 64 to 71 percent between 2014 and 2015. Gartner expects this trend to continue in 2016 as the importance of innovation increases.

One of the most efficient ways to innovate is to study industries outside your own market and borrow successful strategies that your competition isn't using. Here are a few marketing strategies that have proven successful in multiple industries and ones that you can borrow to disrupt your own market.

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Online Guerrilla Marketing

In 1984, Leo Burnett Worldwide advertising agency creative director Jay Conrad Levinson borrowed the concept of guerilla warfare to introduce the concept of guerilla advertising. He used unconventional methods to surprise consumers and defeat the competition. Since then, Levinson's advertising innovation has matured into a comprehensive guerrilla marketing approach that can be applied both to traditional advertising channels and an online environment.

Guerrilla marketing strategy targets public locations where prospective customers congregate. Guerrilla campaigns deploy publicity tactics that grab an audience's emotional attention, seeking to leave a memorable impression of the brand being promoted. Examples of tactics include using all available physical surfaces to advertise, creating viral word-of-mouth buzz, distributing flyers or products at strategic locations and using events such as contests to promote products.

Such tactics appeal to small businesses because they do not require a large budget; however, larger companies also can employ these tactics. For instance, marker manufacturer Sharpie has used public locations [1] such as bus stops to distribute interactive electronic billboards with pictures of casts that passers-by can sign with graffiti in a color of their choice. Ford took guerrilla marketing to social media by starting a Facebook "Fiesta Movement," inviting followers to apply for free use of a Fiesta for six months in exchange for posting feedback about the car on social media outlets.

Referral Marketing

Referral marketing is another tactic that has proven its effectiveness across multiple industries. Marketers have long known that referrals from satisfied customers are one of the most effective ways to generate new business. Referral marketing leverages this fact by offering incentives for customers to make referrals to new prospects. For instance, Amway has grown to the 30th largest private company in the U.S. by offering its representatives a performance bonus for downline sales of new representatives they have recruited and mentored. Uber also has enjoyed explosive growth by offering credit both to customers who make referrals and to rides brought in by referrals.

Automated Marketing

Automation can increase the efficiency of any effective marketing strategy. For instance, software entrepreneur coach Dane Maxwell was already earning $150,000 a year from 80 clients before he decided to implement an automated lead management system. The system included shopping carts, payment gateways and an affiliate program. Within 12 months of automating his lead management, Maxwell had increased his customer base 380 percent, improved his retention rate by 10 percent and quintupled his revenue to $750,000 a year. Any aspect of marketing and sales can be automated, including market research analytics, content distribution, lead generation and lead conversion.

[1] http://www.thecoolhunter.net/article/detail/1453/interactive-sharpie-ecast-billboard

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