Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Your Percentage Friend

Percentage is the small business owners friend. Creating buzz is all about creating success stories. For example. Last year we had 400% growth. Sounds good, and it is not a lie, but actual numbers could have been better had we not spent all kinds of money and time on R&D.

As you talk about your small business, think about the percentages that you can talk about. Even a small business can sound bigger with stories like this:

  • 300% sales over the same month last year ($2,000 to $6,000)
  • 500% increase in client list this year (from 3 to 15)
  • 300% growth in staff (1 person to 4 people)

Find ways to seem like less of a small business and seem more of a thriving, growing business. When you inspire more confidence you will close more sales.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Easy Button infiltrates Piano Class

This weekend my daughter went to a Piano workshop and guess who showed up. Staples! Kay Hooper, a certified Alexander Technique instructor uses a Staples easy button to reward kids after they volunteer and complete a task. She mentioned she even uses it at the college level, but the college students are more afraid of what will happen. While I am not a big fan of most traditional advertising, this one seems to grab you and work its way into your psyche very gently. If I were Staples I would send Kay a free gift and a backup easy button. You do not want any down time.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Winning Back Advocates

I know someone I like really well that has her own business. She is good at what she does and was priced so well that it was easy to refer business to her. Unfortunately, she got so busy and she did not follow up on her employee's work, that things started to fall through the cracks and I started hearing a lot of negative buzz about her. Luckily, she did not hurt my reputation too much with the people I sent her way. Of course, I stopped referring people to her. That got me thinking though. What would it take for her to win me back as an advocate?
  • Positive Word of Mouth from multiple people.
  • Clear successes that are above and beyond what I think her every day job is.
  • A solid understanding of how she has improved her business processes.
  • Referrals to me.
  • Being sure she delivers and follows up on anything she promises.
  • Not to give me any BS. Tell me what the problems were and how you fixed them.

Winning back an advocate is much harder than winning them in the first place. Even though you may be good at what you do, if you are not good at running a company and managing expectations it can lead to wide spread dissatisfaction.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Follow Up

I don't know that I have ever met someone 100% secure with themselves. Everyone feels insecure at times, and in this age of email and voicemail, it is easy to doubt yourself when you leave 10 messages, send 8 emails and never hear back from anyone. This ease of connection is also the reason that so many people do not respond all the time. It is simply overwhelming unless you have a personal assistant to filter out everything. Here is a new rule for you, that you may choose to follow: If someone is worth contacting once, they are worth contacting once every 3 months. They will tell you to stop calling if they really do not want to talk to you. More than likely, they get your message and just do not have the time in that instant to reply. If they are like me, they probably have good intentions but sometimes forget to answer an email or voice mail. I often cannot get from our bathroom to my office without getting 3 new things to do, one of which I will forget by the time I sit down. Then I remember them in bed at night. Following up with people you want to get to know just makes sense. You will find people actually thank you, because they were meaning to get back to you but kept pushing it off. Try it today. Go back to your emails you sent three months ago and follow up with three of those people you have not talked to lately. I am fairly sure you will get a pleasant surprise.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Get Everyone Buzzing

I am posting this email with permission. It is the result of one of the members of an organization really taking up the Buzz Philosophy after one of our presentations and spreading success stories everyone can tell. We just did a luncheon with them a few days ago. He sent this out company wide. To all: Several of us attended a meeting earlier this week hosted by one of our newest clients “Buzzoodle”. The general purpose behind the marketing strategy that this client is trying to implement is to get their clients to get all of their employees engaged in creating a “Buzz” about where they work. The buzz is then transferred outside of the workplace so that it creates greater sales leads to people and businesses that would never otherwise be reached. One idea that we came up with for us at MSA is to more openly communicate our successes and positive client interactions so that everyone can be aware of the positive “buzz” that is happening all around us everyday. We tend to focus on the negative and the problems and take the successes for granted as just a part of our job. In order to start what will hopefully be several positive e-mails of client success, I will share one that just happened this week. Without boring you with the details, Chad and I were able to save a client $100,000 in tax by converting what on the surface was a typical ordinary income transaction into a capital gain. There was much outside the box thinking and having to sell the idea on both sides of the transaction to structure the deal in a way to achieve this end. But we did it and we have a very happy client!!!!!!!!! The thinking behind making this happen goes back to my first week on the job here at MSA, when Dave Myers told me, we earn our living by finding ways to eliminate tax, defer tax or reduce tax for our clients. Ever since then, for me, the culture here has always been to think outside the box to try to make our clients tax burden less, so they can achieve and grow more. This is what we do every day, the problem is we don’t share these stories and we take these successes for granted. Here’s to many more “buzz” stories the rest of tax season!!!!!!! Joel Joel C. Hamsher, CPA, MT Moore Stephens Apple Principal

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Letting the Cat Out of the Bag

I mentioned a while back I am working with my 8 year old on a project on the side. I have not mentioned it here yet in detail because it was just too early stage. Last night we got a call that she is going to be getting a lot of news coverage, and if I do not talk about it today, I will get scooped on my own story.

I am an entrepreneur because I like trying to create remarkable things. I like the challenge and I am not afraid to take risks and take responsibility.

My wife and I home school for the same reason.

This year's homework assignment for our "would be" 3rd grader? Build a million dollar company.

Actually, it was her idea. She wants a horse and I told her when she could buy it and pay for the upkeep, she could get one. (I know, I am a bad man)

She came to me a while back wanting to sell horse pens, pencils and notebooks online. I told her it would be hard to make a profit on just that, but she should think about other cool products she would love to have and come back with some ideas.

She came back with a long list of things to make her room a stunning horse room, to have a horse club and she wanted to have all different themes so kids that liked other types of animals could do the same thing.

That is not the buzz yet!

We then knew there would be challenges with her having a business. I do not have time to do it for her, so we came up with the idea that a board of directors, all between the age of 8 and 12, would run the for-profit company. The board would not get paid, but would get stock options.

The entire thing is going to be transparent so other kids (and maybe some adults) will learn things about starting a company. We are video taping the meetings, we are posting financial online, we are recognizing people that are involved...

To raise start up funds, she offered board seats for sale. $20,000 each. It can be from the family or from a corporate sponsor.

Now with Venture Capital help, top legal and accounting help, and cities vying to be where Kids Roar opens its offices, the buzz is on.

About two weeks ago, Alexandra (The Chairkid of the Board) said she would like to go to the Business Woman's Conference this year. Because there is a mention of cocktails, I thought it best to call and see if there was an age requirement.

Now she is helping promote the conference and is getting a lot of press, so here is the premature post about Kids Roar (It is kidsroar.biz which may be a problem in the future but the kids make the decisions, so we will see.)

LONG story short. Creating a new manufacturing company is not remarkable. Putting a bunch of Kids in charge of it is. Having everything transparent is. Letting them publicly succeed and fail is. Letting kids write a corporate website is. Creating tomorrow's top leaders is.

Can you tell I am having fun?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

It nearly got very messy

I just received a phone call from someone I have never met. He started out this way: "My name is Josh from Company ABC. I was searching around on Buzz Marketing and came across the Buzzoodle Buzz Blog and I nearly crapped my pants....." Luckily for me, that was a good thing and he likes it. Maybe if I try a bit harder I can get someone to call up and say they had to go home and change. Kidding aside, Josh is visiting North East Ohio this week and we are getting together to discuss partnership possibilities. I will write more on this after I meet him tomorrow.

When someone else tells your story

I love to hear someone else tell our story. Mike Sansone does a great job at writing and detective work to uncover the very secret way that I met David Lorenzo a while back, and how we have both benefited from the meeting. Thanks to David for pointing it out to me so quickly. It really all came about because he and I share a passion for careers and word of mouth (buzz). If you blog about your passions, other people with a similar interest will find you.

Successful People and Buzz

Ron Finklestein has a good post on the six behavioral traits of successful people. Being successful with buzz has some of those same characteristics.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Success and Silence

Today I did a presentation at a large accounting firm about buzz. Very early in the presentation I asked them a simple question: "What are your success stories?" I did not get a response. So I gave them some of my own examples, and asked again. We finally got people talking and a few of them shared their stories. This is a hugely successful firm that saves people millions all the time, but did not know what their successes were. One of the partners after the presentation said, "You nailed it when you asked that question. We do not know enough about our own successes to be able to tell others." One of the keys to creating more buzz with your employees and your existing customers is to celebrate your successes on a regular basis. Make people aware of those things that go above and beyond the norm. Make sure everyone knows what makes you remarkable and encourage them to tell more people.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

A Mexican Buzzoodle Tale

True Story--- My brother in law went back to Mexico some years ago and visited his brothers and sisters. Many of the older kids settled in the surrounding fishing villages about half way between Mazatlan and Puerta Vallarta. He was visiting one brother and a nephew was coming back from fishing. He'd caught a lot of shrimp. My brother in law, being polite, offered to purchase some shrimp and the nephew agreed to sell him one kilo at an inflated price. The nephew probably thought it was his lucky day. His uncle, from the US, was dumb enough to overpay for shrimp, and he made a nice buck or two that day. Years later, that same nephew sent a letter to his uncle and asked him for some help to try to get a visa and come for a visit. The letter went unanswered. $2 worth of shrimp five years earlier probably cost him a chance to realize a major goal in his life. It is better to go through life assuming people are more sensitive and less stupid than you think. The little favors you do today may be the life changing opportunities of tomorrow.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Buzzoodle Anecdote

The Anecdote Blog had some wonderful things to say about the Buzzoodle software. It is nice to hear people appreciate your effort. Thanks Shawn

Buzzoodle eNewsletter

Buzzoodle also publishes an eZine that you can sign up for here. It usually goes out monthly and has some "best from the blog" stuff and at least one new article. It is also a good way to get reminded that we exist. No SPAM, no sale of your info, I promise.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Know Your Audience

Imagine the power of really knowing your audience and knowing what makes them tick. In our other business, Outstanda, we just helped a new business release an eNewsletter. We have done lots of these, but this one was something special. A new business with an email list of a little over 500 people. The message was crafted to appeal to this highly targeted national list. Results were a 60% open rate, over 25 calls and 500% opens. (The unique person, reopened it and average of 5 times.) The results have been incredible and the client stands to make enough money in the first week to support the business for the first year. Now the Buzz. People in this industry all seem to know each other, and he is hearing that they are calling and emailing each other and discussing his remarkable new business that is going to save them money. If you can create a highly targeted message that has clear benefits, it can go viral in a hurry.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What Does a Buzz Meeting Do?

I had the privilege to talk to some of the staff for Kent City Schools today. This May, they will have a levy on the ballot and instead of doing paid advertising to try to pass the levy, they are looking to use Buzz to create more interaction with the community and broadcast their success stories with the staff who have witnessed it first hand. After one of the meetings today, a group of employees got together and dove right in, discussing who they could contact, how they could contact and what successes were best to talk about. In 15 minutes, we accomplished a great start on getting the whole town buzzing about the school successes and reaching audiences that were not obvious. This kind of community engagement and connection is going to be very powerful. The school system has 600 employees that we have challenged to connect with two people per week. It will result in over 15,000 word of mouth and buzz incidents between now and May. Powerful and authentic stuff.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Carefully Constructed Coincidences

Word of Mouth Marketing is nothing more than carefully constructed coincidences.
  • Get every employee talking and interacting more.
  • Get every customer telling their friends.
  • Get every publication or blog to mention you.
  • Make your stories viral by providing remarkable products and services.
Then one day a funny coincidence will happen. Someone will need a widget and mention the need to a friend. The friend will remember meeting someone that worked for a company that sold widgets. When they mention your company name, the person needing the widget will remember hearing about you.... or reading about you... a while back. And when they call up to order your product or service, your carefully constructed coincidence is complete.

Blood-Horse Magazine

If you have a little money and like thoroughbred breeding and racing, what do you read? The Blood-Horse And what do you read about in that exclusive magazine? Buzzoodle, of course. Buzzoodle has been prominently featured in an article entitled "It's Not Your Father's Marketing" by Dr. William Shanklin in the December 2005 issue. They do not publish the content online, but electronic versions can be ordered. This came about not because of fabulous connections or because I am a horse breeder, but because I follow our own philosophy by creating buzz and looking for opportunities. This could just as easily have been your business.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Guy Kawasaki Branding

This post at Guys blog is on Branding, but the tie in to buzz and word of mouth is obvious. #5 is Cascade the message - Buzzoodle if I ever heard Buzzoodle.

Blog Search RSS tip

Did you know you can get an RSS feed from google blog search? I have used this in two ways. 1) I subscribe to it in bloglines to keep an eye on when Buzzoodle gets mentioned by someone. 2) In my Squidoo Lens I built a module with the query and it integrates any posts from anyone into my lens. Below is the url of the feed for Buzzoodle: http://blogsearch.google.com/blogsearch?q=buzzoodle&filter=0&num=100&ui=blg&scoring=d To change it to your search, replace the word Buzzoodle with your word or words. If you have multiple words, put a + sign between the words and do not leave spaces.

Church of the Customer

What is going on with Buzz? The interesting thing for me about this article is how we have evolved as a company. We started out trying to mechanize it (albeit with employees, not the public) and now we have learned and are focusing on how to help people create the relationships as mentioned in this article (albeit with employees, not through marketing gimmicks) We also had venture capital people call us less than a month after our release.

Virtual Blog - Word of Mouth

The original blog was the mouth. The mouth is still a virtual blog. Easy to use to state whatever pops into your mind. How do you get people to talk about you, and blog about you if they have a blog? Keith F. has a great post on how someone made his dinner party feel very special. In the short time it took to make an impression on this group, imagine the long term ripple. How are you making people use their virtual blog?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Rules of Engagement

This blog is dedicated to helping you create buzz. This tip is for small businesses to help them head off a potential problem if they create too much buzz. We are frequently writing about helping other people. If you help other people succeed, you will get a high degree of buzz. One problem that is easy to forget for some people is that you cannot just help people for free all of the time. Eventually, you will have to charge someone for your services. To avoid misunderstandings, have clear guidelines on what you are willing to give away and what you charge for. Avoid making exceptions and create a document that clearly spells out your rules of engagement. Provide this to clients and potential clients once they express interest in your services. If you are clear on how you operate, people will appreciate this and you will not be expected to provide more help than you are willing. However, if you help someone a lot, they may assume you will keep helping them in the future, and that could hurt your productivity and profitability.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Buzz Barriers

What are some of the issues that can lead to holding back and not creating buzz?
  • Not taking the time to identify some good stories to tell. - Know what makes you and your organization special before you need a story.
  • Feeling that no one will want to hear what you have say. - People talk endlessly on meaningless stuff, some even blog on it. Just open up to people more frequently and it will get easier.
  • Don't like to sell. - Creating buzz is not like being a sales person. You do not have to convince them to spend money, just convince them to think about you and talk about you.
  • You are shy. - If you do not like to talk to new people in person, I would suggest you work on getting more comfortable by achieving small successes. In the mean time, the Internet can be a better buzz tool anyway, so start there and work your way to personal buzz.
  • Worried your organization will not approve of the message. - This is a sticky point if you are in a highly regulated environment, but if you take the time to plan out what you can say in advance, you can run it by your boss and be ready.
  • Don't like your organization. - If you do not like the place you work, start working on getting out. One way to do that is to create positive buzz about yourself and where you work, despite how you feel. Remember, few people hire a complainer. The positive attitude and great buzz you create for yourself will help you achieve your goal and your employer will still benefit.

If you have barriers to creating buzz for yourself and your organization, keep at it in little ways and build up your confidence. Creating buzz is fun once you make it a part of who you are.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Who is Your Answer?

Today I had the pleasure to have a meeting with someone who is very well networked. After, I realized that a person is the answer to any question you ask. 1+1 = Jane who is good at math. How do I make more money? = Talk to john, he is a marketing wiz. How do I find a job? = Recruiter Beth can help you. If you think of each question someone asks you as a referral opportunity, you can build a wonderful network of people. The person I talked to today was helping my daughter build her business, and it was amazing how the resources were just pulled out of the air and applied to the challenges that were on the table. And each resource was a person.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

iPOD - Vividly Cool

Two unrelated IPOD stories worth talking about here. Anyone that does not realize that an iPod is has been under a rock. All day today our office manager anxiously waited for accessories so she could use her iPOD in the car. What really struck me as unusual tonight was the vivid description of what an iPOD is from my 8 year old. I mentioned the iPod at dinner and she said they are cool. We do not have one, nor have we talked about it before that I can recall. So, I was curios and I asked her to tell me what it was for, what it looks like and why it is cool. She described it in vivid detail. Down to the apple with a bit out of it and one leaf. (I had to look it up to see if she was right.) We home school, so she did not see it in school. Those ads have just had a strong impact. Then, as a comparison, I asked her what is Microsoft. She had no idea nor did she know what they make. Even though she sees it on the computer every day. Then I asked her the same question about Dell. 12 inches from her hand sat my closed Dell lap top and she'd never heard of it, despite using it regularly. Maybe we just throw out all this other Buzz stuff and focus on design. Just kidding, but an interesting thing to observe.

The Accidental Blog

A few days ago I mentioned the success of this blog as a way to promote our business and philosophy. We did not initially think it would play such a critical role in our success. One unexpected result is that I have a blogger account, and the blog is not an integrated part of the rest of our web presence. Anita Campbell of Small Biz Trends recently moved to a more professional solution and I thought some of you may be interested in what is involved. Here is her case study. She reported to me that her search engine traffic has gone way up, and she is happy with the move. The moral of her story is the sooner the better, so I am going to have to think about moving some time soon myself.

Career Intensity Buzz

I have mentioned before the importance of communicating with people that like to communicate. Writers, for example. David Lorenzo has put up his Career Intensity website in advance of the book release and I am mentioned on his front page for the reviews. He wins, I win, we all win for ice cream.... errr, something like that. Creating more of these win/win scenarios is part of what your buzz plan should be.

As for the book, it really is great, especially for someone looking to manage their career and rapidly become a success. His book is far more useful than reading a Donald Trump book, because it is how to start at any level and achieve great results.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Blogging and Speaking

One way to create buzz is to give more speeches. How do you get more quality speaking engagements? Blog. Short of writing a best seller, blogging is one of the best ways to build up your credibility and get in front of more people. In the next eight weeks, I have ten paid speaking engagements, which is more than all of last year. What else can help you get speaking opportunities?
  • Have a new approach to a common problem.
  • Have a good story to tell.
  • Have enthusiasm and believe what you tell people.
  • Practice speaking regularly
  • Let people know that you speak, want speaking opportunities and what you speak about.
  • Write a best seller. (OK, I am padding my list with the obvious now)
  • Know what your speaking fees are in advance so you are professional if you get an inquiry. I was not expecting some of the opportunities that have come up within 10 miles of my office, and was unsure of how to price them.
  • Repackage the obvious. Is there anything older than word of mouth? No, it is just going through a renaissance currently.

And did I mention blog?

Phil Gerbyshak Pointed Out an Interesting Blog Post

Phil Gerbyshak of Make it Great wrote: Hi Ron, I really enjoyed your restaurant marketing idea from the other day, and I saw another article online that might fit with your theme, or perhaps it's worth sharing with someone you know who is doing restaurant marketing. I hope you enjoy it!-- Make every day a Great Day! Phil

Friday, January 06, 2006

Marketing a Private Practice

Thanks to Juliet Austin for mentioning Buzzoodle in her blog on Marketing to Private Practice. She discusses word of mouth and buzz and how it applies to therapists, councilors, coaches and healing professionals. She points out the importance of word of mouth for hiring great employees.

Quality + Good Will + Nice Fit

What is the equation that you use to choose to link to someone on your blog or webpage? My equation is Quality + Good Will + Nice Fit = Link Quality: You do not want to be elitist, but you do not want to link to something that does not have quality content and a clean design. Nice Fit: Your visitors are on your website or blog for a reason. Don't water down your message by linking to everything under the sun. Good Will: Links are precious, and linking to people is a great way to create good will with people you read and would like to know. I frequently link to people that are linking to me, as a good will gesture and because our sites often compliment each other. SEO Specialists often do link campaigns by emailing people and asking for links. That is fine, but it is far more effective to link to someone first, and encourage a reciprocal link after you have done them the service.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Blog Magic

If you read blogs, but do not write one yet. Start. I started this one hoping just to document the creation of Buzzoodle. I had no idea it would become the voice of the company. Once people start following what you have to say, even just a few people, it is fairly magical. The audience you grow will talk about you, link to you, email you and maybe buy something from you one day. Imagine if 100 people expected you to call them on the phone three times a week and spend 20 minutes telling them thoughtful, interesting stuff. A blog is just a shortcut to have this kind of dialogue.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Buzzoodle 10 Reasons to Create Buzz for Where You Work

Buzzoodle 10 Reasons to Create Buzz for Where You Work

1) You were going to talk today anyway.

2) Aren't you tired of making fun of your boss? Tell a great story about how your company helped someone.

3) Positive Word of Mouth will result in increased sales, which could results in free trips to Hawaii. You never know.

4) Word of Mouth is the best form of marketing, and it does not even require a Marketing Department. Start creating buzz and make them obsolete.

5) Word of Mouth is like a chain letter, and we all love chain letters.

6) Word of Mouth is easy. Just try being 1,000 times nicer to customers and they will start talking.

7) Be an enthusiastic advocate of where you work. People love to steal great employees and you will have job offers in no time.

8) Make every day remarkable for the people around you and someone is bound to buy you lunch eventually.

9) Telling an interesting story about your employer makes you look smarter than talking about the weather, unless you are the weather man.

10) The more people that know that you have a great job, the better chance of getting a date.

Monday, January 02, 2006

What Makes a Buzzworthy Story

The books out there on Buzz Marketing will tell you there are things that make your story really take off. Is it sexy? Is it incredible? Is it a secret no one is supposed to tell? All very true things that can work. Not always the most practical solution for a business, and not something you can do every month, or eventually it would just stop working because people would recognize it as your standard mode of operation. So let's assume you are going to do two to three Major Buzz Campaigns. What about all of the other time in between? In advertising, you see the same ad time and again because repetion is what creates familiarity. In word of mouth, it may take hearing about something from two or three sources before you create a sense of real desire on the part of the listener. Take for example, Rich Dad, Poor Dad. My business partner has told me to read it, one of our clients has told me to read it, and a vendor told me to read it. I still have not read it, but I will soon. How can I not read it after that! So if you are really interested in creating word of mouth and buzz, you need to create repetition and have people hear about you from different sources at different times. Which gets me to the point of this post: What makes a good, Buzzwothy story. Not necessarily one that is so big that people in China are talking about it (unless you are a chinese business.) A good story should be:
  • Easy to tell (See post on evaluating story)
  • Easy to repeat
  • Easy to slip into a conversation for non-sales people
  • Remarkable enough that it makes the teller look smart and interesting
  • Illustrate how your organization helped someone
  • Include mention of the organization

A good story should also be something that all of your employees and customers are aware of and encouraged to repeat whenever they get the chance.

Good buzz is reinforced with different stories from different sources, which will create the illusion (or illustrates the fact) that you have a diverse, caring organization that everyone is talking about.

Paid Buzz Gone Bad

Thanks to David Lorenzo for pointing out that my post was referring to a Jan 2005 Brand Autopsy post, not 2006. These "Best of last year" things make life difficult.

Via Brand Autopsy there is an interesting thing going on at Bzz Agent. If you do not have a great product, the last thing you want to do is pursue word of mouth marketing. Of course, if your advocates are your employees and existing customers, they are going to be a bit more forgiving.

Buzz in the Classroom

The Pressure is On. Buzzoodle Buzz Marketing blog is part of the Miami University curriculum. See the list of blogs that made the list here. It is a good list of quality blogs to look over. It is going to be fun to see what people say as well, if any choose to follow our musings. Now I have to try to think up at least one thoughtful post before May. Thanks for including us, Mark.