I want to talk about branding first and foremost, because successful buzz marketing goes hand in hand with branding. Branding is not about getting your target market or audience to choose you over the competition, but it is rather about getting your prospects to see you as the only choice that provides a solution to their specific problem. You do this by integrating your brand strategies through your company at every point of public contact.
Your brand resides within the hearts and minds of customers, clients, and prospects. It is the sum total of their experiences and perceptions, some of which you can influence, and some that you cannot. The objectives that a good brand will achieve include delivering your message clearly, confirming your credibility, connecting your target prospects emotionally, motivating the buyer, concreting user loyalty, and getting the public involved.
Now my last article wasn’t supposed to be two parts, and I don’t necessarily want to make this article a three-parter, but I do want to move on to online buzz marketing. Soon I’ll write a series of articles that deal with branding. In the meantime, just know that buzz marketing covers all of the objectives I mentioned that are involved in branding.
One of the latest popular ways of buzz marketing is via blogging. In essence, the blogger is someone who generally has many elements of his or her life online for the entire world to see, and it is through this openness that the blogger gains the trust of the reader. So if your favorite blogger recommends a product, there is a very good chance that you and their other readers will either check it out or buy it.
If you truly have a product that relates to a particular blog, then send the blogger a letter, and in some cases, simply an email could do it. It also can’t hurt to send that blogger a free sample item or possible service in order to enlist their help to recommend your product, or write a review. You might see if you can offer the blogger a link on your website or help them with some other buzz marketing method in return.
2. Sales Letters
I touched on this in the previous article. There are multitudes of sales letters on the Internet for just about anything. You know just the ones I mean; you recognize them by their long single page that usually has a brightly colored background, with a table centered in the middle with a white background and a font size ANYONE can read even without their glasses. There’s usually lots of highlighting, quotes from people, perhaps trusted people in their areas, like doctors or other certified professionals, even celebrity endorsements. There are huge headlines and bold text, italics, and anything else that can jump at you from the screen.
A good sales letter should be measured by how effective it actually is. If a sales letter doesn’t inspire people to purchase, or doesn’t elicit trust in the reader, you might as well toss it out the door.
One of the most important elements of a successful sales letter are testimonials and amazing success stories. Many times there are just so many testimonials that the reader is either fascinated by the testimonials or bored and scrolls on. But the point is that they scroll on. They want to get to the meat of the letter. The letter is going to “let you in” on a little known secret. You are going to be the lucky one to have this life-changing information.
I know it sounds like I am very cynical and hate sales letters. Much to the contrary, I write lots of them. I don’t write them for myself, but I certainly write them for others. And you know what? I get EXCITED just writing them. Readers get excited too reading them. Excitement leads to talk, and talk leads to credibility, which leads to people being interested and passing on…the thigh bone is connected to the hip bone and the…well, you get my point.
Offering promotional software, an e-book, or a trial sample are methods that encourage buzz marketing. The try-before-you-buy technique is not by any means new, but by offering a sample or by withholding certain items (like software features), you are in line for a buzz about your product. Geeks definitely share recommendations on what software does this or that for them, and they always know where to find it. Trust me, I have plenty of geek friends, so I know this on a personal level.
4. Polls or Feedback Forms
People love to give their opinion, whether it has been asked for or not; if you ask your audience for feedback, you better believe they will give it. And while you may not want to know all the negatives, knowing what people are saying about your stuff will encourage you to streamline your product into something they want. Many times, just generating open discussion about a product can help imprint that product in someone’s mind and promote branding.
People seek out forums for advice when they don’t know who to turn to for help. For example, I can’t go to my mom or my sister, who frankly doesn’t know how to use email properly, and ask them who the best web host might be for my business. I will probably visit WebHosters for that. In fact my current web host was not only recommended on WebHosters, but was also advocated by one of my editors. That is buzz marketing. And it works. I trust that the people there know what has worked for them, and what to look for. And I certainly trust my editor, especially if he tells me I can write…
There are forums for everything, from computing to quilting to raising orphaned kittens. It’s those individuals who want to impart their knowledge to a particular niche group of people looking for exactly what that forum has to offer. And it’s those members that are looking for the kind of advice they can trust in a forum setting.
Further, if you hang out on the forums that pertain to your product or service, and become a trusted member, then your product or service will become trusted as well in time. Just remember that flaming in forums probably won’t build other members’ trust!
6. Press Releases and Articles
Companies always advocate a press release or a news article for a product. There are many people out there that know that press releases are nothing more than a company tooting its own horn, and hoping it gets picked up as an interesting story by the press. Well, yes, this is exactly what they are! And there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, because it doesn’t cost you a thing except a little bit of effort.
If you hear it on the news, you are very likely to believe it. Journalists will tell you that they report the news without bias and completely objectively, but I’ve never met a news story that wasn’t spun in one direction or another. If you are able to pique the interest of a journalist, then you can count on the fact that your product or service will be regarded as newsworthy, and worth checking out. Then when your story is put out there, people will, more often than not, believe every single itty-bitty word.
7. Have a “Secret”
People love mysteries. In fact, sometimes the more obscure the references are to something, the more people talk about them to figure them out. While writing this, I was listening to the Beatles, and it occurred to me that people not only love mysteries, but sometimes they create them where they might not otherwise exist. There is much speculation about the Beatles’ songs and their meanings, and especially now with John Lennon gone, many of these mysteries that people know are there just will never be answered. In fact, there are entire websites that are devoted to the meanings of lyrics that John Lennon wrote. If you don’t believe me, check it out for yourself.
This spring, an online game for the hit TV show “Lost” fanned the flames of excitement from the show’s fans to people who’d never actually watched the show. I have to admit, I was one of those people. This is such an excellent form of buzz marketing. The game required you to watch the show for “clues” to help solve the puzzles. This is a very effective marriage of action and media, and a good way to build interactivity into a product.
Offer a game or a puzzle for people to work on, and possibly offer a prize for figuring it out. Even if it’s a virtual prize, there is something to be said about winning! This summer in the movie theaters, Disney promoted their blockbuster movie “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” by having a mystery for the public to figure out. They utilized buzz marketing with the find-the-treasure game in which people could actually win money, cars, or other cool prizes.
Well, I killed about an hour or two playing the dice game from the Disney Dead Man’s Chest official website. Let’s call it research, shall we? Okay, now that I’ve resumed writing after playing the assortment of the games on the website, I can definitely say I truly want to see the movie now when otherwise I had not intended to go see it; and I’ll search out others that I know that may have seen it and let them tell me all about it. I know my son saw it with his dad, and I’m sure my parents have seen it…okay, you see how that works?
Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon are two kids’ networks that have built a virtual empire by appealing to kids through buzz marketing in the form of free games online. My son plays the free games online, and then runs upstairs to watch the cartoon. Yeah, I would say that works effectively as well.
Fortunately or not, humans are sponges for advertising in all forms, whether we like it or not, especially if it’s entertaining. And advertisers know this. We are inundated with advertising and marketing while driving in our cars (billboards), listening to the radio, in the newspaper or a magazine, on the telly, and of course, on the Internet. We just don’t want to feel like we are being advertised to. Entertainment is one of the best forms of advertising available. When we are entertained, we will likely talk about how much fun it was, or how funny a particular commercial might be. Subconsciously, we will be influenced by what we see and hear, and if we are attracted to that particular form of advertising, then it sticks the best. Sure the commercial was funny, but it’s not until someone else we know has seen it and agrees that it was funny does it really stick with us.
Ultimately for me, the best form of advertisement is the non-advertisement, and by that I mean buzz marketing. I honestly would rather have a recommendation on a car to buy from my father, whom I trust, than a glitzy television commercial or a funny radio ad. But if I can’t get a recommendation from Dad, then I’ll turn to someone else I may trust. I may not know the particular person advocating the product, but if I trust his medium, whether it’s a blog or how fun the games are on her website, I can probably be persuaded to part with my money for their product or go do the thing they want me to do, like go see their movie. Then I’ll end up telling all my friends how great it was.
By the way, maybe the mystery of this article is how I only listed nine ways to create buzz marketing online, instead of a nice round number, like say, ten. If you thought of that before I said it, then you ponder upon the mystery of the number nine. In this regard, perhaps John Lennon can help you. If in doubt, Google…