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How to create a buzz and boost sales without spending a dime

How to create a buzz and boost sales without spending a dime

October 29, 2010

What if I told you that all you may need to turn around your sales is just a couple dozen loyal people? That's it.

You don't need big name endorsements. Or even huge sponsors. You don't need any of that. All you need is a few 'small-talkers' ' people who don't have the big names but are nevertheless credible, trustworthy ordinary people that will proudly refer others.

To see what I mean all you have to do is look at Hush Puppies.

It's hard to imagine but in 1995 the brand name shoe brought in only $30,000 in sales. In 1998, sales skyrocketed to $1.72 million.

In just three short years, this "tired" old brand exploded with a new customer base.

I'll show how they did it ' and how you can use 'small-talkers' to create a buzz and boost your sales.

The "tipping point" that made all the difference

To understand how Hush Puppies pulled this off, we have to go back to late 1994. At the time, the shoes were sold mostly in small town shops and outlet stores. The company that made them, Wolverine, was even thinking of phasing out that brand line.

But then came the 'tipping point' ' the moment something unusual becomes common.

At a fashion shoot, a New York designer told two Hush Puppies executives that their shoes had suddenly become extremely popular back in New York. The stores which were still carrying them were selling out all their remaining Hush Puppies shoes, and nobody knew why. By 1995, designers (such as Isaac Mizrahi, John Bartlett and Anna Sui) started calling, requesting to use Hush Puppies shoes in their collections and on their shows. In Los Angeles, designer Joel Fitzgerald put a 25-foot inflatable Hush Puppies symbol on the roof of his store, turning it into a Hush Puppies boutique. That year, Hush Puppies sold 430,000 pairs of shoes, and the numbers kept rising after that.

What happened? Hush Puppies became a brand that was hijacked; happily hijacked by just 50 very mod, cool, hip kids who decided they liked the retro shoe.

They didn't talk much; they weren't active promoters. They wore their new fashion state'ment with pride and retro chic. And everyone else copied these trend setters.

There are a group of 'small talkers' in every industry and every market segment.


How the Post-It Note was almost killed before it ever took off

The story of the Post-It Note is another good example. Many people know about the success of the Post-it Note, but few people know that the Post-it note nearly died even before it was born.

In 1968, Dr. Spence Silver, who was a research scientist for 3M tried to invent glue that was super sticky. Unfortunately, he failed. Instead of super sticky, he came up with just the exact opposite, glue that was weak and not powerful at all.

So the R&D laboratories aban¬doned it for the next six years. Eventually, it was picked up by another product development researcher by the name of Art Fry. Fry was in the choir at St. Paul’s church in Minnesota and was frustrated that the loose bookmarks in his hymnal kept falling out. Whenever he was trying to sing, he wasn’t able to turn the pages quickly enough to stay on the right page during the service.

He decided to do an experiment, and use the glue that no one else was using on one side of the bookmark, hoping that it would stay there and not ruin his book. He was delighted to find out that it worked. He then went about with great energy, trying to convince the management at 3M that this new product was really worth it. Although it didn’t have a name yet, he called it a temporary sticky bookmark.

Many people know about this development, however, they don’t know what happened next. The Post-It Notes didn’t actually work. Not that they didn’t work in terms of function, but they didn’t work in attracting consumers. The Post-it note failed in prototype testing, and it failed in concept testing, so the R&D department was just about to pull the plug on the whole thing. They decided to give it one last chance, and this is what’s most instructive for us.

They conducted a special research project, and put it in the most powerful hands that they could think of – the secretaries of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Each one of these highly influen¬tial small-talkers was sent an entire box of these yellow sticky notes and asked to share them with their friends and colleagues. They were asked to give feedback on any comments that they received. The product placement in real life changed Post-it notes forever.

It not only generated goodwill and involvement, it generated lots of word-of-mouth endorsements from a few of the right people in the right places.

That was the turning point of the campaign. It triggered an epidemic of customer demand. Immediately, Post-it Notes started showing up on all sorts of senior memos and drafts that came in from the desks of higher-ups. It became like a virus that passed from one company to the next.

Suddenly, it became the fifth largest selling office-supply product in America. In essence, it was turned around by the small talkers with big influence.

What can you get into the hands of the small talkers with big influence?

Always taking your from where you are to where you want to go,


Jon Goldman 
President & CEO 
Brand Launcher 
Lumpy Mail