Sneezers.
 
Does your business have sneezers? No, I’m not talking about people who come to work with a cold. Those are the people that use their sick days to stay home and do projects or stretch a weekend but would come to work with Ebola virus.
 
Seth Godin presents the idea of business sneezers in his book about the idea virus. (Credit where due!) There are lots little boutique businesses that are developing their sneezers but I’m not sure the bigger players are catching on.
 
This concept of an idea virus spread by sneezers is worthy of a closer look. Here’s how it works. You have a new product that you want to bring to market. You could waste money on traditional advertising. Or, you could make your product and the attending service so great that word would spread like a virus. To spread the virus you need sneezers. Not all satisfied customers are sneezers. After all, some people do use their sick days for being, well, sick. Those people won’t spread a virus.
 
You want business sneezers. That’s the customer who raves about your products and tells everyone they know about YOU. They spread your message like a virus by “info sneezing” on their friends and colleagues.
 
What makes a good sneezer?
 
First, good sneezers like to be in the lead. Not leaders, but out front. These are the people that are always looking for something new. They’re the first to try out that new all meat restaurant. They stand in line to see a movie on the day it opens instead of the following week after the critics have told us to wait for the DVD.
 
Next, a good sneezer has to have credibility. Some nut who is always looking for a new thrill isn’t a good sneezer unless perhaps you operate a porn site or tattoo parlor. If they’ve recommended something good to you in past, they’re probably a good sneezer.
 
A good sneezer acts on their own. They don’t wait to be asked about a good book they’re reading, they tell everyone they know about the book before being asked. They send emails to their entire address book if they find something that tickles their nose. A good sneezer can be obnoxious sometimes. Overlook it unless they are really just annoying.
 
Finally, a good sneezer has access to lots of people to sneeze on. I mean, what’s the point of infecting them if they just go home and sneeze on their parents and then head up to their room above the garage?
 
Sneezers are NOT employees though sometimes and employee can infect a few good sneezers. Trying to do all the sneezing from within your business will not work.
 
Nearly all businesses have some good sneezers in their customer base. Are you taking special care of your sneezers? They need different attention than your best customers get. A good sneezer may not be a very good customer in terms of volume but a good sneezer infects others.
 
This is where most businesses miss the point. Good sneezers don’t respond to the same thing your best customers appreciate. Well, that’s not entirely true. Everyone likes special treatment. But a good sneezer is always looking for that new thing he can sneeze over everyone he knows.
 
So try giving your sneezers that which they crave the most—let the sneezers in on some “secrets”. Let the sneezers be the first to try your new product—give them an incredible deal or a sample. Yes, it’s good to take care of your big customers when you have something new. But too many times I’ve seen the big customers or distributors get all the allocation of the hot new item. That makes sense. You’re rewarding your best customers by giving them the hot new item. But this tends to shorten the product cycle. Why is the IPhone selling for $200 less than it sold on launch day only 2 months ago? No sneezers. One big push by leviathan merchants—big Apple customers—and it sold through. The rest of us waited. I haven’t heard anything really great about actually having an IPhone, have you? No sneezers. Now, after only 2 months, it’s 1/3 cheaper. That’s a pretty short cycle for all the money Apple spent advertising their latest IThing.
 
If there were some sneezers, I might have heard about how “awesome” it is to be able to carry around pictures of my cat on my phone and surf the web on a screen the size of a postage stamp. I would want one of those! Not now. I think I’ll wait until my service (AT&T) is begging me to take one for free when my contract expires in December.
 
Sneezers like the inside track. And sneezers are free. They’ll spread the word for you. For free. And they’ll lengthen your new product’s sell cycle.
 
Start by identifying your sneezers and then develop plans to get them on the “inside track”. Then turn them loose to spread your new product or service virus.
 
If you need some ideas about how to develop a sneezer program, you know how to reach me. Ahhhhhhchu!
 
Chris Reich, Author of TeachU’s Business Talk Blog