My street team? I called them the Buzz Warriors, and they stung like a bee. And just like a bee they got a lot of attention. Not always the good kind.
In case you have no idea who I am, I am not surprised. That is why I needed a street team in the first place.
I am an author. A business author to be exact. I am “psycho-level-passionate” about entrepreneurship and want to help anyone growing a business. I aspire to be one of the most influential business authors of our generation. (I know, it's a big goal; but you only live once, so I am all in.)
Authors are perhaps part of the most competitive market that exists. According to Bowker—the book industry’s version of the DOW Jones—347,178 traditional books came out in 2011. If you add in public domain reprints of old titles and self-published books an estimated 1.1 million books were released in 2011.
That means 3,014 new books are released every single day. I don’t know what industry you are in, but you’d be hard pressed to find another industry that has more than 3,000 new products released every single day. In an industry this competitive, distinguishing yourself is key. And that is exactly what a street team can do for you.
Before I tell you how to manage your street team, let me share the results of my experience. My street team was tasked with creating a big push for the launch of my new book, The Pumpkin Plan. By midnight of the first day, they had helped me sell just over 2,000 copies. For any book to sell that many copies in a single day is pretty extraordinary. And for a business author like me, it is critical. You see, the more individual orders you get, the more people are going to read it within the next month or so. If you wrote a good book (and yes, a good product is necessary for a street team to be effective), it means you are more likely to trigger the word-of-mouth marketing that can carry a book for months or years or decades. The street team is the spark—a big spark.
Here is how to get your street team started and making a splash.
1. A volunteer force. Just like an elite army, your best soldiers are the ones who volunteer for service. Make an announcement to your followers saying that you are looking for volunteers. I put a post on Facebook and sent out an e-mail.
2. Have a place to congregate. Your street team will gain powerful momentum if they can connect with each other. Setup a private Facebook page or a Google+ Hangout so they can share ideas, bond with one another and get fired up.
3. Have few rules. Have rules that define the objectives and the basic codes of conduct. But keep the reins loose. You want your street team inventing as they go. They are your marketing force and you want them to not just do your ideas, but to also come up with better ones.
4. Push the edge. This is where things get dicey. This is where you walk the fine line of awareness and obnoxiousness. For example, one Buzz Warrior idea, which I was this close to supporting, was to chalk an entire town with the words The Pumpkin Plan. That is borderline illegal—a form of non-permanent graffiti—but it surely would have been noticed. Having 100 people post 5 pictures each of themselves holding The Pumpkin Plan, resulted in viral momentum—frustrating a few with all the updates, but striking the curiosity of many.
5. Have rewards. When people joined my street team, they got an advance copy of my book (about 6 months prior to its release). They also got private access to our Facebook page, where I shared access to cover designs, website designs and other marketing considerations before anyone else in the world saw them. Their feedback on the book and the marketing ideas was powerful!
6. Build momentum. As you get closer and closer to your launch day communicate more. If you start building the hype with your street team too early, it will be hard for them to sustain it. Instead build the hype with them, at the same time you want them to build hype with your prospects.
7. Keep them on the pulse. The day of my launch, I was providing updates every half hour or so. The second we had sales reported in to us, I was shooting a video on my iPhone and sending it out to my Buzz Warriors. They were getting near instantaneous feedback on what was working and what wasn’t.
8. Get their permission to do it again. Once the big launch is done, you will surely want to do another one with your street team. Be sure to get permission to be in periodic contact with your street team for your next launch. Because if you do it right, your street team will want to do it again—and this time they'll recruit their friends.
At the end of the day, the street team gave me exposure to readers who had never heard about me. They did it by being big and loud on the day of the launch. They got attention. Your street team can do the same for you. Just be very aware of the cost, the fact you will turn some people off and if you go too far you may lose them all.
Read more of Mike's marketing advice here.
Mike Michalowicz is the author of The Pumpkin Plan and The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur. He is a nationally recognized speaker on entrepreneurial topics and is the CEO of Provendus Group, a consultancy that ignites explosive growth in companies that have plateaued.