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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How Small Businesses Leaders Use Social Media

Some small businesses are really going to town engaging with customers, sharing knowledge, and gaining new business through the use of social media. If you have not explored these tools for your business, 2010 is prime time to start. Below is a graph of social media use among small businesses in 2009, broken down by industry:

From attending “webinars” to reading business blogs to engaging in conversation about specific products or services, social media tools are out there for you to utilize to grow your business.

The fine folks of Marketing Profs have been researching this trend. The link below gives you a taste of some of their findings:  How Small Businesses Leaders Use Social Media. Enjoy!

Light a F.I.R.E via Twitter

I’ve been encouraging my small business clients to utilize Twitter as a piece of their word of mouth strategy. To those familiar with Twitter, this is a no-brainer, but to many, Twitter remains a world of mystery and pure self-involvement. “Why should I tell the world that I’m clipping my toenails right now?” is a composite of the kind of puzzlement I’m greeted with when I talk about Twitter with someone who hasn’t jumped on this particular bandwagon.

I’ll frame my encouragement around the F.I.R.E acronym used by my close personal friends at Brains on Fire. The F.I.R.E. acronym stands for Fascinate, Inspire, Reward, Engage. Twitter, among other social media platforms, can be really well utilized in helping “fuel the flames of fandom” for who you are and what you do. In other words, social media is a way to stay connected with and encourage some of your strongest advocates. Here’s a brief overview on lighting a F.I.R.E via Twitter.

BOF emblem

Fascinate. Use those 140 characters as a platform to bring fascination into the lives of your followers. It can be about what you’re selling: “Here’s why local, organic produce is important to us…” if you are a restaurant owner (for instance,) or something you’ve seen online and just want to pass along. This is your chance to offer something of value and interest – to bring a bit of “wow!” into people’s lives.

Inspire. Tell people about the 10k run you are participating in. What inspires you, what breathes life into your day, will probably do the same for someone else. @kriscolvin and @createtomorrow are some folks I look to for inspiration during a given day.

Reward. Lots of businesses have taken to offering special discounts and other offers specifically to those who follow them on Twitter.

Engage. This is where the real power of social media connects with your business. @BlackForestDeli in Bethlehem, PA does a fantastic job of this. They talk about what’s happening at the store, but they ask questions, they check in. When I posted about a nasty cut on my thumb, they were quick with first aid advice. Being a nice human being goes a long way in bringing a customer on board.

Twitter and other such applications are just a piece of the marketing puzzle. They are tools that are there to be utilized, along with more traditional ways of getting the word out. But they are tools at your disposal right now. As you become familiar with the platform, you can nuance and bolster its use in your marketing mix. There are tools within and beyond Twitter to monitor the chatter about your product or service, to analyze and to determine more precisely who your audience is and how to tap into potential new audiences, to discover and engage in topics of interest to the people who are or should be using your product or service.

Enlisting Your Satisfied Fans

screaming_fans

In good times, it seems, word of mouth can work almost too well. If a small business has a great reputation and low overhead, selling services is still work, but it is manageable work. These days, companies who have relied on clients/customers finding them are in the position of scrambling harder, wondering how to go about this process the way the rest of us must – getting out there themselves and finding the work.

I’m addressing this post to those in business who not only talk about customer satisfaction, but have woven positive customer experience into the very fabric of your organization. These days, even you might not have potential clients banging down your door.

The good news is your fans are out there. The customers for whom you have delivered a great and rewarding experience, these folks are a contact away. They are not a “resource,” to be exploited (but you know that,) yet they do represent relationships you have cultivated and perhaps willing partners in guiding you to that next client. You probably know that, too.

The question is “How?” You want to honestly engage the help of your biggest, most loyal customers – but you don’t necessarily want to announce, “I’ll be belly up in two months if I don’t get a few new projects in the pipeline!”

Right now, I’m reading Satisfaction: How Every Great Company Listens to the Voice of the Customer by Chris Denove and James D. Power (yes both of J.D. Power and Associates.) This book is a few years old, but has some insight that stands the test of (two years 🙂 ) time. In addition to solid measurements of the impact of satisfaction on the bottom line (it matters-in a big way!) there is a chapter on fandom.

Fandom is becoming a bit of a buzzword, and in danger of becoming as slippery and potentially meaningless as “satisfaction.”  But it seems to me that if you have a satisfied and loyal customer base, you’ve got fans. What you need more than anything is to understand their passion. I have a friend who realized he wasn’t just an electrician. He is a “lighting design specialist.” He loves lighting up an interior or exterior space to showcase the architecture, strike a range of moods, and generally enhance the heck out of the place. He attracts customers who understand what he’s doing and are in turn passionate about how lighting enhances the quality of their life – something most of us don’t give a second thought to. My friend knows his passion, and his very satisfied customers know how he’s helped them and now share his passion.

My point is your fans are out there. Make that contact, ask for their help, offer some rewards (some, honestly, will just be glad to be reminded and glad to recommend you w/out reward). But offer a reward anyway!

Join the rest of us in getting out there, and getting that new business!

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.