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How To Build A Buzz Machine For Filmmakers

By Kasem Kharsa  |  18-Oct-2006

A Book Summary of "Creating Customer Evangelists" by Ben McConnell & Jackie Huba.

Independent filmmakers are entrepreneurs that most do everything they can do to get their work in front of a paying audience. Whether you like it or not, yyou are a brand and yyour film is a product. The more you can think like a business, while retaining your artistic vision, the closer you'll be to being a self-reliant filmmaker. My aim for writing this summary is to help you cross the chasm you may feel as an artist trying to read up on the latest marketing literature. These books weren't intended for your type of products or your industry. But many of their lessons still apply. You can either buy your marketing, your "buzz machine", through PR and fancy ads, or you can build it, one customer at a time. Its been proven in recent years that word-of-mouth is the great equalizer that can compensate for low-budget marketing and distribution. In my opinion one of the best books written on understanding, initiating, and nurturing word-of-mouth is called Creating Customer Evangelists by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba. My aim is that by the end of this article you will learn the basics of how to generate and sustain word-of-mouth. I will also leave you with some ideas on how to build a "buzz machine" made up of your own paying audience who are eager to spread the word out about your work.

The pillars of McConnell and Huba's "business theology" is presented in a case-study approach that deciphers why and how eight companies, like the Dallas Mavericks and Krispy Kreme, are thriving so well. The authors found that the common denominator in these companies’ success stories is their customers. These customers are not only loyal, hey are fans, they are evangelists who:

  • recommend the brand to their friends and even strangers
  • believe in the brand
  • are eager to give back constructive feedback
  • have made a strong emotional connection to the company and its products
The authors have coined six pillars that are common in any company that sparks such fervor. These companies:
  1. Customer plus-delta : Continuously gather customer feedback.
  2. Napsterize knowledge : Make it a point to share knowledge freely.
  3. Build the buzz : Expertly build word-of-mouth networks.
  4. Create community : Encourage communities of customers to meet and share.
  5. Make bite-size chunks : Devise specialized, smaller offerings to get customers to bite.
  6. Create a cause : Focus on making the world, or your industry, better.
These traits can be nurtured from the very start of your film. The prerequisite is that they are done honestly and consistently otherwise you will simply sabotage yourself and your brand. For the filmmaker, I’d like to translate these pillars into potential actions and tools that they can use throughout film production well into the next project. These are only suggestions, I'm sure you can come up with more effective ideas:

PillarDefinitionIdeas
CUSTOMER PLUS-DELTAContinuously gather customer feedback
  • Make it easy for people to contact you.
  • Don't be afraid of honest feedback, encourage people who have seen or purchased your film to leave an online review.
  • Blogs are great at tracking comments and if you’re open enough you’re bound to get back some useful feedback
NAPSTERIZE KNOWLEDGE Make it a point to share knowledge freely
  • Give your audience a behind-the-scenes tour of your film while in production.
  • Teach them tricks of the trade (e.g. basics of editing, etc.) for free.
BUILD THE BUZZ Expertly build word-ofmouth networks
  • Determine for yourself through trial and error the best way to build the buzz about your work. Is it through social networking sites like MySpace or YouTube? Or is it through casting call events that are so unique they get reviewed by the local paper?
  • Give fans who register for your blog or subscribe to your podcast special benefits (e.g. discounted DVDs, invitation to chat-room events).
CREATE COMMUNITYEncourage communities of customers to meet and share.
  • The easy thing to do is setup a forum where fans can discuss your film and related topics.
  • When you do have a following, why not let the audience have a stake in your next project by allowing them to vote on certain production issues (e.g. title of film, DVD menu layout, etc.)
MAKE BITE-SIZE CHUNKSDevise specialized, smaller offerings to get customers to bite
  • Don't wait until your film is completed to show your audience bits and pieces of what you’re working on. Allow them a free pass into all phases of production, with pictures, sounds, and video.
  • Give away scenes of your film to YouTube, MySpace, Goggle Video, etc.
  • Give the audience different ways of viewing your content (e.g. streaming, iPod Video, etc.)
CREATE A CAUSE Focus on making the world, or your industry, better
  • What is your goal as a filmmaker? To make funnier films? Shed light on a problem in society? Make sure everyone knows what you’re about.
  • A portion of DVD royalties could go to a charity
  • You could invite your audience to a special eBay listing where you auction off film props for a charity.
  • Why not teach a free filmmaking workshop while spreading the word about your film?

Resources

Creating Customer EvangelistsFurther Reading

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