How do you create buzz as a small business?

A few days ago I saw a query on PR Newswire (see my article how to gain more visibility in the mainstream media) from a reporter asking for some ideas about how small companies can gain more visibility in the new online world, the universe of social networks. The world you’re immersed in at this moment if you’re reading my weblog or RSS feed.
I gave him a pithy answer and thought it’d be interesting to also post it here and see if we can garner some additional thoughts and ideas about how entrepreneurs, startups and small companies can get some (positive) notoriety online.
Here’s what I said to him in my email:

I think that I can offer you some help with your upcoming article. I actually work with small companies all the time to help them create buzz and visibility in their marketplaces, and my general response is:

do something goofy but interesting and of relevance to your market

For example, a gas station might run a promo where people submit their funniest stories about meeting people at the pump, and every week a winner gets a free fillup. Or they could be videos posted on YouTube, etc.
The point is to be a bit out of the box: small businesses that use traditional mainstream PR are competing with big corporations using the exact same channels, and will inevitably have poor results. It’s hard to shine when you’re in the shadow of someone much, much bigger.

So what do you think, dear reader?
What smart ways would you utilize to help your company – or client’s company – gain visibility and buzz?

8 comments on “How do you create buzz as a small business?

  1. I like the wacky idea concept it is not one I tried but I am not above doing something like this. I have had good success by doing something positive. I did a series of portraits (I’m a professional photographer in New Jersey) of a group and used them to raise awareness and a fund raiser. I got tremendous response. It was on the cover of 4 local papers. Created great public appeal and got my name in the public, plus I did something really nice and felt good about it.

  2. Never gave a thought to wacky – but wacky is right up my alley. I think I’ll start a contest for people to send me pictures and stories of how they have used my product – the coolest or funniest or weirdest – the xxxxx-est of them will win an iPod shuffle! Cool idea Dave – THANKS!
    John Jaworski

  3. A wacky promotion will tend to stick out in ones mind. Good idea!
    Mark Salinas, Viscom

  4. It depends on the business and what else is around. Ideas are plenty though. I went to a grand opening of a produce store providing local offerings, and lots of Organic stuff. Less than 1 mile away is a health product store that has just about everything except produce. I set them up together so that a receipt from one is good on the same day for 10% off at the other. They did not even consider any way to partner with another business. Another guy opened a pizza place and had LOTS of business. This guy would sell out like 5 or 6 at night. Lunch and dinner would do so much business, that would be it and he would close 2 or 3 hours early. He has lots of counter space as the forefront of the business. You come in at the seating area, but facing the order and condiment and drink station counters. The front of those are bare. All he needs is some simple framework and plexi glass and he can rent out advertising space, where other local businesses can get their word out. Really, it’s not typically that hard. You just have to get your mind outside of the traditional avenues, like you mention. People will spend thousands on their yellow pages ad, but then say they can’t afford something else. Ridiculous.

  5. Great advice on not competing with the mainstream.. I think the wacky idea would certainly attract the local PR . I am a Personal Trainer amd i am thinking of giving away a weight loss Training programme worth about 800 pounds. To the person who can give me the best reason I should help them in a YOU Tube Video. I thought this might have a viral effect as well. Do you think this would be a good idea.

  6. Wacky is good, but creative is better. I am a fan of trying to come up with creative ways to help good causes, though I’m still working on how to make it work.

  7. I enjoy helping businesses get attention. Few business owners, and I mean few businesses and non-profits, want to do something that has a little wackiness to it.
    I just did a video for a property owner that’s on YouTube and it looks good. But it’s too straight, tried and true.
    I know it won’t easily get passed around unless people looking to rent stumble across it.
    I want him to do a “tips” clip on the next go around . . . like hows to for landscaping, etc.

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