Recently, I received an email from ESSO inviting me to buy a gift card and they would donate to the United Way. Awesome. They called it “energizing the community” and it got me thinking…how DO we energize our consumers? Certainly once a group of like-minded people are gathered, getting them involved in an attractive, cooperative goal is a great first step.
Word of Mouth
When we talk about energizing our consumers, word of mouth definitely comes to mind. What better way to increase influence than relying on your existing consumers’ preferences and finding the key players to get the word out? Word of mouth is a powerful amplifier of brand marketing because it’s believable, self-reinforcing and self-spreading (groundswell, 2011). There is even an existing non-profit Word Of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), that reinforce the thought that this is a powerful, truthful tool that should be tapped into. But before we get too excited, we have to remember that Listening is the first step to any groundswell activity. Energizing is best to follow a Talking strategy, which is certainly best preceded by Listening. It’s known that 23% of online consumers in the US are Creators; blogging, uploading videos, or maintaining a website. Now, if those Creators are spreading good news, who do we think will be reading it? Since 1/3 of online consumers are Critics and 2/3 are Spectators, you can imagine how far the word will travel. And since people believe other people more than media (groundswell, 2011), the potential for influence is very strong and should not be ignored. But how do we really know how far the reach is? Is it worth it?
Metrics for social media are starting to flourish and tracking word of mouth success rates is no different. Fred Reichheld, author of “The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth”, derived the term Net Promoter Score (NPS), being the likelihood that you would recommend a company or product to a friend or colleague, valued from 0-10. The scores that are 0-6 are considered “detractors”, or those who would not participate and those with 9-10 are the “promoters”, or the obvious enthusiasts already known. The real valuable people are those who chose the 7-8 value, who would decidedly participate, if they had a reason to do so. North American consumers trust sources of information about products and services first and foremost from friends and family at 65%, consumer ratings and reviews at 62% and expert consumer ratings and reviews at 57%. These, compared to a company’s website information at 31% and a company email at 21% (groundswell, 2011). Based on these findings, it’s seemingly best to then get in touch with these consumers who are having such an influence on your potential consumers. But what’s the best method?
Get the Word Out
If you have room in your budget for a few extra dollars, you could try a vendor like BzzAgent, who will basically sell your word of mouth for you. They find around 3,000 brand critics and give them a few motivators like gift cards, then if they like your product or service, boom. They will spread the word for you, to an average of 60 people. The math on this one ends up being about $28 per person cost to you. Is it worth it? You could always try it yourself! Here’s how.
Get your consumers to rate and review your products. If you can motivate them to get online and post a review and rating for your product or service, you’re a step ahead. If you need a little help planning this strategy, maybe all you need is to give them a little push, like Ebags did. Exactly 21 days after a shipment, an email is sent out suggesting that the consumer review the product purchased. Guess what? 22% respond, likely being Critics, at 44%, based on the Social Technographics of business travelers. These Critics post reviews and the Spectators, at about 78%, will read them. Considering that people want to depend on other people (groundswell, 2011), this is a powerful audience they’ve established. Reviews are known to increase the buy rate of products, which is not a surprise since 96% of consumers use them, 61% of e-commerce sites have them and of those, 71% rates them as effective (groundswell, 2011). It’s surprising that 80% of reviews tend to be positive, a number that must have been influenced by social media. Didn’t it used to be we would only call the manufacturer to complain? A silent customer is a happy one, right? Interestingly though, without a few negative reviews, a site’s credibility is tarnished. And with these few negative reviews, quality control issues can potentially be resolved more easily and quickly. Allowing your customers to post comments online might not be so scary after all.
A Sense of Community
Another method of energizing is to form an online community where your consumers engage one another. Think of all the loyalty and referral programs out there and how effective they can be, then, consider all the participants in a discussion. They will motivate each other and essentially increase the enthusiasm and awareness of your product or service for you. Let’s look at a non-profit, called Operation Smile. It is estimated that, worldwide, a child is born every 3 minutes with a cleft lip or palate — about one in 750 births. Operation Smile believes in a world where children don’t have to suffer from malnourishment, difficulty with speech or social isolation because of their cleft condition (Operation Smile, 2016).
Operation Smile depends on its skilled volunteers and as such, has created an online community where they can connect. The Medical Volunteers Action Center (MVAC) helps volunteers understand the credentials system required, find surgical programs, find potential missions, and most importantly connect and discuss with other members. What better way to plan such an important volunteer mission than to hear from others who have experience? Or to share your experience with others? These doctors are energizing each other and the 364,932 hours of volunteer work logged last year is proof that it’s working (Operation Smile, 2016)! Within this type of community, the feeling of altruism, or the “pay-it-forward” motivation is very strong.
“My hope is that children who have surgery are able to see the world in a new light and with confidence to overcome barriers they had to endure previously.”- Dr. Arash Babaoff, Pediatrician, United States, Volunteer for 13 Years (Operation Smile, 2016).
Join the Conversation
A better option for your products or service might be to participate in an existing online community where you can monitor and motivate your consumers energizing one another. The best example of this is Lego. The online community called LUGNET, is a consumer thriving, consumer generated community. Who would have thought that the AFOLs (Adult Fans of Lego, didn’t you know?) account for 5-10% of Lego’s sales and that these people really like to connect and discuss all things Lego? The company strategically joined the community and created an ambassadors program, where they assign only 25 members, motivated by Lego bricks, to help spread the word. The cost on this was about $200,000, but with a reach of 100 people per ambassador, sales were substantially increased. Again, like with ratings and reviews, listening to product feedback is important. You can find flaws or new design ideas lurking in the discussion threads if you simply listen.
Whether you’ve decided to allow ratings and reviews or create or join an online community, you will need to plan ahead. First off, do you really want to energize your customers? If you don’t have a strong emotional connection or brand, or have a slew of dissatisfied customers, maybe it’s best to stick to a Listening strategy. Don’t forget to check the Social Technographics profile of your customers and design a strategy around their tendencies. Without this, you might be trying to energize a bunch of Spectators…and they won’t be having it. A really important tip is to figure out what your customers true pain is. What do they WANT to talk about? With the Operation Smile example, the potential volunteers want to discuss details of mission trips or share stories and suggestions with each other. With Lego, I’m sure the creativity is pouring out of those discussions! Lastly, make sure you have a long term plan, or your fan based enthusiasm may disappear over time…Remember that an energized consumer expects a response and is eager for a conversation.
When it comes to energizing your consumers, remember, they are looking for the chance to make a difference and be a part of something special, so let them!
Charlene Li, J. B. (2011). groundswell. Forrester Research, Inc.
Operation Smile. (2015, 09 16). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAclcuvujTA
Operation Smile. (2016). Retrieved from Operation Smile: http://www.operationsmile.org/
Photo by: Austin Schmid https://unsplash.com/search/happy?photo=hRdVSYpffas