Are you looking for ways to get people talking about your brand? An increasing frustration with traditional media has driven businesses and marketing firms to start employing more creative means of getting customers attention beyond the traditional media outlets. You may hear this referred to as viral, word-of-mouth or buzz marketing and this method is attaining broad popularity as an inexpensive and highly effective marketing method.

What is Viral Marketing, Word-of-Mouth, or Buzz Marketing?

Viral Marketing is a way of capturing attention of consumers and the media to the point where talking about your brand becomes interesting conversation. Generating a buzz is based on either customers’ personal experience with brands or what other people have told them about these brands. When this experience becomes interesting, your brand and what your company is doing become a source of entertainment, and your brand becomes newsworthy. Basically it’s unconventional, it’s economical and it’s powerful. Buzz marketing is capturing the attention of consumers and the media to the point where talking about your brand becomes entertaining, fascinating, and newsworthy. Buzz marketing is about starting conversations. In a nutshell, buzz marketing is about getting people talking and getting the media writing about your brand. With Buzz Marketing you stop talking at consumers, and start talking to them.

Why does buzz work?

Today’s noisy advertising environment has forced marketers to become more creative and some say even slightly devious with their methods. Consumers are subject to constant information overload and are wary and distrustful of companies due to scandals and scams they have heard about or been victims of in the past. All of that buyer’s remorse from past bad purchase decisions has built up and created a wall of sales resistance that they psychologically throw up whenever faced with something that appears to be a marketing message or sales pitch. Conversely, consumers like to rely on friends and peers for product and service recommendations and will do less shopping around and are more apt to act based on recommendations of people the know. This has long fueled efforts to increase customer referrals for companies. Another way to enter a customer’s mindshare is through buzz marketing, which is simply the process of sharing information through the natural social networks of your target market that helps them in the decision-making process. That way, instead of coming from a faceless and distrusted corporation, the marketing message instead seems to emanate from the most powerful endorser possible: your coolest friend.

How is it different than traditional advertising?

Most marketing, advertising, and PR employs a push strategy, where you push your message out into the marketplace at people, typically when they are not seeking it. Many people do not enjoy or appreciate this approach. Good marketers know that using a pull strategy to market their products and services can result in close rates at least twice as high as a traditional push strategy. Doubling your marketing effectiveness is certainly worth paying attention to. Buzz marketing is powerful because it gets customers to seek you out.

Why is this a good time for Buzz?

Marketing today is in a state of turmoil. Industry leaders say traditional marketing campaigns, based on mass media advertising, are not working anymore. And the facts back them up. A 2004 study into advertising effectiveness by Deutsche Bank in the US consumer packaged goods sector found that only 18 percent of television advertising campaigns generate a positive return on annual investment, while the Harvard Business Review reports that for every dollar invested into traditional advertising for consumer packaged goods, the short-term return on investment is just 54 cents. Marketing in the business-to-business sector fares no better. An astonishing 84 percent of B2B marketing campaigns actually result in a fall in market share and brand equity. Word of mouth connections are highly influential. A 2004 UK survey of 10,000 consumers by consultants CIA:MediaEdge found that 76 percent cite word of mouth as their main influence on their purchasing decisions, compared with traditional advertising’s mere 15 percent. In the US, NOP (now GfK) research shows that 92 percent of Americans cite word of mouth as their preferred source of product information. Studies show that when it comes to generating excitement about products, word of mouth is 10 times more effective than TV or print advertising. Younger consumers, who are still forming their brand preferences, are among the most coveted by marketers. These days they spend less time planted in front of the tube and are more skeptical about the messages they receive there. Therefore a recommendation for a product or service from a trusted friend is more memorable and convincing than the cleverest television ad and more likely to be turned into action.

What are the benefits?

Many are saying that buzz represents the future and will surpass traditional ads in regards to maintaining consumer brand-interest. If I can involve one person really deeply in my brand in 50 cities, vs. 50 people in one city, I’ll take the former every time, says Mark Hughes, author of Buzzmarketing: Get People to Talk About Your Stuff. Jon Berry of research company Nop World, and author of The Influentials, argues that word of mouth is worth more than twice what it was in the 1970s in affecting consumer purchases, and it’s 150 percent more influential than newspaper and magazine advertising or articles. Another benefit of buzz marketing is the ability to break through customers’ natural defense mechanisms that they typically have up when receiving marketing messages. Customers think of you more like a friend and less like a business trying to sell them something, and that is a great place to be.

You’re speaking face-to-face, which gives you attention and mindshare. Another reason word of mouth works so well is credibility. When your friend, neighbor, co-worker or a family member tells you about a great movie, product or service you believe them. They’re not being paid to pitch the item and so you give them full credibility. That’s why having a great product matters so much: If you can really wow people, they will tell their friends and neighbors. Such face-to-face attention creates superior memory retrieval. In a study of two groups presented with advertising information with the brand removed, only 49 percent of people recalled advertising based on a visual cue, while 70 percent recalled advertising from a thirty-second musical cue. Given the right context of attention, audio stimuli can be far superior to visual.

Buzz marketing is one of the hottest trends in marketing today. By applying these 18 techniques in your business you’ll see people buzzing about your brand.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Start with your initial or existing base of satisfied customers. While enrolling new consumers, a successful buzz marketing strategy bases itself on the impact these consumers could have on the next potential customer. Providing a positive customer experience establishes trust. This trust is rewarded with consumers acting as buzz marketing agents, literally working for brands free of charge. The consumers who are first to climb aboard and become evangelists of your brand.

2. Pick a target market you can find. Where does your target market hang out? If you’re selling hot pink lipstick you might find that your main customers are at the corner of Pine and Main Street wearing stilettos and pleather. Make them easily definable and be able to name the specific areas where they go so you can target your target market.

3. Find the thought leaders. Every social culture has its thought leaders. Building a successful buzz campaign hinges on finding the right carriers for the message: influencers who are obsessed with staying one step ahead of their peers. You must find, connect, and collaborate with the people who influence your brand, lead opinions, and spread word of mouth. Look for opinion-leading individuals who frequently offer or are elicited for category-related advice. Thought leaders are the 10percent of society that help influence the majority of all purchasing decisions. They are not necessarily the customers who spend the most money with you, but they are the most important people you can reach because your target market takes their advice. They hold a social power that will amplify the affect of your word of mouth campaign.

After finding influencers, make sure that you develop ongoing, two-way relationships with them from giving them a trial before the product is available to the mass market, to going back a step and getting them involved in your research and development. Try to give them experiences that exceed expectations. This will generate goodwill and advocacy that will go a long way toward kick-starting positive word of mouth and wider interest in your product, service, or campaign.