Sunday, August 20, 2006

Chris Sneezed a Book; Vlad Sneezed a Conference

Okay, you laggards who've been sleeping in the back row. Wake up and welcome to the 21st Century. Today we're going to talk about Idea Viruses. Your textbook will be Unleashing the Ideavirus by Seth Godin and Malcolm Gladwell. And your homework is to provide some feedback on how we can use this marketing concept "offline" in our SMB consulting practices.

Cliff Notes:
Some ideas spread like viruses. We've all seen examples.

"Everyone" had a Palm Pilot before you even heard of it. Soduko went from a cute newspaper filler to a worldwide phenomenon. You have to try it! Google hasn't been around that long, and they're already in the dictionary as a verb. Google it.

Seth Godin spells out the virus analogy. Someone uses a product or service and raves about it to his friends and associates. This is called sneezing. Some people only sneeze occasionally. Some people sneeze all the time. Some sneeze quietly, some loudly. Some sneeze to a small crowd and some sneeze to a huge gathering.

If you have the right audience -- a large but closely knit group and has a lot of inter-group communication, the virus can spread very quickly. This is especially true if a handful of "promiscuous sneezers" like the idea. As a general rule, these sneezers are not paid or, if they are, that arrangement is known to the community and they are effect at spreading viruses despite the fact that they're paid.

-- Cliff

Let me give you some examples from the SBS/SMB consulting community. First, we really are a vast community with excellent communications. None of us communicates with everyone everyday, but news spreads very fast because most of us have at least half a dozen hooks into the community. These include personal email, yahoo groups, blogs, blog comments, conferences, etc.

Recent phenomenon: The SBS Show. Vlad did not "sneeze" the SBS Show. He created the show and posted it. Then he initiated the virus by telling some people about it, posting it. They had all just come back from SMB Nation and they were eager for more. So they were susceptible to the virus. They caught it and told their friends. End users (not just consultants) got drawn into the mix. And they told their friends. So now everyone has the SBS Show Virus.

Interestingly enough, one year ago today Vlad and Chris and Suzanne were not "promiscuous sneezers." But because of the SBS Show (among other things), they all are today. On August 12th I was honored to have Chris post a review of my Service Agreements book. He was literally sneezing to his blog readers. It may catch on, it may not. Not every virus spreads far and wide.

When Vlad returned from SMB Nation East, he sneezed all over the place. He went on and on about how much he loved that conference. He didn't just check the box that said "good conference." No, he sneezed all over Vladfire and So I don't think there will be fewer than 350 people at the next SMB Nation East in 2007!

Who are the other sneezers in our community? Well, we all are. Viral marketing cannot succeed because a few well-known people sneeze. The product has to be good so that people use it, talk about it, rave about it, and tell their friends. But not just tell their friends. They use phrases like "You have to get this." and "It changed the way I do business." Even if all the well-known sbsers used a product, that doesn't make it a virus. A virus is easily spread. A successful virus infects a majority of the core community.

A Few Key lessons:
- There must exist a well-connected community to sneeze into.

- You have to have the right product.
We all use screwdrivers, but no one raves about one screwdriver you just have to own!

- The timing has to be right.
Maybe 2006 is not the right time for the SBS crowd to give two hoots about Storage Area Networks. But it's a great time to discuss Managed Services.

- Sneezers need to be honest.
You - the marketer - are taking a chance. Our community is very honest. If you drop some crap product on this crowd, you better be ready for serious push-back. The ultimate example is Microsoft: When they do something right, Susan and Jeff and every other blog sings their praises. But the next day that might all be gone. The power of a sneezer is related to the sneezer's credibility.

HOMEWORK -- Group Project

So all that's based on the online community. Your homework will consist of figuring out how to to this technique to market your SMB consulting business to your local SMB customers.

1) Go buy the book today: Unleashing the Ideavirus by Seth Godin and Malcolm Gladwell

2) Now, as a group, let's see how we can use this concept in marketing to the businesses in our communities that need to buy our consulting services. How can we get people to sneeze an SMB Consultant?

Don't wave your hand and say "That's all just word of mouth advertising. We do that." Bzzzzzzzzz. I'm sorry. Thank you for playing. That answer's worth 1 point (out of fifty). We're not looking for "I use xyz Networks." We're looking for raving fans who spread your name all over the place.

I welcome and encourage your feedback. Here or in email.

1 comment:

  1. Great article about viral marketing. We just extended the conversation - looking at how usability can influence our viral marketing.

    Usability Sells Software - Word of Mouth Marketing

    I think it is the logical next step in the discussion about how to make the dynamics you describe work for our products.


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