Marketing Matters: Building a Buzz

Photo by Rick DaughertyRunning a janitorial service in the 1980s, I depended on good old word of mouth (WOM) to generate business for me. Pair that with a business card, and I had a good thing going. In the 1990s when I stepped into a failing pizzeria, I quickly found out that putting up an ‘Under New Management’ sign did not impress people and only started rumors. Positive WOM in this business does not just happen –– it has to be crafted and spread in a purposeful way. Now that we live in the age of Web 2.0 media, WOM has evolved into ‘Marketing Buzz.’ Simply put, this is the interaction of consumers which magnifies your marketing message creating a positive association, excitement and anticipation about your product or service. Why does buzz marketing work? Because when we touch emotions to capture people’s attention we get them to express themselves on our behalf, releasing a trustworthy ‘testimonial’ with a snowball effect.

This is a marketing tactic, not chance. In winning the pizza wars it is much like General Patton stated: “Untutored courage is useless in the face of educated bullets.” We need chatter about our business to be the result of educated buzz bullets.

Joe Carlucci of Famous Joe’s Pizza in Madison, Alabama, took a novel idea and made it his own, creating a pizza with the likeness of football icon Tim Tebow on it. How did he create buzz? Carlucci combined technology with people skills. First he uses social media to promote his innovation. Through Carlucci’s promotions, Facebook shares and Twitter retweets, the Tebow pizza gained the attention of locals and the media. Carlucci was able to invite a local reporter to see and taste the Tebow pizza. It began buzzing nationwide.

Carlucci received orders for the pizza from Ohio, was featured on CNN headline news and was asked to do radio interviews from coast to coast. The buzz continued as Carlucci added a local aspect. “I am still pushing the whole story because the whole reason of doing this was to bring Tim Tebow to my restaurant for a fundraiser for my local city hospital,” Carlucci says.

Slightly more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy has been influenced by buzz. The hospitality industry is 54-percent driven by marketing buzz. “Word-of-mouth has a conversion rate of 20 percent and tends to have a 75 percent lower cost per acquisition than other channels. Investing time and effort into this will absolutely pay dividends,” says Johnathon Kay, ambassador of buzz at Grasshopper.com.

Marketing buzz is a modern day show-and-tell. First, products ripe for buzz are unique in some respect, be it in look, taste, convenience, or price. Second, products with great buzz potential are usually highly visible. Identify and promote your USP, realize that dining is a sensory experience. Take the unique aspect of your business and make it visible to your community. You can build buzz by combining personable skills with today’s technology.

Scott Anthony is a Fox’s Pizza Den franchisee in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. He is a monthly contributor to Pizza Today and a frequent guest speaker at Pizza Expo.