Marketing and Generating Buzz About Your Business
If no one knows about you, you’re going to tank.
Marketing and generating buzz are some of the most challenging aspects of running a business. You need loyal customers – paying ones – in order to drive you to the top. There might be people out there just waiting for your product, but you need to get it in front of them!
There are thousands upon thousands of articles out there about how to get the word out. SEO, content marketing, user experience (UX), social media, and standard advertising channels all play a role, but there’s a secret sauce, too. It’s called buzz.
What is Buzz?
Buzz or word-of-mouth marketing is best described as “people talking about you.” Has a friend recently recommended a restaurant or a hairdresser or told you to watch a crazy YouTube video? Has a business connection suggested a new online service that will help you with accounting?
That’s people talking about companies. That’s buzz.
The beauty of buzz is that it can happen organically and lasts forever. If people are talking about you, your work is done. Not only that, it’s free.
One of our customers told us about how he used buzz to hook new customers:
After realizing that property managers hate property inspections, Sam Ovens decided to start SnapInspect, a company that allows property managers to inspect using smartphones, automatically creating inspection reports with a click.
Instead of simply hiring a sales team to try to convince each lead to make a purchase, Ovens decided to send everyone who signed up for a free trial a “SnapInspect Starter Kit.” SnapInspect’s mission is to do away with useless paper clipboards that bog property managers down, so the kit includes “everything you need to set your clipboard on fire and never look back.”
What’s in the kit? A box of matches, a bottle of lighter fluid, and a 4 page guide on how to use SnapInspect. The strategy got people chuckling—and talking.
Why Buzz Beats Paid Advertising
You’ll probably use at least some form of advertising campaign when running your business, and that’s great. We have a pretty healthy PPC campaign, have experimented with social media advertisements, and use Sirius radio ads to get the word out about Grasshopper.
Even still, most of our traffic comes through word-of-mouth. What does that mean? Well, it means that someone told someone else about Grasshopper, who then signed up.
Run an advertising campaign for a week, and the campaign is gone on Monday. Vanished. You can’t find it because it’s run, and it’s over. But get people talking on blogs and message boards, and it stays there FOREVER!– Mark Hughes, BuzzMarketing
Why PR Firms Are a Waste of Money
One of the keys to visibility is getting in the press, but you don’t have to hire a PR firm to do that. In fact, we recommend that you don’t.
A traditional PR firm promises to get you in the press, putting attention on your brand, but they’re loads of money and don’t always bring the best results. Most PR agencies are numbers driven and have lots of clients. Lots of clients means less time for you. Do you want someone that’s not fully invested in your vision selling your product or service to the world? If you develop a few skills around pitching reporters and developing relationships with bloggers, you can do exactly what they do for way cheaper. Plus, it will be more genuine in the long-run.
We’ve become a successful company without PR firms, and we know of tons of other companies that haven’t used them either.
How to Generate Buzz
It seems like magic, but buzz is something you can generate yourself. How do you get people to talk?
Do Away with the Conventional
Differentiate yourself. If you do what every other company does, you’re not worth talking about. If you’re running a landscaping company in a small town and your competitors all operate in the same way with the same price points, then work to set yourself apart. Make funny flyers, write an article for the local website, make a presentation at your children’s elementary school, create a beautiful website, or offer rebates and discounts. Do SOMETHING that will get you noticed.
Storytelling is key. Even if your company sells a boring product or service, you can tell stories that set you apart. If your company started because you lost your job or wanted to create a product for your children, talk about it with honesty and transparency. If you tried something out and watched it fail, don’t be afraid to share. Everyone loves a good story—especially the press-- so make sure to have a few in your arsenal.
Learn to Pitch and Connect with Influencers, Writers, and Reporters
If you want people to tell your story, write about you, praise you on review sites, and talk about you to their friends, then you better figure out how to talk about your company. Your job is to connect with influencers – to get the word out about your company. It’s all about doing things that get people talking and getting people to write about it. The more exposure on blogs the better.
You want to email and pitch the right bloggers and reporters to let them know about something interesting. That’s the key – something INTERESTING. You don’t pitch the same old, same old. You pitch a story with relevant information that the blogger or reporter can turn into a great story. The more pitches you put out, the more people you’re in front of. Staying consistent is key because you want to develop a cycle of getting the right stories to the right writers.
Customers are the ones who will recommend you to their friends and on the web, so it’s in your best interest to treat them well. It goes beyond creating a great product—you should have stellar support, build exceptional relationships, and go above and beyond your duty.
To entice and retain customers:
- If you mess up, be proactive and apologize
- Write handwritten thank you notes
- Send out personalized gifts
- Follow them on social media sites (Twitter, Facebook Google+, etc.)
- Pay special attention to your support offerings
- Give them press so they’ll give you press
- Offer promo codes and generous rebates
- Write about customers on your blog
- Use customer’s services when appropriate
- Be honest and transparent about who you are and what you offer
We could’ve written a whole book about caring for customers. They’re the lifeblood of your company and you better be paying attention to their wants and needs. Cherish each and every customer!
Be Your Own Ambassador
If you’re not ready to jump in and talk about your company, then who else will be? Go to networking events, startup meetups, coworking spaces, and other industry events to try to get your name out. Talk, talk, talk, until you’re ready to drop. At Grasshopper, we have an Ambassador of Buzz and Word of Mouth Marketing Manager who do these jobs- they connect with potential and current customers to build relationships and get the word out.
If you decide to hire an ambassador instead of doing it yourself, make sure the person is as passionate about your company as you are. Ultimately, you want someone who would bleed your company if you cut them open! This person is your company whenever they’re out. They go to events, build relationships, and generate buzz wherever they go. When people see their face, they should think of your company right along with their name!
Tools To Build Buzz
- BuzzStream - Track conversations with writers, including email and social media, and the articles they write.
- TweetDeck - For creating feeds of reporters/bloggers and better social media management.
- Cision - Reporters/journalists/bloggers contact information – basically one giant database to comb through.
- Google Alerts - Put in search terms and keywords to track as they appear on the internet.
- Newsle - Interesting startup that tracks when you appear in the news. If you’re constantly quoted, it’s a good service to try.
- Help A Reporter Out (HARO) - One of the easiest ways to see what reporters need help on and what stories they’re currently working on.
Read Some Books
Viral Loop by Adam L. Penenberg
There’s all this talk about “going viral,” but what does that actually mean? Well, according to Adam L. Penenberg, viral loops are user-generated cycles of growth. As people keep talking about an established brand, the brand gets more and more traction. We feel that Viral Loop is a must-read. Our philosophy about buzz is right in line with the ideas in this book.
BuzzMarketing by Mark Hughes
Generating buzz is much more effective and far cheaper than traditional strategies. If you get people talking about some interesting things you’ve done, you can gain customers for life. Mark Hughes tells anecdote after anecdote about how marketing with buzz propelled all sorts of companies to success. At Grasshopper, we love this book.
Word of Mouth Marketing by Andy Sernovitz
Andy Sernovitz doles out tips on Wordofmouth.org, but he’s also got this amazing book that’ll help you master word of mouth marketing. This guide is hands-on, straightforward, and pretty funny. Sernovitz prioritizes usable techniques that will get people talking.
Get On Social Media
Social media isn’t just for kids. In fact, the fastest growing age bracket on Twitter is 55-64.
Pretty much everyone is using social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Both businesses and individuals love to be connected. When something happens, people are buzzing on these sites like bees.
In order to capture social media buzz, set up TweetDeck, a platform by Twitter, and make columns of search terms to find out what people are buzzing about in your industry.
For Grasshopper, we might search “grasshopper.com,” “virtual phone system,” and “entrepreneur” to find opportunities for engagement.
When people complain, they usually turn to social media, so make sure you’re responding quickly and efficiently to brand mentions.
A few social media tips:
- Learn the Different Sites. What works on LinkedIn might not work on Facebook or Twitter. Read up on how the sites work as well as what types of updates work best for each site.
- Don’t Be Over-promotional. Share your blog posts and updates, but share other people’s stuff, too. Your goal is always to help your customers. No one wants to hear you constantly talk about yourself.
- Have a Sense of Humor. Being personable and human will make you fun to follow. People don’t like when social media accounts are too corporate and stiff.
- Use Social Media to Find Fans. If you’ve got fans, they’re likely to follow you on social media, peppering your accounts with favorites and likes. It’s great to have fans on board, so use your social accounts to find out who they are so you can reward them.
- Be an Active Participant. Don’t just post once and forget about it. Social media is active all the time, so make sure you’re consistently posting.
- Get Some Software. Use Buffer, Argyle Social, or HootSuite to manage and assess your social media accounts. You can schedule updates and figure out how well you’re performing.
You’ve Got to Surprise and Delight
We’re not making it up. Effectively generating buzz can do wonders for your brand. We’ve tried it out.
In May 2009, Grasshopper went through a rebrand. We didn’t just change our website and name. Instead, we sent out chocolate-covered grasshoppers.
We identified 5,000 influencers and raised 25,000 grasshoppers to cover in chocolate. Then, we sent out 5 to each influencer. We also created a YouTube video to inspire entrepreneurs as part of the campaign.
It was a crazy idea- but it worked. Just look at how much buzz was generated from our campaign:
The Grasshopper rebrand is a large scale example of a basic concept: People will talk if they’re surprised or delighted.
If people think you’re an average company with boring messaging and a stale attitude, they’re unlikely to buzz about what you do. Sending gifts and thank you notes to customers, interacting on social media, coming up with great pieces of content, and promoting the cool things you do are all ways to get people talking.