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Street Teams: Effective or Obnoxious?

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Published in American Express Open Forum.

My street team? I called them the Buzz Warriors, and they stung like a bee. And just like a bee they got a lot of attention. Not always the good kind.

In case you have no idea who I am, I am not surprised. That is why I needed a street team in the first place.

I am an author. A business author to be exact. I am “psycho-level-passionate” about entrepreneurship and want to help anyone growing a business. I aspire to be one of the most influential business authors of our generation. (I know, it’s a big goal; but you only live once, so I am all in.)

Authors are perhaps part of the most competitive market that exists. According to Bowker—the book industry’s version of the DOW Jones—347,178 traditional books came out in 2011. If you add in public domain reprints of old titles and self-published books an estimated 1.1 million books were released in 2011.

That means 3,014 new books are released every single day. I don’t know what industry you are in, but you’d be hard pressed to find another industry that has more than 3,000 new products released every single day. In an industry this competitive, distinguishing yourself is key. And that is exactly what a street team can do for you.

Before I tell you how to manage your street team, let me share the results of my experience. My street team was tasked with creating a big push for the launch of my new book, The Pumpkin Plan. By midnight of the first day, they had helped me sell just over 2,000 copies. For any book to sell that many copies in a single day is pretty extraordinary . And for a business author like me, it is critical. You see, the more individual orders you get, the more people are going to read it within the next month or so. If you wrote a good book (and yes, a good product is necessary for a street team to be effective), it means you are more likely to trigger the word-of-mouth marketing that can carry a book for months or years or decades. The street team is the spark—a big spark.

Here is how to get your street team started and making a splash.

1. A volunteer force. Just like an elite army, your best soldiers are the ones who volunteer for service. Make an announcement to your followers saying that you are looking for volunteers. I put a post on Facebook and sent out an e-mail.

2. Have a place to congregate. Your street team will gain powerful momentum if they can connect with each other. Setup a private Facebook page or a Google+ Hangout so they can share ideas, bond with one another and get fired up.

3. Have few rules. Have rules that define the objectives and the basic codes of conduct. But keep the reins loose. You want your street team inventing as they go. They are your marketing force and you want them to not just do your ideas, but to also come up with better ones.

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