The Power of Buzz
by Susan Friedmann
How did Hotmail gain over 12 million subscribers in 18 months? How did
the very low budget movie “The Blair Witch Project” become such an incredibly
successful phenomenon? The answer lies in the power of “buzz.”
Buzz or word-of-mouth marketing influences more people to buy, or not to
buy products and services, than most other forms of marketing. Why is it so
powerful? Basically, we have a need to share information as a means of communication
and also as a way of understanding the world around us. Often, we base many
of our purchasing decisions on information gleaned from friends and well-respected
associates. We tend to listen to them more readily than most mass-media messages.
In his book “The Anatomy of Buzz,” Emanuel Rosen states, “most marketing
today ignores the power of buzz and tries to influence each customer individually.”
He believes that “buzz travels through invisible networks that link people
together. Noise, skepticism and connectivity all influence today’s buzz.”
As exhibitors you need go no further than the tradeshow floor to find a
network that creates a real buzz. It starts prior to the show, gathers momentum
at the show, and then slowly dissipates after the show ends. Every exhibitor
has the power to influence the buzz. It all depends on product/service quality,
marketing savvy and the decisions made.
I recall visiting a telecommunications show a couple of years ago when the
buzz on the show floor concerned a Fortune 100 company and major player in
the industry, (who shall remain nameless). The talk centered around the image
of their booth which wasn’t quite up to expectations. The buzz went like this:
“The ABC Company has gone cheap. They must be having financial problems.”
It’s gossip like this that starts the wheels of the “rumor mill” turning and
can even create havoc on the Stock Market. Remarks like this often have very
little bearing on reality, but people make assumptions and decisions based
on what they see and hear. Obviously, the originating source of the buzz plays
a key role in its basis for truth.
I’m sure that you would much prefer any tradeshow buzz to be positive.
Since talking about products/services makes economic sense, how can you use
the buzz to add to your existing marketing efforts? I’ve put together ten
guidelines for you to consider:
- Brainstorm all possible groups of people who might be interested in
your products/services. Consider including the media, opinion leaders,
influencers, lead users, politicians, analysts, etc. Don’t forget chat rooms
and newsgroups although buzz still spreads primarily by personal interaction.
- Research how information spreads among your customers. Ask them
how they usually learn about new products/services. Who are their major information
sources? Whose information do they value? You’re primarily looking for groups
of people rather than individuals. However, don’t discount individuals, as
they may well be a powerful opinion leader.
- Develop a clear and concise message highlighting the product/service
benefits you want to filter through these different groups. Zero in
on your product’s uniqueness and what it can do, for example, to help save
time and money – two basic elements most people seek.
- Think about ways to tap into these groups to spread the word about
your products/services. Use these in addition to your existing marketing
efforts. Never rely on just one means of connecting with your target audience.
Your credibility is enhanced through different marketing mediums. For example,
exhibit marketing could include pre-show advertising, at-show sponsorship
and post-show, a trade publication article. The more ways people can hear
and see you the better.
- Offer prospects easy ways to try your product/service. For example,
the makers of Pictionary gave demos in parks, shopping centers and other
gathering places. The tradeshow floor presents excellent opportunities for
- Come up with other creative ideas to enhance tradeshow show demonstrations.
What can you give people to take away to remind them of your company, products
and positive show experience. Think about something that will help create
the buzz. It’ll have to be more creative than a keychain or stress ball.
The more product-related the better. You want people to remember and talk
about you – positively!
- Look at special groups whom you might offer a product discount, a
loaner or even for free. You’re looking for groups/individuals where
the direct product experience will help spread the word. For example, when
FedEx started out, it offered free shipping to show people how their program
worked. America Online continuously finds ways to offer hundreds of free
hours of trial usage to entice new users. I recently saw a display of free
CDs at WalMart.
- Use press conferences for major announcements, new product introductions,
but only if they are truly new or improved, or general industry trends -
what’s hot and what’s not. Realize that editors are interested in timely
newsworthy information; industry trends, statistics, new technology or product
information. The media get very upset attending a press conference which
is poorly organized and where there’s nothing newsworthy.
- Use sneak previews at tradeshows to build anticipation and help create
a buzz on the show floor. Give people a fun experience and a behind
the scenes view of what’s coming. TV and the movies have got this down to
a fine art with their coming attractions. Siemens just did this extremely
successfully at the recent CTIA show in Las Vegas. They organized a live
marketing presentation with a futuristic theme that featured a digital phone
prototype. They certainly created a buzz, which had people, including myself
inquiring about the product’s availability.
- Make use of tradeshows to educate your target audience. People
are hungry for information. Investigate opportunities to speak either during
the workshop sessions or incorporate an educational session into your display.
The power of buzz far exceeds many conventional marketing vehicles. It is
probably the oldest, most well-used and valuable one out there. Look at how
you can make it an integral part of your existing marketing plan to influence
the voices in your industry.
Susan A. Friedmann,CSP is the Tradeshow Coach, Lake Placid, NY, author:
“Meeting & Event Planning for Dummies,” working with companies to improve
their meeting and event success through coaching, consulting and training.
Go to http://www.thetradeshowcoach.com
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