Increasing Your “R-Factor

In the field of epidemiology there is a term called the “reproductive factor” or R0. It has to do with the rate in which a virus spreads. An R10 would indicate that for every one infected person, they will likely spread the disease to ten other people. Obviously the higher the R-factor the faster a virus will spread through a population. An R-factor of less than one, and the disease will die out.

In marketing and sales we see the same principle at work. I would refer to the R-factor in this case to refer to “Raving Fans.” No matter what you are selling, the rate and which your sales increase has much to do with the R-factor. Most of us understand the importance of launching a new product or service to generate initial fanfare. Movie producers promote trailers to entice you to want to buy a ticket for the opening weekend. The movie’s marquee actors hit the talk show circuit to promote the movie as well, again to get people to buy a ticket.

But what determines the ultimate success of the movie is the R-factor. How much “buzz,” word-of-mouth, “you gotta see this flick” conversation occurs is everything. It’s the “infection rate” if you will.

Consider two books released into the market in January. Author A hires a publicist and marketing firm, invests 100% of anticipated first press run sales in promoting the book and as a result sells 5,000 copies. But the R-factor is low, clearly less than one. Ten years later, the book has only sold 12,000 copies total. Why? The people who got those first 5,000 copies were simply not motivated enough to tell their friends, “You gotta read this book.”

Author B releases her book and doesn’t have the money to do the big book launch that Author A did. However, Author B was strategic in working hard to get her book into the right hands…the hands of people who found her words truly inspiring. Her R-factor was a five. She only sold 500 copies in the first few months after the book released — one tenth of what Author A produced. However, those initial 500 book buyers loved what they read and told their friends which resulted in 2,500 copies being sold. Those 2,500 felt the same way which resulted in 12,500 more copies being sold which resulted in 62,500 copies being sold…you get the picture.

So the challenge for marketers is not necessarily in securing the largest audience, but rather finding the right audience. Better a handful of raving fans than a stadium full of complacent users. The moral of the story? Be sure you build not just a better mousetrap but a mousetrap that someone will LOVE. Next, be strategic in getting your mousetrap, or book or financial service into the hands of the people who will rave about it…get your R-factor up as high as you can. Then watch the marketing momentum swing in your favor!

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