From Dream to Reality With Buzz Marketing Group
by Demetria Irwin
Tina Wells has spent nearly half of her life cultivating her business–Buzz Marketing Group—a company that specializes in youth targeted marketing. She has garnered countless accolades, awards and positions on lists that highlight the who’s who in business. Wells has published two fiction books about a tween name Mackenzie Blue and two more books are set for release in the summer and fall of 2010. She sounds like a distinguished woman of a certain age, but there are no gray hairs springing from Wells’ perfectly coiffed hair. She has accomplished more in her 30 years than many people accomplish in their entire professional lives.
In the mid-90’s, at just 16 years old, the New Jersey native began writing product reviews for New Girl Times Magazine. Big name make-up, fashion and electronics companies were pleased with Wells’ work. Overwhelmed by the volume of company requests and inspired by the corporate world’s desire for teen input, Wells founded Buzz (in 2001 the name changed to Buzz Marketing Group) out of her parent’s home. As the oldest of six children, Wells was used to being the boss and wasted no time hiring friends to work for her new company. She dubbed her friends BuzzSpotters.
“One of the main things we did was conduct short surveys about new products. Because of the nature of the business, I did not meet clients face to face, so nobody really knew that I was a teenager,” Wells said of her company’s early days. She did not meet a client in person until she was 19 years old and by then, her youthful secret was known.
For the first few years of the company’s life, Wells and her friends worked with clients for no monetary compensation, satisfied with just receiving cool products in return for their data. One day, a client of Wells let her know that she could get paid for her services and from then on, Buzz Marketing Group has been in the black.
While still a student at Hood College (she graduated with honors in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in communication arts) a blurb about the Buzz Marketing Group in the back pages of CosmoGirl yielded over 20,000 responses from around the world. The elite group of BuzzSpotters mushroomed from 25 people to 9,000 people in a matter of months. “Parents called the magazine and complained that we weren’t getting back to them fast enough. Such rapid growth in a short period of time was difficult to manage, but we did it,” said Wells.
Adrianne Washington, vice president of operations for Buzz Marketing Group and sister to Tina Wells, explained how the company utilizes the BuzzSpotters . “Our BuzzSpotters network is composed of 9,000 tween, teens and young adults who take surveys and participate in focus groups. For the surveys, we offer a drawing with prizes like giftcards and for the focus groups, the participants are all paid at least $50. The older they are, the more money they get for participating. We are aware of the attention spans of our teen and tween BuzzSpotters, so our focus groups generally last no more than an hour.” Some BuzzSpotters end up in face to face meetings with company honchos and many have the opportunity to try new products.
Buzz Marketing Group is now a multi-million dollar company with a staff of eight, a community service arm and an impressive roster of clients including Aveda, Sony BMG and Nike. The modern Voorhees, New Jersey office is a far cry from the company’s humble beginnings in a teenager’s bedroom.
As a single, successful and satisfied woman, Tina Wells—who bears more than a passing resemblance to actress Malinda Williams—is proud of her success. “I didn’t make a checklist of things to do by the time I’m 30, but I’m very happy with everything I’ve accomplished. I wouldn’t change a thing,” said Wells who is currently enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School of Business. On how she has managed to balance work, school and a social life over the past 14 years, Wells has a simple answer. “I’ve never known anything else. It’s the life that I’m used to living.”
NEXT: Check out the ideas and executions of three successful Buzz Marketing Group projects.