As marketers, there are a few seemingly basic questions that are at the core of our entire marketing strategies.
Who is our customer? How does our customer think and make decisions?
We research the demographic data, whitepapers about trends, Google Analytics, and any other data source we can think of. But many times we fail to look at our own consumer behavior – as well as that of our families, our friends, and our colleagues – to determine trends, when in fact our own behavior is probably a good indication of “the norm”.
So after thinking about my own brand-seeking habits, I realized that I either get a direct recommendation from a friend or colleague, or I consume other people’s online reviews related to the brand.
1. I find restaurants on Yelp, and sort my results by “highest rated.”
2. I run a Google search on every product, model number, and service to see their reviews.
3. I listen intently to my fellow entrepreneurs and their experiences with certain tools.
4. I listen to new artists and songs that my friends tell me about.
5. I legitimize brands by their website’s display of significant press coverage
Brand Trust Low, People Trust High
According to a 2015 Nielsen report, a majority of worldwide consumers behave in a similar fashion. In fact, the report states that 92% of worldwide consumers trust recommendations from people they know, while 70% trust consumer opinions posted online.
A 2012 Accenture survey had similar findings – 79% of consumers received their brand information via Word-of-Mouth, while 63% uses review & news sites. The survey even shows that 47% of consumers used social media and online forums to discover brand information.
Clearly, people trust the experiences and comments of other people over any direct brand advertising. These types of people experiences end up in some sort of free, customer-driven impressions called “Earned Media.”
What Is Earned Media?
According to Michael Brito of Edelman, Earned Media is…
“…the natural result of public/media relation’s efforts, ad campaigns, events and the content that you create within your owned media channels. …[It] has expanded to influencers who have popular blogs as well. When someone not associated with your brand mentions you on Twitter, Facebook or any other social media channel, it’s earned media. Other types of earned media include consumers’ social media posts, tweets, product reviews, videos, photos, and open dialogue within online communities.”
With that definition, it is clear that in order to “earn media,” a company must encourage and enable its customers and online communities to advocate for its brand in every way possible. When encouraged and enabled, customers can very easily act on their positive brand experience and create activity on social media (impressions, shares, comments), online communities (reviews & recommendations, forums, “upvotes”), and email (referrals).
Making Customers Into Evangelists
Gather Their Feedback.
There’s nothing like getting the word straight from your customers. The more you solicit their opinions, the more emotionally invested they will feel about your product. Regularly run short-but-effective surveys, using tools like SurveyMonkey, Wufoo, or Formstack. Install feedback boxes on your product, such as Qualaroo Insights or GetSatisfaction, to constantly encourage your users to tell you what’s on their mind. Then display the (positive) feedback proudly on your website using a Testimonials widget.
Impress Them With Customer Service.
When a customer reaches out with an issue, the customer’s ensuing experience with the brand goes a long way to determining the future of that relationship. Brands that are responsive, helpful, and generally awesome to their customers will have a greater chance of keeping those customers for a long time (for life??). Companies like JetBlue, Nike, Seamless, and Comcast have nailed Twitter customer service, but if you can’t have dedicated manpower on your Twitter handle you can still respond to your customer service requests within 6 hours, like the big boys do!
Make It Easy For Them To Evangelize.
Take “Word-of-mouth”, make it digital, and what do you get? Virality. If your product does not prioritize virality, you are doing yourself a disservice because you are limiting customers who want to help your mission! For starters, provide your users with tools that make it simple to email contacts and post on social media. Match those tools with a simple-yet-effective incentive for spreading your brand’s message, and watch those referrals multiply!
Sometimes being direct with your customers is most effective. When customers are already excited and passionate about a brand or product, they want to contribute to that brand’s success and public perception. Lucky for you, within your customer base you have social media influencers, members of the media, people who are active on review sites, heavy networkers, and click-happy referral inviters. Find them, and ask them for online reviews, press coverage, website linkbacks, Tweets, and “Likes”. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results!