Friday, December 18, 2009

Customers as Social Media Advocates

Many of you now are quite familiar with my enthusiasm for supplementing your traditional outbound marketing strategy with an inbound marketing strategy - getting customers to find you in online communities.

A large part of this strategy requires your planting 'seeds' of your brilliance -- your thought leadership, ideas and creative, innovative thinking for solving business problems -- in forums, blogs and social media platforms where they can be found by people interested in what you have to say. Taking on a content marketing orientation or creating a mini-publishing house, with the purpose of providing a relevant, compelling source of content (information and knowledge) on a regular basis is a significant aspect of building a relationship with a prospect and being successful here.

I tend to discourage blatant product or solution pitches as a source of content in your inbound strategy. It undermines the credibility you're establishing for being about solving business challenges and not just selling product. If and when a prospect is interested in learning more about your solutions, they will find their way to your website and be able to consume vast amounts of product information.

Why not instead seek to enlist your most satisfied customers as your social media solution advocates? How much more powerful would it be for a prospect to hear how impactful your solutions are from a company who has vetted several offerings and found success with your products versus hearing it from you? I'd bet it's a pretty big difference.

Here's an example -- if you're a member, go to LinkedIn Answers and ask a question, say about what CRM solutions are out there that people could recommend. Check out how many answers come from marketing and sales people associated with the vendors they recommend (some people state their company affiliation, but some don't. Talk about integrity). See a credibility issue there?

But how much more impact do the same answers from customers have? Especially those who state they have looked at several different solutions and undertaken a detailed vetting process. It's a significant difference amongst those people seeking an unbiased opinion on what works and why.

Recruiting these types of advocates is not difficult. Once they are on-board and (hopefully) have fallen in love with your company and it's products/services, they would probably be enthused to share their experiences as they have a vested interest in helping your company to do well and grow. You could also incentivize these customers with promotions, service discounts or even chotzkes to gain their assistance. Make it easy for them to identify forums, blogs, social platforms where they could add their 2 cents, and make sure they know that they would prove helpful even providing as little as a sentence of positive feedback.

I would also stress here that you in no way attempt to shape or affect the feedback they would give (which carries some risk, but you should have a strong sense of the type of feedback they would provide at the outset). Assure them that it's completely up to them to provide an honest and principled accounting of their experience with your products and service.

I think you'd be surprised how many of your satisfied customers would love to help spread the word about how terrific your company and it's solutions have been for them.

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