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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.

Nokia makes the right call with new media

November 30th, 2006

Here’s a great interview of the marketing VP at Nokia that provides credible evidence to the bright future of new media and word of mouth marketing. Not only does this interview shed light on the huge potential power that new media offers, it also stresses that in order to utilize such grassroots efforts, a company has to offer real quality, otherwise the whole effort will backfire. This is one of the beautiful things for all of us about this new era of customer led marketing.

While new media is exciting, we here at RisingLine feel it’s important not to lose balance and forget that other marketing channels still have an important role to play. It’s encouraging to see that a progressive company like Nokia feels the same. It seems there are a lot of advertising agencies that totally discredit new media and grassroots marketing and the few grassroots marketing firms out there can lean to the extreme in their admonition to ditch advertising completely. While the answer as to the advertising/grassroots mix will be different for every business, as a general principle each business needs to plan their comprehensive marketing strategy with careful consideration of both.

To get you started on some fresh multichannel marketing strategy, check out the latest issue of Practical Ecommerce.

Boise State Broncos and Grassroots Marketing

November 22nd, 2006

About a year ago, a handful of rabid Boise State fans, myself included, came together to help our beloved Broncos expand the athletic program via a grassroots effort. The idea originated from the perspective that the university seemed to be reaching out only to white-collar executive types for fund raising and support while the blue-collar average joe fan, like me, was being ignored.

Our committee was formed via an online message board at BroncoCountry.com, a site mainly for the hardcore blue-blooded fan, mainly with the aim to help the athletic department raise funds to expand Bronco Stadium. In our first couple of sessions, we tried to formulate a plan to approach the university to demonstrate 1) we had a legitimate aim to assist rather than scam them, 2) that we were organized and motivated, 3) our innovative ideas for fund raising, and 4) that we were willing to play within their rules.

After about 4 weeks, our group was able to schedule a meeting with the Bronco Athletic Association and the Bronco Athletic Department and we were absolutely blown away by how well our ideas were received. As it turns out, the officials were trying to build an existing electronic funds transfer program (EFT) called HorsePower that was created with the sole purpose of allowing individuals to contribute small funds on a monthly basis to help with summer scholarships for student athletes, facilities maintenance, equipment purchases, Title IX compliance, and other issues pertaining to Bronco Athletics.

After a very productive initial meeting, our small group reconvened and came back with an official agenda and Boise State gave us the green light to head up the promotion of the HorsePower program. The win-win for both sides is that Boise State could now focus their dedicated internal fundraising efforts on corporate sponsorships while HorsePower would be marketed toward the face painted, blue-collar, end zone seated fanatic who would be thrilled to contribute 10 to 20 hard earned bucks per week to his/her beloved Broncos.

Currently, we’re preparing to develop a brochure to distribute at local retail establishments within the greater Boise area. In addition, our committee will propose a referral program for HorsePower and other incentive packages to encourage participation in the EFT program. Also, if you’re a Bronco fan living in Boise, please be sure to ask your local retailer if they have any information on the HorsePower program and if they say no, ask them to contact me for more information – Email Erik.

In all, I am thrilled that Boise State took a chance with our small group of non-university affiliated fans. Since the program is still in its infancy, our grassroots efforts are tough to measure. However, this example should provide a great case study for institutions looking to mobilize a ground level group of advocates.

To conclude, I have personally witnessed the results of grassroots marketing and I’m more than confident the HorsePower program will become a resounding fundraising success. If your company is struggling with creating brand appeal and fostering growth, perhaps it’s time to explore your existing core of advocate customers. Our small group of Bronco fans congregated via an online forum, imagine if your passionate customers could do the same…

Customer Relations – Selling Through Your Customers

September 25th, 2006

As a marketing consultant, I often get caught up in the theoretical realm of academia and lose sight of tailoring my unique value proposition to actively engage with my target audience. You see, there I go again … what I mean to say is I shouldn’t use big fancy words to impress my customers just to make myself look smart. More importantly, I need to build relationships with my customers by speaking their language and providing them with services they truly need and value. If I can accomplish this feat, I will not only gain a loyal customer, but I’ll also gain a volunteer sales representative.

For the past two years, I’ve conducted a fair amount of research on marketing trends and I’ve noticed a lot of buzzwords have been created by consultants like myself to describe a very straightforward marketing truth that has existed for millenniums; namely selling goods and services through existing customers.

Call it customer evangelism, viral marketing, strategic referral program, grassroots marketing, or whatever; the main point is that successful businesses are built upon customers. Whether an organization focuses on business-to-business or business-to-consumer markets, a strong buyer-seller relationship is key to staying in business.

As I look back over my career, I recall having the mindset of using technical or academic language in an attempt to wow my audience by “educating them” and by utilizing gimmicks or creativity to gain their attention and to create top of mind awareness. What I failed to understand is that my audience didn’t care about how smart I or my firm was, what they wanted to know is what my company could do for them; and the dilemma was that my audience didn’t want to hear this from me or my advertising. They in fact wanted to know what others who had tried my service had to say.

Whether buyers are looking into finding a logistical consultant to assist in setting up a global distribution channel or simply seeking the best golf course in town, they’re likely to turn to their peers and/or business associates for advice. As a consumer, I often find myself asking a friend or colleague, “So what’s your opinion on … ” The answer I receive will undoubtedly play a role in my purchasing decision one way or another.

My opinion on this matter is supported by overwhelming statistical evidence that demonstrates people are making purchasing decisions off of referrals and testimonials. For instance, 83% of consumers base their purchasing decisions off of referrals when choosing a restaurant. The numbers are similar for prescription drugs (71%), hotels (63%), cars (58%), computers (40%), and financial services (57%). Without further researching the matter, I would strongly content that successful companies within those industries have a strong customer relations policy. One example, Apple Computers, has again received the highest rating on customer satisfaction by scoring an 83% score in the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Now you know why we Apple freaks are so adamant about our machines.

So how do companies like yours use customers to sell goods and services? I hate to be master of the obvious, but you simply take good care of them by going the extra mile to make sure they’re happy. No, I’m not talking about giving stuff away or incurring a loss as a set-in-stone customer satisfaction policy, but simply assuring that your customer is happy with your performance by the end of the day. Now as a former sales manager, I know that some customer demands are unreasonable, but it’s always important to demonstrate to the client that your organization has their best interests in mind. Not wanting to expend too much effort on this matter, I’ll simply say that the best policy is to put yourself into your customers’ shoes and empathize with their position. When you do this, you have a much better chance at gaining their respect and understanding.

In conclusion, I simply advise to go beyond expectations in satisfying your customer. Don’t view this ideal as a reactive crisis response, but utilize it in a proactive manner so as to add value to your product or service. The last thing you want your customer to say to others is “I didn’t get what I paid for” or “the burger sure didn’t look like the picture.” If you bring value to your customers by going the distance for them, they’ll gladly pay a fair market price for your services in the long run.

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