This column first appeared on RIMOFTHEWORLD.net on October 12, 2010 and in the Biz Press on October 14, 2010.
I’m sick. So I should have spent the weekend in bed. But instead of resting and downing chicken noodle soup, I thought it would be a much better idea to stand in line for 3-1/2 hours in the blazing desert sun, waiting in line with hundreds of other women at the Brighton Collectibles Anniversary Sale in Cabazon.
Like cattle, we were herded into the shade and given small portions of water at regular intervals so we wouldn’t pass out. Wild with anticipation about the jewelry and purse bargains we would likely encounter when we were allowed into the showroom, we chatted like over-sugared kindergartners waiting for recess. And when the red velvet ropes were finally lifted and we were ushered into Handbag Mecca, we clamored for the right to exchange cold, hard cash for baubles and bags. And the reason we did it all was because of Buzz.
Not some new caffeine-laden soda or alcoholic beverage, buzz is the stuff that you, as a business owner or manager, should strive to generate about your product or service. At Brighton, the buzz about the big sale began over a year ago, with distribution of a punch-card, which was given to every customer who made a purchase at the outlet store. Sales associates used the cards to convince existing buyers to anticipate and even invest in the sale by promising extra rewards for frequent buyers.
Eager to do my part to help the struggling local economy, I shared the news with my aunt and we made plans to attend. And we weren’t alone. On sale day, we met women who had flown in from Missouri, Nevada and Arizona because news of the sale had spread like dandelion spores on a breezy summer day. And though the Brighton marketing campaign included corporate-sponsored postcards and radio spots, buzz about the sale was organic. In other words, the message was carried by the people who cared about it. The most successful marketing messages always are.
So how can you get people buzzing about your product or service?
Word-of-Mouth Marketing is the easiest way to get people to buy your product or donate to your non-profit organization. If you’re passionate about what you do, you are already your own best brand-evangelist. But if you don’t believe in what you’re trying to sell, then it’s probably time to look for something else that you can enthusiastically endorse. The most important thing to remember about word-of-mouth marketing is that the motivation for sharing has to be your desire to help the people you are pitching. If you’re disingenuous, it will show. So make sure you don’t come off like a carnival barker.
On a Limited Budget—
The first order of business for building buzz is to come up with something that is genuinely worthy of attention. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met with clients who have asked me to write press releases that have no content. Putting your business hours or menu into a press release template won’t make the information newsworthy.
If you want people to take notice, host or sponsor an open house, anniversary sale or trade show, allowing plenty of lead-time so your campaign can gain momentum. Use social media websites like Twitter and Facebook to start the groundswell. Then wait for folks in your target market to spread the word.
The Sky’s the Limit—
Supplement your electronic campaign with printed materials such as brochures, postcards, direct-mail pieces, ads and rewards program. These days, you can’t buy a stick of gum without being asked to apply for a customer loyalty card. Technology has made it easy to track spending patterns and preferences and communicate directly with specific segments of your target market. So take advantage of the data.
Also, don’t forget to partner with businesses whose targets overlap with your own. The approach will help you and fellow vendors as well as end-users. This weekend, for example, I was given a 20% discount on a pretzel at Aunt Annie’s when I presented my Brighton receipt. The strategy drastically improved foot-traffic at the snack shop. I enjoyed chewing on my spongy pretzel like a cow with her cud. But I think my body would have preferred chicken soup.
Until next time, I’ll be Bowling for Business.