The Art of Influence: How to Build a Buzz Around Your Product
I really loved Jason Sadlerâ€™s contribution to our YOTSU blog. Even ifÂ you’veÂ read it, itâ€™s worth a second look, especially his answer to Question 3.Â We asked the promotional startup king what makes a promotional campaign a success and he introduced a term that every startup team should memorize: influence.
Influence: A Defining Marketing Trait
Sadler astutely pointed out that you can have the best product in the world, but if no one knows about it; more importantly, if no one is TALKING about it, then it might as well not exist. No seriously, if no one is talking about your product it reallyÂ doesn’tÂ exist. A campaignâ€™s goal is not just about, â€œpeople buying a product,â€ Sadler wrote, â€œbut people talking about a product.â€
But talk is cheap right? Not so fast, startup wiz. Talk, also known as buzz, is arguably the most important element in your marketing or promotional campaign. Why? Because, talk leads to influence and influence is the main ingredient that pummels your biggest enemy to salesâ€”inertiaâ€”and knocks it flat out on the canvas. Whatâ€™s influence? In terms of marketing influence is when someone buys your product or service without you knowing they want to buy your product or service. Whether itâ€™s that promotional pen thatâ€™s passed from you to a vendor to the vendorâ€™s client, or that T-shirt with your logo thatâ€™s seen by a soccer mom, or a reporter who writes a review, influence is all about getting others talking, sharing and building buzz about your product or service.
Truth No Match for Influence
To understand how important influence is in marketing letâ€™s time travel back to 1998. That year, Steven Spielbergâ€™s film Saving Private Ryan was on autopilot, cruising to the Best Picture Oscar. Critics lionized the filmâ€™s realistic portrayal of war and the acting of its A-list stars including Tom Hanks and Matt Damon. Spielberg won the Oscar for best director and the Oscar for best picture went toâ€”um, Shakespeare in Love. Really? Yep.
In what movie critics still call the upset of the century, Miramax and its owner Harvey Weinstein launched an Oscar buzz campaign that set a new high (some would say low) bar for marketing a picture. Weinstein sent personal DVD copies of his movie to critics and Oscar voters, planted stories in the press and even got some writers to criticize Spielbergâ€™s films for so-called inaccuracies. In short, he got people talking about his film. Weinstein reportedly spent $2 million on the campaign a feat that got more people talking about the movie and the Oscar campaign. In the end Saving Private Ryan, clearly the better picture, lost out.
When we talk about influence in marketing weâ€™re not talking about truth. Truth is a luxury. Weâ€™re talking about what people say is true. And therein lies the difference.
The Principles of Influence
Why did Saving Private Ryan lose? To understand why, you need to understand the six principles of influence. In 1984, Robert Cialdini, a professor at Arizona State University, released â€œInfluence: The Psychology of Persuasion.â€ The book revealed what makes people battle inertia into submission to say â€œyes,â€ to purchasing products, giving to charities, or whatever. Cialdini wanted to understand the psychology of persuasion but what he ended up doing is creating a blueprint for marketers everywhere.Â In the Saving Private Ryan example Weinstein used the principle of â€œsocial proof,â€ the idea that the more people who talked about the greatness of Shakespeare in Love, the more people would BELIEVE in the greatness of Shakespeare in Love. Social proof works extremely well when weâ€™re not sure how to act. We look to others to steer us in the right direction, even, as in the case of the Oscar campaign, theyâ€™re wrong. â€œWe view a behavior as correct in a given situation to the degree we see others performing it,â€ writes Cialdini.
This psychological need to look to others for confirmation is why getting people talking about your product, â€œbuilding buzz,â€ is so important.
How to Drum up Influence
Sadler built â€œinfluence,â€ by getting lots of favorable mentions in the press. Others build influence by pushing their social media content to go viral. Others do both. But if you donâ€™t have time to court reporters, bloggers and social media influencersâ€”you should make time. J Barring that here are some simple things you can do to ensure that your product marketing exudes influence:
- Product testimonialsâ€”better others tell how great your product is than you
- Visual testimonialsâ€”use videos to show others using your product
- A-list userâ€”do celebrities use your products or services? Greatâ€¦show them using it or tell others about them using it.
- Happy Customer Listsâ€”client lists, current customer names, a Twitter roll that says â€œThank You,â€ every time someone buys from your website letâ€™s others know your product or service is in demand.
- White Papers/Case Studiesâ€”publish how youâ€™ve helped your customers or clients and promote it. Again, you want people talking about your product or service as much as possible.
- Be outrageously creativeâ€”people hated GoDaddyâ€™s sloppy kissing nerd/model Super Bowl ad but people are still talking about it. Sometimes you have to not only think outside the box but destroy it to get buzz in the social media era.
In the coming weeks weâ€™ll break down the other five principles of influence Cialdini documented. Stay tuned.