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Marketing, design, and technical resources for making your digital and print communications more effective.

Real Word of Mouth Marketing

December 14th, 2006

The Washington Post reported Tuesday about the FTC’s ruling to “Unmask Word-of-Mouth Marketing.” The FTC is on target in my opinion. But the implication that the scams mentioned in the article are somehow representative of word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) is misleading. The very premise and power behind WOMM is that it’s unbiased and credible. We all know that the traditional advertising spin is often quite the opposite.

As the FTC’s ruling highlights, we’re still going to deal with a segment of society that tries to beat the system. Old marketing habits may die hard, but they won’t last long in this new era of open consumer communication that’s been
enabled largely from technology like blogs. Sony Ericsson, for example, may fool a few people with their shills but they will never build a significant customer-led marketing campaign with such gimmicks. The average consumer can communicate too well now.

Idaho businesses should by no means shy away from WOMM because of this misconstrued portrayal. Like the other WOMM advocates in the Treasure Valley, RisingLine promotes marketing strategies for organizations that have proven
themselves by already developing a contingency of legitimate client advocates. We prefer to use the term customer evangelist to describe WOMM because it emphasizes the element of unsolicited motivation to share a good experience with a friend or acquaintance. A completely different concept than the shenanigans the FTC has associated with WOMM.

The important thing to understand is that true WOMM is simply encouraging honest referrals from friend to friend and it remains the most credible and cost effective means of promotion for any business or product.

Blogs are bad says panicked journalist

October 12th, 2006

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers,” said Thomas Watson president of IBM in 1943. Of course this turned out to be wishful thinking on the part of the few who controlled that technology in that era. In 2002 GartnerOpens in external window consulting reported that over 1 billion personal computers had shipped since the mid 70’s.

Kim Jong II

Agrees
with Philadelphia Inquirer

I was reminded of this quote when I read an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer today entitled

Americans are blogging a dead horse
Opens in external window in which a journalist made a similar assertion about blogging. Her article, which reads more like the journal of a panic attack, says:

  • People are sick of blogs (she backs this up with a reference to herself).
  • Blogs are bad because anyone can utilize them.
  • The average person is stupid and should not be allowed to convey their
    thoughts on blogs.
  • Blogs are bad because the communication is too rich.
  • People in general aren’t smart enough to discern good from bad information.
  • She already knows blogs are finished and slams her 10-year-old son’s
    blog as proof.
  • Don’t start a blog (because you’re an idiot).

One of the most bizarre statements in this article is:

When you read a blog, it’s easy to forget that it’s just one person in a little corner of the world. You get sucked into their universe, and the words on screen give their daily dramas a validity they might not deserve.

Hmmm. Well I can see how this is so bad…I would much rather be spoon fed refined information from the Philadelphia Inquirer instead of engaging in direct communication and having to think for myself!

The irrational comments of this journalist, many of which are completely opposite of the well documented massive growth in popularity of blogsOpens in external window are really not that difficult to understand. Old-school journalists and information brokers fear greatly the change that’s happening now. For obvious financial reasons they are in panicked denial that they no longer hold a monopoly in the world of communication. The last sentence of this article captures the true essence of this old-school journalist’s motive, “So, please, do me a favor, don’t start a blog.”

Now no one will dispute that there are some weird and wacko blogs out there…a lot of them. However, “bad blogs” are a small price to pay for little things like freedom of speech and freedom of choice. Focusing on the blogs that this person perceives as low value completely misses the pointthe blog phenomenon is about the decline of mass communication and advertising and the rise of targeted niche communication. Who am I to say any particular blog is no good? If I’m not that blogger’s target audience, as small and insignificant as that might be, whether I like the blog or not is irrelevant. Individually we’re not supposed to relate to a majority of blogs.

The cultural revolution of blogging is shaking up the world of journalists especially. The fact is, we don’t need a few people to decide what information gets communicated and how. The author of this article might be better suited to take up writing for the Democratic People’s Republic of KoreaOpens in external window since they still fully subscribe to the philosophy of information control and dissemination and have been called the most censored country in the worldOpens in external window.

Journalists of all professions should be embracing the change instead of fighting against the inevitable. The smart ones are.

Why You Should Blog for Business

September 28th, 2006

Why would a business pass up a virtually free way to bring in new customers? Any business owner or executive should cringe at the thought of this, but research indicates that many are letting just such an opportunity pass by.

An interesting study was just published from a web hosting company in Britain. Even though the study is from Europe, the findings are very consistent with the experiences we’ve had here at RisingLine.  About half of the 2,300 small to medium businesses surveyed said they really liked the idea of using a blog on their site to increase traffic, but only about 3 percent actually plan on starting a blog in the near future.  This is odd behavior given the irrefutable evidence that consumers are increasingly flocking to consult blog sites before making purchase decisions. Blogs are no longer esoteric, they have grown to number 54 million (according to Technorati), with 75,000 new ones being created each day.

It really should be a no brainier. Blogs provide an easy method for businesses to develop rapport with their current clientele and create a like-minded online community that attracts prospects that are the most desirable clientele. Blogs allow non-technical business owners and executives to take control of their website without the assistance and delay of an IT professional, and to publish more authentic (and therefore believable) content for their site visitors.

Based on this study, it seems that a large percentage of business owners do realize the benefits…at least on some level, so the question is why is such a tiny percentage actually acting on the opportunity?  The survey showed exactly what we hear everyday…the business executive has no time to blog. Here are the three reasons why this exuse is not justifiable:

  1. It doesn’t take that much time. You don’t have to write a polished article…in fact it’s often better not to. Just provide concise and valuable insight, maybe a comment on a news item, for your target client. Here’s how: keep up to date on the most relevant topics using Google Alerts, write a few sentences in your own words of why a certain news item is important, and post it.
  2. You’ll Work smarter not harder. By spending 10 minutes each week to develop an online community of high value clients and prospects you’re ROTI (Return on Time Investment) can be exponentially higher than many other low-value activities you most likely engage in. You’re building a community of customer evangelists who will start driving highly qualified prospects to your business. Recycle 10 minutes of your time each week and blog! Set a reoccurring Outlook appointment to post to your blog the same time every week.
  3. You’ll gain a better strategic perspective for managing your business.
    By taking a few minutes each week to watch the trends in your industry, you’ll keep on the cutting edge of your market, mature into a trusted advisor, and gain more credibility with your clientele…not just on your blog but in all your interactions with them.

Suomi Finland and Nokia – A Benchmark for European Blogging

August 21st, 2006

As I was visiting some relatives in Finland last month, I noticed that very few Nordic Web sites had incorporated blogging and New Media features at a corporate level. Blogging and podcasting have already become commonplace amongst the general population in Finland, as it has in the United States, however there is a glaring gap between most corporate Web sites and available New Media technology.

Something inherent about the Finnish society is that people adapt to technology very quickly. In fact, it is a country where you find youth text messaging live television talk show hosts from their mobile/cell phones although they’re being charged to do so. Finns, and I’m supposing other Europeans, would most likely embrace companies or organizations that would open up the level of transparency in regards to products, services, and community. For instance, Nokia is Finland’s most influential consumer brand, of which people proudly show off their new model phones amongst friends and family, along the same level as a car, home, or other status symbols. So as to exploit and enhance this brand power, I could certainly envision Nokia providing an interactive community where its customers could go online to chat about new product features, designs, like and dislikes, desires for future technology and so forth. Not only would this create further intimacy amongst Nokia’s customer base, but also it would enhance customer evangelism while at the same time providing in-depth and basically free unsolicited market research. Plus, Nokia has already experimented with the blogosphere by sending bloggers new phone models and had phenomenal response; why shouldn’t Nokia then take blogging to the next level and engage their customers? Nokia also has a few non-employed enthusiasts blogging about their products, the next step would be to envelop this community within the Nokia.com sphere to help shape the content and engage in the discussion.

So as to prove this isn’t a Nokia centric blog, Fazer, Finnair, Hesburger, and Stockmann are four other Finnish companies that come to mind that could leverage new media technology and customer evangelism. In fact, no matter the firm or industry, the main ingredient for success is to identify a loyal customer base and empower enthusiastic individuals with tools like blogs and customer reviews so as to become a participative marketing and sales extension for little to no cost. Although this may appear somewhat iffy in terms of ethics, the truth is that most customer evangelists don’t want to be bought, they’ll proactively solicit the virtues of a company’s products and services simply because they feel an inherent personal emotional identification around the brand. In other words, the brand becomes a reflection on their personality.

In conclusion, I’d like to reiterate the old mantra to those of you who haven’t heard it before … great brands create consumer evangelists by empowering their customers to be a strategic marketing force. Companies that have succeeded, such as Apple Computers, Under Armour, and Southwest Airlines, know what makes their customers tick. If you’re a marketer reading this blog, I highly encourage you to check out some articles under Google keyword search using “Customer Evangelism.” One article in particular that I would recommend is the “Customer Evangelism Manifesto” by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba; it has honestly revolutionized our corporate drive at RisingLine New Media Marketing. Anyway, I hope this blog provided some helpful information. Please feel free to provide feedback or ask questions.

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