The following is the 13th chapter from Peter Nevland’s book, Wiener Dog Marketing. His interview with Roy Williams about the business lessons from the Buda Wiener Dog Races continues from where it left off in Chapter 12.
Peter: Let’s talk some practicalities to the event that helped it succeed. Now we know that the wiener dog is exciting in itself. But man, if the wiener dog race gets too long, if the wiener dog race is too short, if the wiener dog race doesn’t have a sufficient prize associated with it, if the crowd is too… What are the practical aspects of the wiener dog race that help it succeed?
Roy: Here’s the thing. Have you ever heard of a series of books called Chicken Soup for the Soul?
Peter: Yes, yes, yes.
Roy: So Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hanson are both brilliant men. And their publisher, Peter Vegso… another brilliant man…
Peter: Thank you… stop it…
Roy: And so…
Peter: …keep it coming.
Roy: …what happens is when Jack and Mark came here, perhaps 18 or 20 years ago, and they sat down, and I said, “ok, who are you really?”. And Mark Victor Hanson gave me his answer. And I laughed a little bit. And I turned to Jack Canfield. And I said, um, “so who are you really?” And Jack Canfield said, “we are a couple of B circuit motivational speakers who got lucky.”
Roy: And I said, “tell me that story.” And they did. Now here’s what’s funny about that. They’d been rejected by 28 publishers.
Roy: And they went to Peter Vegso of HCI, which was Health Care Industries. And he said, “Well, I’ll publish your book under these conditions.” And he laid out some pretty extraordinary conditions. And they rose to the conditions, got a 2nd mortgage on their houses…
Roy: …And the book took off. And then Mark and Jack told me. They said, “at the very back of the book was an afterthought. We had a little thing that said, “hey, listen, if you have any little stories like these, these 100 stories in the book?
Peter: Mm Hmm.
Roy: If you have any little stories like these, send them in, and maybe we’ll put them in our next book.
Roy: It was an afterthought.
Roy: They said, “so we got thousands and thousands of stories that got sent in.”
Peter: (almost sung operatically) I… want to be featured.
Roy: Now here’s what’s happening. They said, “Here’s what we didn’t expect. There was this wonderful thing that happened miraculously. When we chose 100 stories we now had one hundred, radically committed authors… promoting our book. And they’re out there doing interviews and promoting and pushing. And so they got the second book, just by one hundred people, irrationally committed, to making this book a success. You get a hundred people, promoting their network of family and friends and relationships to buy a book… and so all of a sudden… They kept that up. They had done seventy-two chicken soup books when I met them.
Peter: Right. This is, uh, wiener dog owners.
Peter: They are passionately committed to their wiener dogs. They will promote the crap out of… “I’m gonna be at the wiener dog races. You need to come and watch me.” There’s a passion there that you tap into just by having wiener dog races, the competition. They’re going to go to no ends to promote… I remember I used to put on events. I was a terrible event promoter… whenever I would put on shows, and I would risk my money to put on shows for my band, I never could fill seats. I was awful. But then I discovered this miraculous thing. When I put on these shows to showcase other people, and I got three bands plus two artists together. Now I had 5 people committed. I never got less than seventy five to one hundred and twenty five people. Because everyone of them would bring their…
Roy: …friends and family.
Peter: …friends and family. Right? Everyone’s got friends and family who will come and watch… So wiener dog owners are these passionate people, and the same thing goes for these authors who would send their stories to Chicken Soup for the Soul or uh, you know, Chicken Soup for the Person Who Pees Too Much When They Go to Sleep… uh… those people were the committed people who would send their stories in. Let me… I’M IN THE BOOK!
Roy: Exactly, So the thing that happens with wiener dogs is, number one, the idea itself has to be something that is attractive to the average person.
Roy: Is this going to be interesting, fascinating, stimulating to the average person who sees… are they going to want to investigate this? And if it’s not the most interesting, unexpected thing on the horizon of their mind, then abandon, punt the football, abandon ship, there’s no hope.
Roy: You’ve got. You’ve got precision lawn chair drills. So, but if you say, “you know, this is something that just the idea of wiener dogs racing… racing wiener dogs… please tell me more. That’s funny.
Peter: Sure. Sure, sure.
Roy: You say, “please tell me more.” It’s hysterical.
Roy: And then when you say, “ok, if we can get enough of ‘em, and they ran them in short heats.” So here’s like 8 or 10 different wiener dogs running in a heat. And it’s #1 and #2 for every heat. Then move to the next… thing. So for two whole days they’re running heats of wiener dogs.
Peter: Just like the hundred meters at the Olympics.
Roy: Just like the hundred meters at the Olympics. So finally they come down to the finals. It’s quarterfinals, semifinals and finals. And so, everybody shows up for the heats, because all these wiener dogs have friends and family.
Roy: And then the ones that move forward to the next round…
Peter: You’re going to go to that.
Roy: …they have friends. So all of the sudden it gets bigger and bigger. It gains momentum. So I’m saying, “everybody loves their dog. Everybody loves their friends. And little short legged wiener dogs are funny. When you think of wiener dog races, this just can’t miss. It just works.
Goodness, that is a powerful idea. Multiplying the effects of your advertising without spending any additional dollars is exciting enough to make you pee your pants with excitement. It may seem like we’re talking about viral marketing, or the power of word of mouth, but I assure you this is not quite the same.
Viral marketing and word of mouth rely on an entertainment or customer experience that is so much greater than the audience or customer expected, they can’t help telling everyone they know about it. Crowd promotion doesn’t depend on the wow factor of the event, product or service itself. It depends on the buy-in and enthusiasm of motivated participants and the loyalty of their friends and family.
Roy and I discussed how this works with wiener dogs and their owners. Let’s look at another example: American football games. Stadiums fill up to watch NFL games due mostly to the entertainment of the on-field product. This is the highest level of the sport, and when you watch it, you’re going to see athletic feats of wonder that you could never duplicate yourself. Who cares if you actually know the athletes, coaches or cheerleaders.
Why in the world would anyone want to watch a high school, middle school or little league football game when they could watch the NFL? The feats of wonder are fewer. The quality of play is decent at best. Most often it’s poor and almost farcical. But you have 20-80 players who have parents and friends. In High School and Middle School you also have band members who all have parents and friends.
The stands fill up, because everyone who comes, outside of college scouts, personally knows the athletes, band members or coaches. This is about a community movement where the stars are everyday people. When your friend does something magical, you feel like you’ve been a part of something magical too. And the fans are so happy to support those they love, they’ll pay money and tell everyone they know to come. That’s commitment. It’s the same for amateur theater, choir competitions, spelling bees, etc…
Most businesses that attempt to do something like this do it badly. “We’ll give you a free pizza if you write a review about how great we are.” Bribery does not generate commitment. “Become a member of our club, and we’ll send you our products and charge your credit card a certain amount every month.” I see how that’s good for the business, but it’s only good for the customer as long as they like what you’re sending. It’s not going to generate the kind of commitment and enthusiasm that spreads the word to all their friends and family.
You have to allow your employees and/or customers to share the spotlight with you if you’re going to cultivate commitment and enthusiasm in them. Notice how the Chicken Soup for the Soul Books actually featured the stories of the people who sent them in. It was donated content that sold those books. All the authors had to do was curate the content to make sure it lived up to their previous standards.
As advertising campaigns mature, I often encourage business owners to feature their employees in the ads. They actually record lines and then hear themselves on the air. The feeling of being a minor celebrity does wonders for team morale.
When my clients have loyalty or maintenance clubs, I encourage them to think of ways to go above and beyond in taking care of them. No one will sing your praises if you give them exactly what they paid for. Crowd promotion is generated by extravagant generosity. So I encourage them to offer tickets to major professional sporting events and concerts. They have club member cookouts with free food and fun for the kids. You can even keep on the lookout and feature the stories of your amazing members. These are not an attempt to generate more income. They’re an opportunity to show generosity and gratefulness.
One of my clients has more than 13,000 club members that they’ve worked hard to build over the years. These people are paying to be loyal to them, and so they invite them to all the activities I’ve mentioned above, and then some. They offer them special discounts that no one gets. They include them in their community giving. It feels like family. Now imagine how much easier it is to grow your business when you have 13,000 people singing your praises in the city instead of a couple business owners talking about their business in ads on the radio or even 50 employees telling people to do business with them. Those club members tend to account for 60-70% of business. And the more they motivate those members, the more people hear the message about how great they are.
Roy himself does this with the rabbit hole in his Monday Morning Memo. Every time someone visits his blog, they have the opportunity to click the picture at the top and go deeper into the rabbit hole. These people pay no money to become self-selected insiders. They pay with their time. Business owners and professionals sacrifice 30 minutes to an hour each week to investigate the random thoughts and entertainment that Roy provides. When they submit photos or writings that he asks for, Roy sends them physical items as mementos of appreciation. He then features their writings and pictures in the rabbit hole. I guarantee you that seeing your own writing or picture featured by someone you consider famous gets you to point it out to your friends and family. I’ve done it myself. And Roy has seen that the bulk of contributions to Wizard Academy, a sprawling mass of buildings in Austin that were built entirely by contributions, debt free, over 15 years, have come from those rabbit hole explorers.
Read the rest of the series:
- An Introduction to Wiener Dog Marketing
- Wiener Dog Marketing: For the Love of Wiener Dogs
- Body of a Sausage: The Way Things Are vs. The Way Things Ought to Be
- The Wiener Dog Question: What Can You Count On Not Changing?
- Wiener Dog Focus: Helping the Customer vs. Helping Yourself
- Wiener Dogs on the Wrong Track: Having the Qualities of Success Without Being a Success
- Embrace Your Wiener Dog: Identity, Purpose and Adventure
- Becoming a Wiener Dog: What it Takes to Have Enduring Success
- Magical Wiener Dogs and Storytellers
- Follow the Wiener Dog: How Employees Become Wiener Dogs
- Once a Wiener… Repurposing the Proven
- The Heart of a Wiener Dog: Character Diamonds
- Wiener Dogs Forever: The Power of Crowd Promotion
- Are You A Wiener Dog? Last Chance to Commit