Heading into the Labor Day weekend, I had a chance to browse through Buzzmarketing: Get People to Talk About Your Stuff, a how-to marketing book for anyone trying to get people to start a conversation about a new product or service. The thought was that a few tips and tricks from Mark Hughes -- the marketing maestro who convinced the town of Halfway, Oregon to rename itself to Half.com -- might be enough to help me pump up readership of this blog (which, ahem, even made the Top 30 list at Blogdex last week).
Hughes doesn't claim to offer the key to the mysteries of the universe, but he does get to the heart of the matter: how to move product in a world in which most people view marketing as the work of the devil. People don't want to be pitched, or sold, or deceived into buying something they don't want. And, with the proliferation of new technologies like TiVo, they won't even sit around long enough to listen to a message unless it's somehow fresh and mildy irreverent.
The answer to the problem, says Hughes, is buzz marketing. Quite simply, companies can dramatically boost sales and name recognition by attracting customer evangelists who will spread news of the product by word-of-mouth. For bloggers looking to boost page views and snag subscribers, all the advice you need is found on page 80 ("The Five Most Frequently Written Stories"):
Similar in many ways to giving consumers something to talk about - you've got to give the media something to write about. The media's appetite for what's newsworthy is slightly different from the consumer's. Year after year, the five most frequently written news stories are the following:
The David-and-Goliath story
The unusual or outrageous story
The controversy story
The celebrity story
What's already hot in the media
If you can create a story with any of these story angles you're going to capture the media attention. Create a story that packs two, three or four of these angles, and you've got a grand slam!"
For this blog, I guess, it means David-and-Goliath tales of New York start-up companies trying to take on Microsoft and Google; lots of controversy related to topics like citywide municipal Wi-Fi networks; stories about tech movers-and-shakers (the more famous, the better); and New York-related stories that riff on broader national themes.
One thing is clear: buzz marketing tactics do work. At least the first time around... Check out this buzz marketing copycat reported by The Business Scribe:
"A story running in today's Forbes says EchoStar announced it plans to give away free satellite TV subscriptions to all the residents of any town that changes its name to DISH. The article refers to the announcement as "a novel--if bizarre--marketing strategy..." The fact is, Half.com did this several years ago, as Mark Hughes details in his book "Buzzmarketing." I think EchoStar is taking it too far, though. Hughes only asked residents of Halfway, Oregon to change the town name to Half.com for a year; EchoStar says the name change must be permanent, including changing the city name on all buildings and signs."