Viral Marketing

Listen and Grow!

Listen and Grow!

Jackie Huba from Church of the Customer, cites a study that concludes that customers that feel listened to are more likely to spread positive and unsolicited word of mouth. The study was done by Communispace, a company that creates and manages online communities. Key findings:

•82% of community members said they were more likely to recommend the company's product's than before joining the community.

•54% said they were more inclined to purchase the company's products since joining the community.

Though we've done no studies to prove it, we find the same thing to be true with our PromoterZ clients. Those companies that use the service to ask for customer feedback consistently generate more referrals than those that don't.

So do your customers feel like you are listening? Asking is certainly the first step, but I have personally completed a number of customer surveys and never felt like anyone was listening.

In my mind, the critical step to show you are listening is to respond. Simply acknowledging that you have received their feedback and are considering it will let your customers know that someone really is listening--and they in turn will start talking to others....

The growth of your business will be determined by what your customers say about it. Do you know what they are saying? Learn more

A Better Mousetrap?

A Better Mousetrap?

The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a couple of entrepreneurs that apparently came up with a better mousetrap--make that pen. For how many hundreds of years have we as human kind been using writing utensils that are straight like a stick? Been a few at least and before that the quill. Then in 1987 Colin Roche, a high school student at the time, gets sent to detention and dreams up a new design for a pen to relieve his writer's cramp (any guesses as to what he was writing 500 times?).

The first prototype was built in his dad's garage (see picture-first prototype on far left) and the company, called PenAgain, did nearly $2 million in sales last year. Now, according to the article, they've been given a shot at the big time--thirty days to prove it will sell in Wal-Mart. If 85% of the 48,000 pens ordered by Wal-Mart and placed in 500 test stores sell during the first thirty days, they are in. If not, they may stay on in some of the trial stores or be completely dropped.

Getting into Wal-Mart is a big deal. They have 138 million customers every week! Competition to get a product into that channel is stiff. According to the chain they see about 10,000 new suppliers every year. Of those only about 2% make it to the trial run stage and that is just the beginning. Suppliers to Wal-Mart have to adhere to strict packaging and shipping requirements, monitor the sales of the product in each store, and drive customers into Wal-Mart to buy the product.

So what is PenAgain planning to do to drive customers into Wal-Mart to buy their pen? Unable to afford print or TV ads they plan to do viral marketing. Over the past several years they have collected an email list of 10,000 customers who regularly buy their pens. Mr. Roche describes them as "people who really want to know what the heck is going on with us."

I hope they succeed. Next time I'm in Wal-Mart I'll look for one of their end caps and drop $3.76 to see how it works both because I'm curious but also because I learned a few things from them:

  1. It is possible to improve everyday things that we take for granted. I'll never look at a pen again the same way. A good paradigm shift.
  2. Though it would be easy to summarize this story by saying, "A kid came up with a new kind of pen while in high school detention and now it is selling in Wal-Mart," the fact is a lot more than just a better mousetrap has gone into their success so far. The article doesn't say how many small retailers they work with, but $2 million in sales is a lot of pens and I'm betting a lot of retailers. That's a lot of selling to get to this point.
  3. It doesn't matter what kind of business you are in, building a database or list of customers that want to know "what the heck is going on" with your business is vitally important. The world may not beat a path to your door if you build a better mousetrap, but your loyal customers will if you have a way to let them know. I checked out PenAgain's website, you can join their mailing list right on their front page.
  4. Public relations efforts do work. PenAgain is doing something right as far as PR goes. I was impressed they were in the Wall Street Journal, then I took a look at their site. They've been in Newsweek, Wired, Entrepreneur, and San Jose Mercury News just to name a few. Whatever they are doing, it works and their odds of selling 48,000 in the next 30 days is going up.

Best Post of the Week, Anywhere!

Best Post of the Week, Anywhere!

One of our posts from last week got some recognition and we couldn't resist tooting our horn a little.

Innovation 101, an entry posted on May 22nd was selected from multiple small business and entrepreneurship blogs to be included in the Carnival of Entrepreneurship hosted by Pam Slim's Escape from Cubicle Nation. Pam selected seven posts from all those submitted. Of our post she said, "The lead picture is worth the visit!" Check out the lead picture and rest of the post here here.

In addition, the same post was selected as the "The Best Post of the Week, Anywhere!™". This is from a blog called Political Calculations that does a review of the 10 business blog carnivals each week. Here is what they had to say:

"Dave Free shows off the process of innovation in a home drywalling project he took on with his son. The engineer, economist and entrepreneur in me all agree that this is, hands down, The Best Post of the Week, Anywhere!"

Like I said--tooting our horn just a little. You can visit the Political Calculations blog here.

The growth of your business will be determined by what your customers say about it. Do you know what they are saying? Learn more

5 Steps to a Sales-Doubling Buzz Force!

5 Steps to a Sales-Doubling Buzz Force!

Interested in doubling your sales? That is exactly what Proctor & Gamble did with their Dawn Direct Foam dish detergent. How did they do it? With a word-of-mouth marketing program called Vocalpoint. According to a recent article in BusinessWeek, this is how it works:

Procter and Gamble looks for customers that match their target criteria, in this case moms and particularly those with large social networks. They find most of them by advertising online and through referrals. Participants are asked to talk to their friends about new products. In return, P&G promises a stream of new product samples, "a voice that is going to be heard," and specific messages to share. So far 600,000 moms are participating.

According to Steve Knox, the CEO of Vocalpoint, the most difficult challenge with word-of-mouth marketing is making it predictable. His solution: find a strong reason why a person would want to share product information with a friend. The article goes on to say--and this is very important--that the message given to the participants is always different from the one P&G uses in traditional media.

For example on the Dawn campaign, traditional ads stressed the grease-cutting power, But the message sent to the Vocalpoint mom's focused on how fun the foam was for kids to use--so fun they would be asking to help wash the dishes. They also received a sponge shaped like a foot and a dozen $1.50 coupons. The result: sales in the three test markets were double those in markets where Vocalpoint was not used.

Sound expensive and difficult to manage? I don't think it has to be. Here are five simple steps to get your Buzz Force going and your sales increasing:

  1. Make it worth their while. Proctor and Gamble offers two things: product samples/discounts and a sense of empowerment. Both make their participants feel like a VIP or an "insider." That is your goal. Price the coupons such that you will be happy to see your "buzz force" using them and remember the pay-off is not just your participant coming back in with the coupon but the friends they are talking to and the feedback they are giving you.
  2. Invite your customers. The need to invite is obvious, the method can vary. Proctor & Gamble places ads to attract those interested. That can be expensive. Why not just invite your customers as you complete your transaction with them? There are several ways to do it. You can start by asking for feedback and then follow that up with an invitation to stay in touch. Another option is to invite them to join a birthday or some other kind of club and then develop the relationship from there. Finally, is the direct approach. "Interested in joining our fan club? You get discounts and sneak previews you can pass along to your friends."
  3. Give them a message worth telling. Hopefully your business is so remarkable that your customers will be anxious to tell their friends about you, but don't leave it to chance. Remember Proctor and Gamble always gives their buzz agents a specific message that is easy to share with friends. Put yourselves in your customers' shoes--what would be an easy way for them to tell their friends about you? Maybe it is "privileged" information: "Did you hear Subway is coming out with a new sandwich?" Maybe it is a great deal. "Hey, next time you need a hair cut let me know, Sport Clips gives me great coupons." Or maybe it is something just plain remarkable, "I got two movie tickets today from my insurance guy!"
  4. Give them another message worth telling. This shouldn't be a one time campaign. Stay in touch regularly. Those who have "opted-in" want to hear from you. The more ideas you give them to talk to their friends, the more likely one will work for them and you'll start seeing their friends.
  5. Listen and Learn. Perhaps this one should have been first rather than last, because it is very important. Those who join your buzz force can become your best source of market intelligence. They know and like your product, they know how people react to your product, and they are willing to put some effort into your product. Ask them what they think and listen carefully. Look to their feedback for message ideas and ways to improve your offering. How do you think the Proctor and Gamble folks figured out kids like the foam? It didn't happen in a board room.

Still sound like a lot of work? There are tools that can be used to greatly streamline the time and effort required to manage a word-of-mouth marketing program (Caution: shameless plug approaching). PromoterZ is one such tool. In simple terms, it gives users a quick and inexpensive way to invite participants, gather feedback, send messages (including online coupons), and even includes an easy online way for the buzz force to pass the word to their friends. It handles the logistics so that you can focus on the message. Check it out at www.promoterz.com.

Unhappy customers tell on average 22 other people. If you ticket price is $50 that is $1100 in revenue. How would you like to know before they tell 22 others? Learn more

Listen First!

Listen First!

Listening is hard. Let's face it, we are all problem solvers. If we weren't, chances are we wouldn't be in business for ourselves. We don't have a lot of time to spend listening to long stories. So we quickly pick out the "important facts," develop (or should I say jump?) to a conclusion, and move on to the next problem. According to Laurent Flores , the founder and CEO of, crmmetrix not listening enough to customers is exactly what is wrong with most marketing today. Here are his steps to go from marketing to consumers to marketing with consumers:

First: Listen to conversations. Learn from consumers and leverage the words consumers "recognize themselves in": a message is about an idea, and the words that support it best.

Second: Listen and engage the consumers who matter in your category. Leadership is not universal, but category related. Look at natural touch-points with your customers, such as the brand website, to find the influencers who want to engage with their favorite brands.

Third: Test the words. As stated earlier, evolving the message with influencers is key. Indeed, rather than just testing the message idea, test the words consumers will recognize themselves in. Let them have a say with a simple online VIP vote, for example.

Fourth: Seed trials and give them the ability to spread. Engage influencers further in trying and testing your product during an exclusive special VIP invitation. Give them the means to spread the word by making samples and campaign materials available (that they actually developed themselves, remember), and they will drive sales for you.

Fifth: Continue listening and keep involving them. Because markets are conversations, continuous listening to consumers during and after the campaign is key. Listening will not only provide the necessary measurement to better manage WOM, but will also naturally boost consumer engagement and relationship with your brand for your next campaign.

Some really great ideas here. When was the last time you asked your influencers or promoters (you know who they are don't you?) to vote on one of your advertising ideas? Modern technology makes the logistics easy. How about exclusive previews and samples for your promoters? You want them talking? First listen and then give them something to talk about.

When you pass out a Promoterz bounce back card you automatically build an accurate customer list, increase repeat sales, increase referrals and prevent lost business. Pretty powerful little card. Learn more
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Seeds from the blogworld
We search the business blog world looking for posts that illustrate principles, or "Seeds", that if followed, or "planted", will help small businesses grow. We list them here for your convenience. Enjoy.

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