Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tipping the Sales

If you're serious about growing your business and your brand, you might want to know about three key people responsible for creating unstoppable word-of-mouth buzz.

In your perfect world, you create a "Tipping Point"; that precious space in time when critical mass boils over, allowing your ideas, products and messages to spread in a viral manner. In his best-selling book, Malcolm Gladwell points to examples such as the rise in popularity of Hush Puppies shoes in the mid-1990s and the dramatic drop in New York City crime rates in the late 1990s.

You see examples of "Tipping Points" all around you - each and every day.

It helps to understand how "Tipping Points" are created since it explains how three guys from Colorado spread the word about the ugliest footwear ever made.

Scott, George and Duke knew they were on to something big when the fire marshal at the 2002 Fort Lauderdale, Florida, boat show started yelling about the crowd around their booth blocking the aisles. The trio was tossing pairs of colorful boating shoes at passersby, asking them to slip them on.

They did, and sold all 200 pairs of CROCS in two days.

From there, popularity mushroomed. Sales poured in. By 2003 CROCS had become a bona-fide phenomenon, universally accepted as an all-purpose shoe for comfort-seeking, suburban fashionistas.

According to Gladwell, the dynamics involved in generating a "Tipping Point" transcend all product and service categories - even more so in today's Facebook world. And while technology may be connecting more strangers than ever, certain fundamentals have not changed.

Will you stop for a moment and consider the implications for your brand?

Today, TSB explores some underlying factors you can apply to tip the sales in your favour.

Much of Gladwell's analysis as to why "Tipping Points" occur is based on the 1967"Six Degrees of Separation" study by sociologist Stanley Milgram. Milgram gave letters to 160 people in Nebraska, with instructions to send them to a stockbroker in Boston by passing the letters to somebody socially closer to the target. The study found that it took an average of six links to deliver each letter. Of particular interest to Gladwell was the finding that the three friends of the stockbroker provided the final link for more than half of those letters.

This revelation is what sparked Gladwell's theory that three types of people hold the key to unlocking viral forces that fan the flames of a wildfire brand.

CONNECTORS: These are the people who link us up with others. People with a special gift for bringing the world together. They know lots of folks.

MAVENS: Otherwise known as "information specialists", or people we rely upon to connect us with the latest and greatest trends and technology. They accumulate knowledge, especially about the marketplace, and know how to share it with others.

SALESMEN: These are the "great persuaders". Charismatic people with a powerful ability to influence in such a way as to make others agree with them.

In this video, some college kids in the U.S. take a creative, cheesy, crack at explaining these character types in more detail.

Since we rely so heavily on word-of-mouth information when determining what products to buy, which companies to trust and who to believe, can you see the advantage in having some of these "Tipping Point" characters included in your circle of influence? These three character types exist in every community and no doubt a few were strolling along the aisles at a Fort Lauderdale boat show when they saw something that caught their eye.

And all it takes is a few.

Another brand that adopted these marketing principles and put them into practice is Apple. Former Apple marketing and sales exec, Steve Chazin has identified 5 of the things that make the folks who brought us the iPod and iPhone such successful marketers. You can discover them in a little 8 page e-Book that Steve calls "MarketingApple: 5 Secrets of the World's Best Marketing Machine".

But as Steve explains, you need something worth talking about for your brand to go viral. In other words, word-of-mouth evangelism are gifts that your customers can give you, but first they must be earned.

It doesn't matter if we're talking CROCS or computers - the principles for generating word-of-mouth buzz don't change.

But, you must have something remarkable to offer, before it is deemed worthy of spreading.

What is it that you do or sell that qualifies as being "remarkable"?

If you can't put your finger on it, how can you expect to plug in to the connectors, mavens and salesmen surrounding you each day?

"I hope I have encouraged people in business to expand the way they make sense of human behavior"

Originally posted October 14, 2008

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