Lessons of the Blair Witch

Before we start this week’s business update, I’d like to thank all of our listeners for the great feedback we’ve received about our interview with Tom Hopkins on our radio show two weeks ago. In case you missed it, you can listen to the show over the Internet by clicking here.

-Mark Deo Tired of reading already? Click here- LISTEN TO THIS ARTICLE. In 1993, two young filmmakers decided that it had been too long since they had seen a movie that actually scared them, so they set out to make a scary movie. To keep costs down, they eschewed big name actors, fancy effects, cameramen, and even a script, instead opting to take some unknown actors into the woods, scare them, and have the actors themselves film their reactions. By now you can probably guess I’m talking about “The Blair Witch Project”, which went on to gross well over $100 Million dollars in the United States alone during the summer of 1999. It is generally considered to be one of the most cost effective films ever made, with a budget that has been reported anywhere as low as $2000, to as high as $350,000. No matter where it falls in that range, it clearly was a HUGELY profitable film.

It was widely considered a good movie, qualifying for an 85% rating at rottentomatoes.com. There are, however, many low budget movies that are well reviewed, yet they never achieve the same level of success. How is it that they managed to achieve such success?

The filmmakers engaged in what is widely considered one of the best guerilla marketing campaigns of all time. Starting with phony “Missing” posters they used to get an audience at the film festivals they attended and a back story they made up about finding the film rather than making it, they were able to generate enough interest to sell distribution rights to Artisan Entertainment. Then they really got to work.

How did they get millions of Americans to see their movie? Using the Internet like no one before. This article focuses on two primary techniques the filmmakers used, and one additional technique you can use to apply to your own business.

Message Boards
Many people are familiar with message boards and on-line communities- these are what grew out of the old text based days of the Internet before the World Wide Web. Some examples of on-line message board sites I use are a newsgroup all about the car I drive, the Toyota Prius, atwww.priuschat.com and one about stand-up comedy at www.chucklemonkey.com. We also have an on-line community on our website at http://www.sbanetwork.org/forums/ where people can post messages about business issues they face and receive advice from their peers. What the filmmakers did was find message boards that dealt with horror films, urban legends, and independent films. They then became members of these communities- providing information of value to the community. Only then did they begin to post messages about the “legend” of the Blair Witch. If they had joined solely to promote their movie, and not to provide information that the readers of these message boards would find valuable, they would NOT have been successful with this tactic. It is important that if you want to use message boards to promote yourself, that you give to the community first. Try finding some message boards and communities that apply to your business, become involved, and watch the members spread the good word about you.

Chat Rooms
Another element of on-line communities is chat rooms. There are millions of people world wide chatting with another on the Internet as I write this. Go find some chat rooms that match the target audience for your products and services. Some of the more popular chat programs are AOL Instant Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger. By finding chat rooms where people who are interested in the types of products and services gather, you have the potential to gain many “sneezers” for your business. For more about sneezers, read Mark’s article on Buzz Marketing. Again, focus on giving to the community first, or the members will see right through you.

Freebie Sites
One great way to get people talking about your business is by giving something tangible away to people. They can then test out your products and services, and tell others about them. How do you find interested consumers? One great way is with “Freebie” websites. One that I frequent iswww.slickdeals.net. This is a site where people post great deals for products that they find. If you have something to give away to get people interested in your products, this is a great place to make the offer. There are many other sites that are similar, and a quick Google search will find literally hundreds of places you can use to give away samples of your products and services. Be sure, however, to abide by the rules on these sites. The last thing you want to do is post something that the community isn’t interested in and they consider “spam”, as that can yield the opposite of what you want- negative buzz.

In short, use the Internet for all it’s worth- we are lucky to have a communication medium available to us that can generate more publicity for our businesses than an army of PR firms. Use this to your advantage, and you may be the next Internet marketing success story that I’m writing about. If you’re having trouble finding appropriate communities on the web, send me an e-mail- I’ll help you find some people to connect with. I’d also love to hear about how you are using the Internet in your business. Send me an e-mail at mwalker@sbanetwork.org and let me know how these techniques are working for you. Have a great week!
This article was written by SBA Network sales technology specialist Matt Walker. You can reach him for more information on this topic at mwalker@sbanetwork.org.

I hope that this “Business Update” has been helpful in assisting you to improve the performance of your organization. For more information on how the Small Business Advisory Network assists companies in improving their performance, please feel free to contact us at 310-320-8190 or email mark@markdeo.com

Mark Deo

Posted in Technology Applications, Uncategorized.

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