Successful businesses do something that makes people talk, remark about them, and then they amplify this something by making it an essential element of the culture of the business.
You don’t have to do something that’s unheard of, outrageous or sensationally innovative to create buzz. Great follow-up creates buzz, great t-shirts, fun events, outrageous acts of kindness all contribute to an overall culture of buzz.
The trick is to look for opportunities to get people talking about your company at every turn and then empower your people to act in that vein.
Mike McDerment, founder of the online bookkeeping service, FreshBooks, shared a great example of this kind of buzz thinking at work at Freshbooks. Mike wrote a blog post pointing out his love and affection for the snack cracker Triscuit and the fact that the company had recently added some tasty new flavors. (Simply sharing this level of personal story with his customers is one element of his culture of buzz) One of his customers and blog subscribers wrote a tongue in cheek response asking that they not talk about Triscuits because he could not get them as he was presently living in Fiji.
“I’d like to request removal from all future posting which reference food items I’m unable to purchase in this country. I am right now dying to try cracked pepper and olive oil Triscuits. I am seriously considering cancelling my Freshbooks account because of this irresponsible posting. Have a heart. ~ Jonathan”
So, what did Mike and company do, they ran out and purchased some boxes of Cracked Pepper and Olive Oil Triscuits and shipped to their customer in Fiji. Mike said they sent them and forgot about it, they had a good laugh and went back to work.
Well, some 8000 miles away their thrilled customer Jonathan was busy blogging about the incredible thing his billing software service had done.
"I'm tempted to go on and on about the social implications of people just doing nice things for the sake of doing them," wrote Jonathon on his company's blog, "but I'll refrain from that and simply write: FreshBooks, you've got a customer for a life and yet one more person to sing your praises to the masses.”
The story of going the extra mile was picked up all over the Internet and FreshBooks benefitted from what turned into a mini-storm of positive buzz. Like most viral buzz hits, Mike’s act was more of a spontaneous reaction based on having a good time than any kind of calculated attempt to garner publicity – and that’s precisely why it was so effective.
Companies that focus on creating positive customer experiences at every turn tap the power of buzz quite naturally and this habit is something that can be learned. Let me emphasize that natural and authentic nature of this habit. A culture of buzz is not created by attempting to do things that get attention; what some may have called publicity stunts in the past. The most effective, long-term, cultural shift for most organizations come when the focus is on finding ways to make the total customer experience something worth talking about on a case-by-case basis. Every now and then you get a nice little bonus of some great PR or word of mouth buzz, but it starts with the spark of one customer thinking, perhaps even to themselves – “wow, that was kinda cool.”