Nov 27, 2010

Using Your Customers to Drive Your Marketing

Word of mouth is probably the best form of marketing there is. Now e-mail and social sites such as Facebook and Twitter make a good thing even better.
If someone wants to tell people about your business, they can get it out instantly to close pals around the country via e-mail and to hundreds or thousands of acquaintances just as fast with a link on social media.
Granted, not everyone who supports your company is a natural talker and sharer. Some are more convincing than others; that’s why big marketers often turn to celebrities to endorse them.
But stars aren’t necessary. Marketing research is showing that sociable, positive, everyday men and women who talk to a lot of connected people can be engines for effective word of mouth. That’s good news for smaller business; but who has the time to identify these special people?
As a shortcut, focus on these three qualities, says Andy Sernovitz, author of Word of Mouth Marketing and the marketing blog "Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That." His advice will help you identify the clients who are naturals at getting the word out:
  • Find passionate people: Don’t worry about creating passion among clients who know your business. Rather, find people who are already passionate and give them something to talk about. You’ve heard that the best way to get something done is to give it to someone who’s busy. It’s the same idea. Find clients who are already enthusiastic about your business, who might already be talking it up, and help them to channel that enthusiasm.
  • Look for people customers can trust: Usually it’s someone who is used to offering an opinion and is comfortable talking to others. “It will be the foodies, doctors, analysts, teachers, and trainers. People who make great, honest recommendations on a regular basis,” says Sernovitz.
  • Consider how many people they have contact with: Media personalities, including bloggers, have a large audience that they can tap whenever they want. But so do barbers, salespeople, bartenders, and business travelers. Big, innovative brands are learning this lesson as well. For instance, JetBlue Airways converses with student leaders at big colleges to build its reputation.
While you are in the process of identifying top-notch communicators, you can also refine what you are giving them to talk about. Good word-of-mouth material should address one of three roles:
  • Make the information useful: Your enthusiastic clients should be able to talk about your product or service in the context of your product’s ability to be useful, clever, or inherently interesting. That way sociable people will enjoy talking about it and will feel compelled to share it.
  • Make it exclusive: The information you are trying to get out needs to be new, exclusive, or essential. This makes people feel particularly smart or that they are providing a public service when they share it with others who aren’t “in the know.” 
  • Make them part of the mission: Associating your business with a community cause, and supporting a local team are ways to incorporate a larger mission into your outreach efforts. Those who talk up your business can also promote the mission, advancing both your business and the organizations you support. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Using these strategies, you can get the word out about your business efficiently and inexpensively. You probably already know many talented communicators who fill some of these key roles. Your job is to channel the right material to the right people, and then let word-of-mouth marketing do its magic.

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