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Commentary & Analysis

Save Your Marketing Budget

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By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: February 1, 2007

--- Special Feature Save Your Marketing Budget By Jeannette McMurtry, MBA February 1, 2007 -- It goes without saying that word of mouth is the best form of advertising. Nothing substitutes for a product or brand referral from a trusted friend. Think of your own shopping experience. I’d bet good money that if you counted the number of times you bought a product cold from an ad you saw or heard vs. a referral from a friend or colleague, you’d find a pretty heavy imbalance in favor of referrals. In fact, traditional advertising is losing much of the power it used to have over consumers. A new genre of marketing agencies has emerged that focus on nothing but word of mouth strategies and action plans. According to Advertising Age editor, Scott Donaton, in an article appearing in October 2004, US consumers spent more on communications such as movies, music, cable, Web, video games, and the like than US advertising did on media buys. That is the first time in history that this has happened and signals that consumers are increasingly taking control of which media gets in front of their face and which don’t. To this point, marketers are jumping, literally, on the Word of Mouth marketing bandwagon. In fact, a new genre of marketing agencies has emerged that focus on nothing but word of mouth strategies and action plans. And they’ve already lined up some impressive investor money and clientele. As an owner of small business or manager of a large firm, one of your top priorities needs to be storytelling: getting people to tell stories about your product. These powerful stories might cover how they used a product to save a patient’s life, exciting outcomes or unexpected experiences, how they increased profitability through greater efficiencies as a result of using your products or services. Customers telling stories about your brand is clearly the most credible communication you can ever produce. These stories are even more powerful when they do not appear to be contrived such as testimonials woven into a paid advertisement. Customers telling stories about your brand is clearly the most credible communication you can ever produce. With a little imagination and effort, you can get customers’ stories flowing and heard by the right people: your prospects trying to make the right decisions; and your existing customers who continuously seek positive reinforcement for choosing your brand in the first place. Here’s a few suggestions for getting your stories told: Prompt your customers: Its likely that your customers don’t stay up at night pondering the wonderful experiences they’ve had with your products and writing the details in their journals. These daily experience aren’t typically at the front of someone’s mind, unless prompted. You need to find ways to encourage your customers to think back on the positive experiences they’ve had with you and write them down. You can do this through one-on-one interviews with clients, or through promotions that offer something in return. For example, you can invite customers to enter an essay contest about their experiences with your products and give away a prize once a month to the best entry. Post a survey on your website, mail them an entry form, or send one with their account statements. You can share the winning essays in newsletters, handouts at trade shows, customer letters, and on your website. Another great benefit of doing something like this is the strengthened commitment that occurs when existing customers start talking. They remember the emotional experience with your brand, e.g., the excitement of unexpected customer service; of achieving unprecedented results or outcomes, and as they do, those bonds get a bit stronger. It also makes them committed for the long-term as they’d be embarrassed to switch brands and admit they made a mistake after going public. You can invite customers to enter an essay contest about their experiences with your products and give away a prize once a month to the best entry. Prompt the media: Another critical story teller is the news media. While customers will tell others the benefits and emotional outcomes associated with your business, the media will tell the facts. You need both. News articles create credibility for your company and the people behind it. Find stories of interest to editors covering your industry. These might cover product development, new executive appointments, breakthroughs in technology, white papers just released, and so on. If you want the media to cover your story, make sure it is newsworthy. They aren’t in the business of printing free ads. Prompt some buzz: You can get customers, prospects, and the media talking if you can create some fun and intrigue around your brand. Frontier Airlines provides a great example of this with its “Send Flip to Mexico” campaign. Frontier produced a TV ad featuring Flip the Dolphin complaining that he never gets the flights to Mexico. So Frontier invited the public to go to a special website and sign a petition to encourage Frontier to finally send Flip to Mexico. The campaign, corresponding public relations campaign, and the international advertising award the campaign earned, created a lot of buzz from people in the media, general public, and advertising circles talking about this clever effort. And I suspect Frontier booked some extra flights to Mexico as a result. While you might not be in the business of selling exciting products to consumers around the country, there are still many things you can do to create some stories for your brand and some resulting buzz. Start by talking to your customers, and giving them some reasons to talk about you. I'd love to hear from you about New Year's Resolutions…your goals, action plans, and your suggestions to other readers. Email me at jeanette@mcmurtrygroup.com.

 

 

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