When political candidates rile their supporters up and inspire them to spread the word about their campaigns, it’s called “energizing the base” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 130). This is very similar to how companies can energize their customers. Finding enthusiast customers and turing them into “word-of-mouth machines” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 130) is what Chapter 7 of Groundswell calls “Energizing.” An energized customer is similar to a viral marketer because he or she spreads benefits regarding your brand to his or her followers without any cost to you. “Energizing the groundswell means tapping into the power of word of mouth by connecting with, and turing on, your most committed customers” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 131). Word of mouth achieves results no media can attain. So why is word of mouth marketing so effective? Keep on reading!
Twitter has caught on as a social network for several reasons—it’s free and open, connects people, gives them power, and is incredibly simple to use (Li & Bernoff, 2011). It is also suitable for mobile phones, which allows people to post updates from anywhere. As a result, “it’s rapidly become a key part of the groundswell—driving, reporting on, and extending activity in everything from blogs to social networks” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 197). According to a mid-2010 survey, only 7 per cent of online American adults are tweeting (Li & Bernoff, 2011). With such a small amount of participants, why give Twitter a second thought? Keep on reading!
Supporting customers is quite a burden for companies. Call centers, as an example, cost companies billions of dollars to operate. In an attempt to reduce customer support expenditures, companies turned to two alternatives. Firstly, in the late 1990s, companies starting using their Web sites as sources of information for their customers. This trend was coined as the self-service resolution, “in which companies put massive amounts of information online and encouraged customers to use it” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 158). The second option for companies was to outsource their support calls overseas. This tactic has saved companies quite a bit of money as “compensation for overseas telephone staff runs about 40 percent lower than the same staff in the United States” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 158). Despite the money saved, customers were dissatisfied with this level of service and decided to turn to a new source of information: each other. Keep on reading!
Two of the main and expensive methods that marketers use to speak with customers are advertising and public relations. Advertising thrives on repetition and is measured by reach and frequency. The main goal of public relations is to achieve exposure through earned media. PR firms send out press releases on behalf of their clients hoping the media will take notice and publish a story. Unfortunately, these methods of speaking with customers are more like shouting. “With so many products trying to get people’s attention, shouting at them isn’t nearly as effective as it used to be” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 102). With the rise of social technologies, word of mouth marketing has increased the influence of regular people while simultaneously weakening traditional marketing efforts. “Once people are aware of your product, a new dynamic kicks in: people learning from each other” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 102). So if shouting doesn’t work anymore, what is the best strategy? The answer: talking and listening. Keep on reading!
As a business, in order to effectively tap into the groundswell and benefit from its insights, you must clarify your objectives first. Unfortunately, many businesses go about their groundswell strategy backwards and start with technology first instead of objectives. As stated in Chapter 4 of Groundswell, “Technology is shifting so quickly—chasing it is like trying to jump on a speeding merry-go-round” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 67). However, by asking questions and determining your objectives first, you can then begin to build your groundswell strategy. To assist with the process, authors Li and Bernoff have created a four-step planning process called the POST method. POST stands for “people, objectives, strategy, and technology” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 67). POST is the basis for groundswell thinking and can help in the development of your plan. Keep on reading!
Is your organization customer-centric? In chapter 11 of Groundswell, authors Li and Bernoff discuss this question and speak to how a company can effectively harness the groundswell to engage customers and transform its approach to marketing. They present two significant case studies – Unilever and Dell – as models for how successful efforts follow predictable and incremental steps to engage their customer base, relax control over their messaging and marketing, and eventually be embraced by the groundswell. Keep on reading!