Jeff Greenfield worked as a magician to pay for chiropractic college and then used buzzmarketing to (Presto! Chango!) muscle his suburban-Boston practice to the forefront of the local joint-manipulating pack.
Former Half.com, Pep Boys and Pizza Hut marketing executive Mark Hughes sees a clear similarity between the skills needed for success in magic and marketing.
“Great magicians are often great marketers. They understand consumer behavior — how to influence people to look in one direction and not another; and how to communicate with people one-on-one in setting up a trick and explaining what’s about to happen,” Hughes writes in his new book, Buzzmarketing.
Of Course, Greenfield didn’t call his method buzzmarketing. That’s a term Hughes uses as CEO of Buzzmarketing, a consulting firm. He didn’t invent the term; other books have been written about it. But his highly readable exposition is the best of the bunch.
Greenfield got his business off the ground by taking patients no one else wanted — those without health insurance and those in very bad condition. Adopting a philosophy of treatment first, he turned no one away, regardless of ability to pay. From some he got nothing. From others he took whatever they could afford. But he insisted on another form of payment, word of mouth.
“He wanted the patients no one else could cure, because when he succeeded with them, he would be viewed as the miracle worker. Patients would tell their friends, bosses, relatives, co-workers — anyone who knew them well enough to notice the dramatic difference. The patient would delightedly spread the glowing word about the amazing doctor, Jeff Greenfield. That’s buzz at work,” Hughes writes.
Part of Greenfield’s magic was his unconventional treatment schedule. He eschewed the once-a-week scheduling his competitors used to comply with the insurance industry’s dictates and treated patients as often as he felt was needed to get them well as quickly as possible. He saw some patients as often as six days a week.
“What happened? Exactly what Dr. Jeff expected. Patients got well fast. Amazingly well, and amazingly fast. It was not what his patients expected — to them, it was nothing short of a miracle. For the first time in years, they could walk without pain every step,” Hughes writes.
And those patients told other people, who told other people, indigents and the uninsured coming into contact with the affluent and insured, making word about Dr. Greenfield spread like wildfire. Patients also passed out business cards with inspirational messages and an offer of a free examination.
Hughes writes that Greenfield Family Chiropractic evolved into a multimillion dollar operation with 75 employees. Eventually it became so successful and Greenfield spent so much time on management that he had no time for patients. So he sold the business to the other chiropractors in the organization.
He now works his buzzmarketing magic as a successful marketing consultant for entertainment groups.
Greenfield’s story is one of several Hughes uses to underscore his theme of “give them something to talk about,” which he says trumps the conventional marketing model in a world that has grown increasingly skeptical of traditional advertising.
Among the other stories he uses to illustrate his advice about creating word of mouth and buzz in the news media are Half.com’s getting Halfway, Ore., to rename itself Half.com; the launching of Miller Lite; the American Idol phenomenon; the struggle of Ben & Jerry’s with Haagen-Dazs and Pillsbury; Apple’s famous 1984 Super Bowl commercial; and ClearPlay’s battle with the movie industry.
Buzzmarketing should be mandatory reading for anyone who needs to know how to generate word of mouth about a product or service and news coverage with more credibility than advertising.