The Power of Buzz By Susan Friedmann
The Power of Buzz
By Susan Friedmann, CSP
How did Hotmail gain over 12 million subscribers in 18 months? How did the
very low budget movie “The Blair Witch Project” become such an incredibly
successful phenomenon? The answer lies in the power of “buzz.”
Buzz or word-of-mouth marketing influences more people to buy, or not to buy
products and services, than most other forms of marketing. Why is it so
powerful? Basically, we have a need to share information as a means of
communication and also as a way of understanding the world around us. Often, we
base many of our purchasing decisions on information gleaned from friends and
well-respected associates. We tend to listen to them more readily then most
In his book “The Anatomy of Buzz,” Emanuel Rosen states, “most marketing
today ignores the power of buzz and tries to influence each customer
individually.” He believes that “buzz travels through invisible networks
that link people together. Noise, skepticism and connectivity all influence
As exhibitors you need go no further than the tradeshow floor to find a network
that creates a real buzz. It starts prior to the show, gathers momentum at the
show, and then slowly dissipates after the show ends. Every exhibitor has the
power to influence the buzz. It all depends on product/service quality,
marketing savvy and the decisions made.
I recall visiting a telecommunications show a couple of years ago when the buzz
on the show floor concerned a Fortune 100 company and major player in the
industry, (who shall remain nameless). The talk centered around the image of
their booth which wasn’t quite up to expectations. The buzz went like this:
“The ABC Company has gone cheap. They must be having financial problems.”
It’s gossip like this that starts the wheels of the “rumor mill” turning
and can even create havoc on the Stock Market. Remarks like this often have very
little bearing on reality, but people make assumptions and decisions based on
what they see and hear. Obviously, the originating source of the buzz plays a
key role in its basis for truth.
I’m sure that you would much prefer any tradeshow buzz to be positive. Since
talking about products/services makes economic sense, how can you use the buzz
to add to your existing marketing efforts? I’ve put together ten guidelines
for you to consider:
1. Brainstorm all possible groups of people who might be interested in your
products/services. Consider including the media, opinion leaders, influencers,
lead users, politicians, analysts, etc. Don’t forget chat rooms and newsgroups
although buzz still spreads primarily by personal interaction.
2. Research how information spreads among your customers. Ask them how they
usually learn about new products/services. Who are their major information
sources? Who’s information do they value? You’re primarily looking for
groups of people rather than individuals. However, don’t discount individuals,
as they may well be a powerful opinion leader.
3. Develop a clear and concise message highlighting the product/service benefits
you want to filter through these different groups. Zero in on your product’s
uniqueness and what it can do, for example, to help save time and money – two
basic elements most people seek.
4. Think about ways to tap into these groups to spread the word about your
products/services. Use these in addition to your existing marketing efforts.
Never rely on just one means of connecting with you target audience. Your
credibility is enhanced through different marketing mediums. For example,
exhibit marketing could include pre-show advertising, at-show sponsorship and
post-show, a trade publication article. The more ways people can hear and see
you the better.
5. Offer prospects easy ways to try your product/service. For example, the
makers of Pictionary gave demos in parks, shopping centers and other gathering
places. The tradeshow floor presents excellent opportunities for this.
6. Come up with other creative ideas to enhance tradeshow show demonstrations.
What can you give people to take away to remind them of your company, products
and positive show experience. Think about something that will help create the
buzz. It’ll have to be more creative than a keychain or stress ball. The more
product-related the better. You want people to remember and talk about you –
7. Look at special groups whom you might offer a product discount, a loaner or
even for free. You’re looking for groups/individuals where the direct product
experience will help spread the word. For example, when FedEx started out, it
offered free shipping to show people how their program worked. America Online
continuously finds ways to offer hundreds of free hours of trial usage to entice
new users. I recently saw a display of free CDs at WalMart.
8. Use press conferences for major announcements, new product introductions, but
only if they are truly new or improved, or general industry trends - what’s
hot and what’s not. Realize that editors are interested in timely newsworthy
information; industry trends, statistics, new technology or product information.
The media get very upset attending a press conference which is poorly organized
and where there’s nothing newsworthy.
9. Use sneak previews at tradeshows to build anticipation and help create a buzz
on the show floor. Give people a fun experience and a behind the scenes view of
what’s coming. TV and the movies have got this down to a fine art with their
coming attractions. Siemens just did this extremely successfully at the recent
CTIA show in Las Vegas. They organized a live marketing presentation with a
futuristic theme that featured a digital phone prototype. They certainly created
a buzz, which had people, including myself inquiring about the product’s
10. Make use of tradeshows to educate your target audience. People are hungry
for information. Investigate opportunities to speak either during the workshop
sessions or incorporate an educational session into your display.
The power of buzz far exceeds many conventional marketing vehicles. It is
probably the oldest, most well-used and valuable one out there. Look at how you
can make it an integral part of your existing marketing plan to influence the
voices in your industry.
Written by Susan A. Friedmann,CSP, The Tradeshow Coach, Lake Placid, NY, author:
“Meeting & Event Planning for Dummies,” working with companies to
improve their meeting and event success through coaching, consulting and
training. Go to http://www.thetradeshowcoach.com
to sign up for a free copy of ExhibitSmart Tips of the Week.