Stretching Toward the Everyday

GOING VIRAL!!!

It’s the holy grail of marketing in the digital age. If you’re clever enough and smart enough and lucky enough, some advert or bit of shaky video, or incredibly amusing cartoon/blog post/*insert favorite virtual flotsam here* will spread all over the interwebs in a torrent of giddy, intoxicated interest.

By contrast, the more plain vanilla versions of word of mouth marketing are much more hum-drum. Much more everyday. Friends quietly and simply telling friends. Bo-ring. In a sense it’s all viral, but the less–shall we say– “pandemic” word of mouth seems like nothing to get excited about. Yet in our marketing efforts, these everyday actions are what I think we really should be stretching for.

Getting something to go crazy-viral is fun and cool and exciting, yes. But if we expend a ton of energy trying to get the creativity, luck, energy and juju lined up to pull off a viral coup, a lot of everyday connections will slip through our fingers.

The kind of word of mouth marketing I’m talking about is about long-term engagement, not just short-burst attention grabbing. Viral  is about the cool, the new, the uber-popular. Sustainable word of mouth is focused on connecting with the customer, thanking them, and offering tools to share what they like with their friends.

Take something as simple as a smile. Colgate developed the Colgate Smiles campaign which invites users to simply share a smile by uploading a photo. This is fun, sweet, and connects so directly with the brand – happy people showing off their mouth full of freshly brushed teeth!

Word of mouth prophet Andy Sernovitz suggests not just asking your customers for generic help, but for specific help. Read his entire post on the subject here:  Invite your customers to commit to a specific action (like uploading a photo) and then another specific action. If people love what you’re doing, they’ll likely have fun sharing what you’re doing.

The upshot: Viral pandemics are nice work if you can get it, but there are plenty of other solid word of mouth strategies which will sustain your business for the long haul.

It’s the difference between a sneeze and holding hands. While this might be satisfying for an individual for a short time…

This is what most of us are looking for…

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The Metrics of Annoyance

This post I did for FastCompany.com is a good way of understanding where I’m coming from in marketing and brand strategy. Let me know what you think!

annoyed_person_op_400x600In one way or another, I often write about those qualities and touch points of business that make for positive customer experience.

But the opposite has been on my mind lately. Annoying people mercilessly pestering you online, on the phone, or in your face. Not taking no (or “NO!!”) for an answer. The hard sell. Spamming. Auto DMs on Twitter that are all about @them and their latest fantastic e-book or whatever–not at all about @you. Tweeting with Bots! The slick, ingratiating, grating: “What’s it going to take for me to get you [to toss your money away on my product/service you don’t need or want right now]?”

Why do these worst practices persist!? Does this behavior pay in the long or short run? In order to find answers, I’ve been exploring what I call the “Metrics of Annoyance.”

The metrics of annoyance is about seeking real measurement of the effectiveness of a given annoying marketing practice. Spamming is the most prime of examples. The practice of spamming has of course been maligned, derided, and otherwise tisk-tisked since the very first male enhancement notice was sent to your AOL account back in the deep mists of time. Yet spam is around, and here to stay. It clogs your inbox and gives gainful employment to anti-spam code developers at McAfee. Josh Catone has done a great job describing why spammers keep doing their thing. (read Josh’s post here) With an abysmal .000008 response rate–one in 12.5 million–it still is evidently enough of a payoff from a relatively inexpensive marketing method. So for spam, the metric is one in 12.5 million. Note to the one: click “delete” please, and let the rest of us get on with our lives!

Izea is among the latest to dip its toes into the metrics of annoyance (has been treading water in it for years according to many). Izea has begun a pay-per-tweet program on Twitter, with regular folks posting 140 character “sponsored tweets.” When I heard about it last week, I thought, I understand that. No big deal. Then I saw one of my friends’ sponsored posts. Annoying. Channel surf to avoid the stupid commercial annoying. As Spike Jones of Brains on Fire puts it in a recent blog post, “You’re paying people to talk about you. Paying them. In the vast majority of cases, there’s no quality of content there. It does not matter to me that they can say what they want about their “sponsor’s” product. If you have to get paid to talk about something, I’m immediately going to question your motivation, which I’ll assume is cash.” That’s exactly my reaction when I see a sponsored tweet. What are the metrics on pay-per tweet? Izea has been paying people to blog for some years now, (and receiving plaudits from the likes of Forrester Research) so evidently the metrics are working for them, enough to dive into the pay per tweet action. But for many of us, this is another sad day in the marketing world.

These practices will persist, no doubt. The Metrics of Annoyance, no matter how miniscule the ROI turns out to be, will be with us always. Is it a personality thing? I don’t know. I’m not posturing this as a “good” versus “evil” battle for the soul of people who buy things. This is a discussion of what are Best Practices and what are Worst Practices. Being kind, being genuine, being human, these traits are the win-win bedrock on which best practices are grounded. That’s the ground I want to be standing on in my own work. How about you?

R.O.I with social media. Don’t take my word for it

The Brand Builder (Olivier Blanchard) has been doing just a phenomenal job of articulating various aspects of the R.O.I equation as it relates touse of social media in your business. Social media is becoming an increasingly important game-changer in getting the word out about your brand, and in developing relationships that foster trust in who you are and what you have to offer.

Early adopters know this already, but maybe you or your clients or your boss just don’t see the value in “wasting” time in social media. Check out the last several weeks worth of video (and written) R.O.I discussion from Olivier. It’s really worth your while.

Getting Stroft With Your Customers

Via the web, I get to hang around with some really smart people. Two of my favorite conversationalists are Olivier Blanchard (the brand builder) and Kristi Colvin (she wears a lot of hats! You can find her at Design For Users.)

Kristi recently wrote something (which Olivier also quoted) which is truly remarkable about the core of brand strategy:

The heart of a brand, like that of an individual, is vulnerable. It must be both soft enough to prove genuine caring, and strong enough to withstand scrutiny and adversity. But it is your core offering – not your products and services – and if you aren’t in touch with and know what’s in the heart, establishing lasting relationships with customers will be difficult or hit and miss. Do you want a shallow relationship with the people that interact with your brand, or a sympathetic bond that can withstand conflicts?

I hate to say it, but you probably won’t get your user experience 100 percent beautiful 100 percent of the time. Branding is not, I don’t think, about perfection. And when we are imperfect, it is not about the art of the “spin.” It is, as Kristi says, the art of relationship building, being real, being vulnerable.

That doesn’t mean offer crappy service and an iffy product and just put on a big smile when trouble comes boomeranging back at you. It means real people will appreciate other real people doing their best, offering their best. The way to build bridges over inevitable errors now and then is to build those “strong yet soft” relationships with your customers. It’s about time to get stroft (there’s a paper towel campaign in there somewhere.)

Notes from WOMMA-U

Word of Mouth Marketing Association University is happening as we speak in South Beach. For those, like me, who can’t attend, there is still plenty of intel to be gathered. 

Here are some notes from the 360 Digital Influence Blog. The notes are from a talk given by Geoff Donaker, COO at YELP: Click the link above for the full post. The notes connect with my own observations of small business love/hate relationship with word of mouth. Are you ready to give up control of your brand? The paradox is that, in order to thrive, that’s exactly what you’ve got to do.

  • Small businesses (some would argue, the engine of the American economy and spirit) have a lot to gain from WOMM, but are still just as afraid to relinquish control of their brand as are large brands.
  • Utilizing WOMM can drive down marketing costs, but your customer service has to deliver … if you are going to rely on what people say about you (vs. advertising, where you say what you want about yourself) you have to deliver a stellar experience and respond to/fix the not-so-stellar ones.
  • Manufactured reputation usually backfires … you can’t manufacture WOM.  You can provide the tools, the dialogue, the forum and the product – but the community will do with all that what they please.

Does this connect with your experience? What are some other barriers to uleashing word of mouth? What are some of the successes you have seen? Let’s start a conversation.