Before she turned actress Natalie Portman into a ballerina for the film Black Swan, dancer Mary Helen Bowers was already training women all over New York City through her fitness company, Ballet Beautiful, which she founded in 2008. She had a small-but-thriving local clientelle that paid top dollar for the former New York City Ballet dancer's unique fitness program, which was specifically developed to create a ballerina's lean shape.
But signing on for the film meant almost a year of traveling on location with the cast.
"I had to maintain my clients in New York while traveling," says Bowers. "So I evolved my business and created an Internet platform [on which] to teach, which allowed me to live-stream my classes or private sessions."
And good thing she did. When the film hit theaters, it became an overnight sensation. Suddenly, the whole country wanted to know more about ballet—and about the woman who transformed Portman into a swan. Bowers says her membership growth exploded 5,000 percent in the six months after the release of the film.
"These days, if you're a business owner, you have to be prepared for that 15 minutes of fame," says Scott Stratten, author of Un-Marketing. "Especially with mediums like YouTube and Twitter, it's easier than ever to find yourself or your business in the limelight."
In Bowers's case, expanding to a virtual operation allowed her to easily capture clients from around the world. And now that the hype from the movie has died down, Ballet Beautiful is in the best shape ever, able to continue its growth with little time or budgetary costs to Bowers.
"Everyone says they want to go viral or to get a lot of attention, but what happens when you do?" Stratten asks. "There's two questions you should answer. First, are you ready for it? And second, what do you do after?"
While you or your business may never be at the center of a Hollywood blockbuster, here are a few expert tips to getting your business spotlight-ready.
Staying in the Spotlight: Be Findable
"If someone sees you on Good Morning America, chances are, they're going to look you up online," says Chris Brogan, marketing consultant and author of Trust Agents; Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust.
To start, ask yourself the questions a stranger would ask of you: Who are you? What's your story? What business are you in? How can people contact you? All this information should be easily found on your company's website.
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Brogan says you should also do research on how people are looking for you. "What phrases are they using to find you on Google?" he asks. "Find out, then optimize your Web page and landing pages by adding those search terms on the text of the page."
He adds creating a landing page within your website that has a unique URL is also a way to capture traffic. "A page that says, 'See me on GMA? Welcome!' could work. It's all about knowing how people will look for you and then giving them a reason to stay."
And consider your search terms carefully. For example, Bowers created an "About" page with her name in the URL, since people would be more likely to search "Mary Helen Bowers" than "Ballet Beautiful" after, say, reading about Black Swan in the newspaper. If you google her name, her company is in the top of the search results.
Staying in the Spotlight: Scalability Is Key
"If you sell a product like a doll, you're probably not going to be able to fill five million requests for the doll when your promotional YouTube video blows up," says Stratten. "So the question becomes, how can you immediately field interest in your business in a meaningful way? The answer has to be scaleable."
He suggests creating a newsletter or Facebook campaign, both of which are platforms that can handle loads of traffic, but "wouldn't make a dent in your day."
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"If people show up to buy something, they can't have it, and you don't acknowledge them, you'll never recover your name," he adds. "So at least have a way to engage them."
Stratten says the infamous Friday song by 13-year-old singer Rebecca Black, which suddenly and unexpectedly garnered millions of views on YouTube earlier this year, is a good example.
"If that whole team hadn't made that song available through iTunes, how would they have managed to capitalize on that song's popularity?" he asks.
In Bowers' case, Ballet Beautiful's virtual studio made it possible to serve her massive influx of interested clients—a move that kept the clients and the money coming in.
Staying in the Spotlight: Keep Your Ear to the Ground and Join the Conversation
Most of the time, Stratten says, you can hear the 15 minutes of fame before they happen. "Sign up for Google Alerts, which e-mails you when your alert topic is being talked about on the Web," he suggests.
Thanks to social media, people are always talking. If the conversation suddenly turns to you, make sure you respond. "When people are excited about something, don't leave them hanging for a high five. That's the worst feeling ever, " says Stratten. "Saying thank you or acknowledging someone is never inappropriate."
Brogan echoes this approach. "If you do this right, you can take people who are just talking about your business, and turn them into absolute evanglists for it."