5 lessons from rock bands on how to create word of mouth

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Martin Atkins is a rock star.

Like, an actual rock star. He’s a drummer and has played for bands like Public Image Ltd., Ministry, and Nine Inch Nails. Today he still tours and performs on stage — but now he does it to teach new bands how to earn loyal fans.

The bands he works with have no budgets, no extra resources, and face a crowded and noisy market. Sound familiar?

Martin spoke at our last word of mouth event, and as a preview for our Word of Mouth Crash Course in Austin on May 10, we wanted to share it with you. (If you love this presentation, register here to see more like it live and in person).

His tips for getting people talking:

1. Aim low, start small, and stay humble
2. When in doubt, DTO
3. Small is the new huge
4. Steal ideas from other industries
5. Make it one-of-a-kind
6. Watch Martin’s video

1. Aim low, start small, and stay humble

Martin talks about how bands often start out by worrying about filling stadiums of 20,000 people — but that’s before they’ve taken the time to think about the first two fans on the couch who might actually love them. Martin says to start small, think small, and stay humble. Very, very few bands earn 20,000 fans at a time. Instead, focus on the first two and then repeat 9,999 more times. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it.

2. When in doubt, DTO

If all else fails, DTO: Do The Opposite. During his presentation, Martin pulled out a giant old cell phone and told the story of how he once walked into a crowded room of celebrities and pulled it out. His point: You can’t win the new iPhone/Blackberry/Droid game. But you can do something unexpected, memorable, and remarkable by doing the opposite.

3. Small is the new huge

Martin works with bands all the time and says that if given the choice, a band will always choose the 5,000 or 20,000-person venue over a small one. But that’s not creating the best experience. Instead, he urges them to choose the smaller venue — one they can sell out and leave people standing outside wanting in. Martin shared the story of how one band actually got a record deal by locking everyone out of the venue, which drove a bunch of interest in them.

4. Steal ideas from other industries

Rock superstars Radiohead got everyone talking when they released their album and told fans to “pay what you want.” A few years later, Panera did it with one of their branches in St. Louis. And again — people talked about how brilliant it was. You can do this too. Look for ideas that create excitement in other industries and markets and give them a try. If it fails to create word of mouth — no problem! That means nobody knows about it (and you can try again).

5. Make it one-of-a-kind

People talk about the different, the unique, and the can’t-get-anywhere-else. Musicians are doing it by creating one-off merchandise at tents outside of concerts. They’re doing goofy things with their packaging (Martin once released an album that smelled like blueberry muffins). This works in business too: Your fans want to see your personality and your uniqueness. So, what can you make more personal today?

6. Watch Martin’s video

Watch Martin’s video below (but a friendly warning: A lot of Martin’s great ideas are wrapped in NSFW language). And to see more incredible presentations like it live, check out the lineup for our upcoming Word of Mouth Crash Course conference.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Claxon Marketing – Will you DTO for GiveBIG? - July 11, 2012

    [...] could be a really good time to DTO–Do The Opposite. Switch up your messaging. Try something new. Grab them by the proverbial lapels and get their [...]

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