Yes, it’s cold-and-flu season, as those commercials about coughing-sneezing-and-runny-noses remind us. Incessantly. This is about a different kind of sneezing.

The kind of sneezing that gets you clients. Or gets you promoted. Or gets you elected.

This sneezing is about spreading your “ideavirus.” The concept comes from Seth Godin, who says it’s way past time to stop spewing our marketing messages at people.

Instead, we should be sharing our best ideas with empathy and generosity. Then, Seth says, some people, our people, will help us spread them. That’s the metaphorical sneeze that can turn our product or service or idea from dud to skyrocket.

Advertising is monumentally expensive. And most of us are one among thousands of people offering similar products or services or value. We’d have a hard time using conventional ads to attract our clients, our customers, our tribe.

So, it’s obvious why independent professionals need to think about this. And, if you’re a corporate employee, you’re not off the hook. When you want a new job, a promotion, or approval for your project, marketing is as important to you as it is to any entrepreneur.

If you want attention, connection and business results, you need sneezers.

I’m enrolled in Seth’s The Marketing Seminar where I’m learning, among other things, how to find these sneezers who will spread your ideavirus by telling ten or twenty or 100 people about you and the value you offer.

First lesson: it’s not that easy.

You might think—I did—that the way to get people to “sneeze” about you is to ask them to.

It’s true, you might find a few champions that way. Your sister. Your best friend. A handful of people who are highly motivated to help you.

Most people, though, spread ideas around for their reasons, not yours. Ask anyone in direct marketing who’s requested introductions to your friends and family so they can sell ‘em make-up or household products.

Seems a simple request like, “Please share my idea” isn’t that likely to produce results.

Example. Every week, my newsletter includes this line:

Did you dig this article? Click here to forward this email to a friend.

You’ve probably never clicked on that link.

And yet, people regularly share my work on social media. And they do send my newsletter to friends they think would benefit from whatever I wrote that week.

That’s really the key–you’re not passing on my article to do something nice for me. You’re giving something valuable to someone you care about. People spread your ideas for their reasons, not yours.

Can you compensate them for sneezing?

Sure. We all know about the vaunted “Influencers” who are posting about a product … because they got free product. And maybe a paycheck to boot.

If the marketing experts are right, though, the “Influencers” have less influence than they did a year ago, and they’re headed in the direction of even less.

Turns out when we know someone was rewarded for recommending a product or service, we give that recommendation much less weight.

What Seth calls “promiscuous sneezing” can work, if your sneezer is promiscuous enough –

It’s all about the numbers. Still, they don’t have a lot of credibility … and what they do have is fading fast.

“Powerful sneezers,” on the other hand, have that power precisely because can’t be bought. We trust their suggestions because we know they’re not for sale.

When somebody recommends your work because they’re genuinely impressed. Because they got enormous value from what you did for them. Because they know someone who’d benefit, and they care enough to tell them about it … that’s powerful sneezing.

So how do we get more of that?

Seth would tell you there’s really one way to encourage people to talk about you. To spread your ideavirus. To sneeze.

If you want them to remark about you, you’d better be remarkable.

You could write a book about how to be remarkable. (Seth’s written about twenty of them.)

The Marketing Seminar is giving me some ideas about how I can become more remarkable … and if you have any suggestions for me, I’m wide open!

What I know so far is that:

  • Each of us needs a way to stand out from others who do similar work.
  • We need empathy for the people we serve, or the ones we hope to serve.
  • Understanding their deep desires, their fears and their goals is imperative.
  • And it helps to be generous.

When people pick up on those things – your standing out, and also your empathy, understanding and generosity, you are remarkable. And they’re much more likely to sneeze about you.

You have some thoughts, I’m sure, about sneezing. You’ve done it yourself, spreading someone’s ideavirus. Or you’ve had help from one of those powerful sneezers who’s spread your idea around.

Post a comment below and tell us about it.