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.
In Chapter 6 of Groundswell, authors Li & Bernoff talk about four effective methods in which brands can speak with their customers. These include: posting a viral video, engaging in social networks, starting a blog, and creating a community.
A viral video is as simple as creating a video, posting it online, and allowing people to share it. This method is the most effective in solving an awareness problem. A good example of a viral video campaign is the one created by the company Blendtec. To promote its line of blenders, Blendtec developed a campaign titled, “Will it Blend?,” where the company’s founder, Tom Dickson, blended unusual items in order to show off the power of its blenders. Additionally, the videos directed viewers to the willitblend.com site where people could learn more about the blenders as well as purchase one if so desired. “To be most effective, these videos must allow people to interact. They should direct people to a social network, a blog, or a community where they can form further relationships with each other or with the company” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 104). This is exactly what Blendtec did.
Creating a personality within social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter is one of the simplest ways to extend your brand reach and is the best solution for word of mouth problems. If you want your customers to take notice and talk about your brand, then participating in social networking sites is the right method for you. The key is to be available to respond when your customers are talking and to provide viral elements that can be shared. An example of this would be Ernest & Young who uses Facebook to speak with its target audience – college students.
Many companies have a complexity problem – “they have multiple sets of customers, or they have high-consideration, complex products or services” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 124). A solution for this problem is to start a blog. With complex products comes much consideration on the consumer’s part. Blogs can help with this as well as “reassure people before, during, and after the sale” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, 125).
The prerequisite to starting a blog is the desire to enter into a dialogue with your customers. It is also important to determine who you want to reach and exactly what you want to accomplish. Li & Bernoff provide ten suggestions on how to begin this dialogue:
- Start by listening
- Determine a goal for the blog
- Estimate the ROI
- Develop a plan
- Rehearse (write several posts before allowing them to go live)
- Develop an editorial process
- Design the blog and its connections to your site
- Develop a marketing plan so people can find your blog
- Remember, blogging is more than writing (there’s also a dialogue)
- Final advice: be honest (respond as a real person)
“Communities are a powerful way to engage with your customers and deliver value to them. They’re also effective at delivering marketing messages as long as you listen, not just shout” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 103). Communities are the most effective at solving an accessibility problem. If your customers insist on depending on one another for information, the best thing you can do as a brand is to create an environment for them or to join one they’ve already created for themselves.
An example of an effective community strategy is a website called beinggirl.com, which was created by Procter and Gamble. Facing a group of consumers who were resistant to the product category (feminine care products), P&G created a teenage-friendly website that enabled girls between the ages of 12 and 15 to discuss girl-related issues with one another, which ultimately facilitated a more subtle, yet effective marketing strategy for P&G.
In conclusion, no matter if you choose to post a viral video, join a social network, start a blog, or create a community, if you master the art of talking, listening and responding, you will cease the shouting and start conversing.
Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.