The Power of Buzz

By Christopher M. Leporini, REALTOR® Magazine

The same forces that rocket low-budget movies into blockbuster status and propel unheralded authors to the top of the bestseller list can transform an average salesperson into the real estate associate of the moment. Inexpensive, yet influential, word-of-mouth advertising can build your real estate business to previously unattainable heights. But how do you harness power of public opinion? In The Anatomy of Buzz, (Doubleday, 2002; $14.95.) former marketing vice president of Niles Software, Emanuel Rosen dissects how companies create sustainable word-of-mouth promotional campaigns.

The author defines buzz as the sum of all comments about a particular product, company, or service at any given time; it’s the word on the street about your business. Buzz can be positive or negative. It can come from clients that you’ve dealt with directly, “She was so helpful when we bought our first home;” people who’ve heard stories about you secondhand, “My brother-in-law’s cousin said that company is full of crooks;” or those who’ve only seen your business card, “Doesn’t she have an honest face?”

Using and controlling buzz means understanding the invisible connections between people, according to the author. You’ve probably heard of the idea of six degrees of separation, which connects seemingly unrelated people through a series of mutual acquaintances. This is how buzz spreads–one person tells friends about a service, they tell their friends, and so on. Using examples ranging from the Blair Witch Project to Palm Pilots, the book explores ways companies have built buzz.

Services that reward customers for passing along your name to friends, family, or coworkers provides one effective method of building word-of-mouth, the book says. For instance, you can form a VIP customer club that incentivizes past customers to spread the word about your business. Forming relationships with key, highly-networked individuals likely to spread the word about your business provides another outlet for creating buzz. For instance, you might pair with local lenders to hold new buyer seminars. Joining groups such as chambers of commerce or trade associations can also expand your sphere of influence and place you in contact with business leaders who could recommend your services to their friends or clients.

The book covers the methods through which information spreads in great detail; some of this discussion might be too academic for readers more interested in end results than communications theory. However, in addition to covering theoretical aspects of how buzz spreads, the book also includes concrete tips on creating advertising that prospects will tell their friends about. Real estate professionals can use this advice when crafting their marketing campaigns:

  • Tell customers something new. Customers are more likely to talk about your ad if it contains fresh information. Simply stating “Our company truly cares about its customers” isn’t likely to get customers fired up–they’ve heard it all before. Conversely, telling customers “our statistics indicate that your home is probably worth 5 percent more than it was six months ago” is more likely to catch their attention.
  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Nothing will turn customers against you more quickly than a broken promise. If you claim to provide the best customers service, but fail to meet your guarantee to return phone calls personally within an hour, you’re sure to generate negative buzz about your business.
  • Ask customers for help. Your customers represent an untapped resource for defining your image. When you conduct satisfaction surveys, ask customers whether they’ve recommended your product recently. If so, ask them to articulate what’s special about your service.
  • Keep it simple. Simple messages float along conversationally; heavy messages sink. Fashion a direct tag line that customers can remember… and repeat.

If you haven’t considered how the word on the street affects your business, maybe it’s time to start. The Anatomy of Buzz offers examples of other companies’ experiences so that you can learn how to build buzz among your customers and get your business humming.

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This post was contributed exclusively for REALTOR® Magazine.

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