Businesses devote a good deal of their budget to advertising and marketing with the goal of reaching as many members as possible of their target demographic group. One philosophy claims that reaching select members of the desired demographic will result in “word of mouth” advertising that effectively spreads the word about their product or service among diverse groups within the larger group.

Ed Keller, CEO of NOP World Consumer, a market research company, observed that within every group are individuals who influence the opinions and actions of others. Such people do not necessarily hold public office or have a high public profile, yet have several traits in common. They move within several social circles, are always the center of the conversation and are considered by others to be a credible source of information.

Keller calls these socially active people “Influentials” whose high degree of connectivity makes them important generators of buzz. His book, The Influentials, co-authored with Jon Berry, studies how such individuals create the ripples that radiate out to shape buying habits – and what businesses must now do to reach them.

So who are the Influentials in the 12-volt world? Start taking a good look at local and regional car sound scenes. Consumers not only note what the national champions use in their winning installations, but also what competitors who are active in their local sphere choose.

No matter how small the town, if there’s an install shop hosting a show or competition, you can be sure its owner is an Influential. If you’re a manufacturer, target him to start carrying and/or promoting your products. If you own an install shop, you know the people who are serious about competing or tricking out the tightest whip. Because other people with money to spend follow their lead, make sure you get the Influentials into your shop. Influence the Influentials, and watch how positive word of mouth builds business.

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