Energizing the Base

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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?

Why Energizing is Effective

It’s effective for three main reasons. Firstly, it’s believable (people believe each other over the media). Secondly, it’s self-reinforcing (hear something from several people and it must be true). And lastly, it’s self-spreading (word of mouth can spread like wild fire). According to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, “word of mouth is the most honest form of marketing, building upon people’s natural desire to share their experiences with family, friends, and colleagues” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 131).

The Ladder

If you read my blog post on the Social Technographics Ladder, you will recall that 23 per cent of online American consumers are Creators (Li & Bernoff, 2011). “This means that, on average, almost one out of four of your customers are blogging, uploading video, and maintaining Web sites (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 131). Additionally, one in three are Critics and more than two-thirds are Spectators (Li & Bernoff, 2011). If you can find a way to encourage your Creators to create and post content regarding your products, people down the ladder (Critics and Spectators) will start to hear about it. Because people believe each other more than the media, the effort required to energize your Creators will be extremely impactful.

How to Connect With Brand Enthusiasts

According to authors, Li and Bernoff, there are three basic techniques for connecting with your brand’s enthusiasts:

  • Tap into customers’ enthusiasm with ratings and reviewsExample: eBags. eBags sells its products solely online so in order to overcome people’s insecurities regarding buying something that cannot be touched, the company implemented ratings and reviews on its website. By making it easy for the groundswell to talk, eBags created an avenue in which its customers could depend on one another.
  • Create a community to energize your customers. Example: Constant Contact’s ConnectUp! community. The main objective of Constant Contact’s community was to energize its customers. “All the activity in the community is about reinforcing positive behaviours, encouraging new customers, and generating referrals” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p.  144).
  • Participate in and energize online communities of your brand enthusiasts. Example: A global community of Lego enthusiasts called LUGNET. Using this already established community, Lego created a program called Lego Ambassadors, which allows Lego to build relationships and garner information.

Prepare for Energizing

If energizing your customers is of interest to you, you must begin to think differently. Li & Bernoff provide five techniques that can help prepare you for energizing the base.

  • Figure out if you want to energize the groundswell. Energizing is not for everyone. You need to determine if you’re ready to hear from your customers (both the good and the bad). If you’re not, then you may not be ready to energize the groundswell.
  • Check the Social Technographics Profile of your customers. It’s wise to determine how active your customer base is in the groundswell before taking action.
  • Ask yourself, “what is my customer’s problem?”
  • Pick a strategy that fits your customers’ Social Technographics Profile and problems.
  • Don’t start unless you can stick around for the long haul.

Overall, “energizing the base is a powerful way to use the groundswell to boost your business” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 130). However, an energized community expects a response so it is imperative for companies to listen and give customers what they want. So if you’re in it for the long haul and have the desire to engage with your most enthusiastic customers, energizing will transform your company for the better.


Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.


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