Word of MouthThis is a guest post from Gordon Blackwell of Starta Development. His personal website can be found at The Alert CIO.  His musings on social marketing over at one of the forums I frequent so impressed me that I asked him to allow me to post it here.  He hit all of the points that speak to the core of what social marketing is and why it works:

-focus on the needs of the consumer
-create engaging discussion
-really sell value and support the value continuously
-present an ongoing and evolving message
-have a consistent symbol or message
-relay a compelling story
-humanize your business
-listen to customers and deliver true value

I couldn’t have said it better myself. 🙂  Thanks Gordon!

An Engaging Discussion

Our generation is witnessing an evolution of how businesses interact with customers. Effective marketing is more than employing traditional media to broadcast features and benefits of a product or service. In this age of global communications, marketing often involves an interactive, engaging discussion between companies and consumers.

The clever marketer presents a grassroots message, something that resonates with and excites the target audience. As with traditional marketing, brand exposure is usually the end purpose. However, social marketing focuses on the needs of the consumer instead of the function of the product or service itself. The message that the effective marketer must convey is how the product or service genuinely improves life or business for the target consumer.

Our continuously evolving marketplaces demand agility, but this does not mean that speed trumps all. Marketers should understand the core message of every communication before the message is released; few things are more mortifying than belatedly finding errors — or worse — in your marketing materials.

The medium of the message is equally important: a post on MySpace has decidedly different connotations from a story in a local newspaper. The best medium, of course, has always been positive word of mouth between friends and colleagues. For this to occur your company must really sell its value and support the value continuously as it is consumed.

An Ongoing Presence

Even if you have the good fortune of positive word of mouth, as a marketer you’ll have to continue to guide your company’s presence in the marketplace. In place of intermittent, short-lived campaigns, consider putting your efforts behind an ongoing and evolving message.

Most people are very aware of the traditional mega-brands like Coke and McDonalds, but without a continuous presence in the marketplace even those fade from front-line visibility. How much more true for small businesses relying on social marketing techniques and word of mouth!

One of the best ways to continuously reinforce your message is through a consistent symbol, something seen again and again in various contexts. A spokesperson, someone who provides a human story, is perhaps the best symbol of all.

Subway gained phenomenal momentum by introducing us to “Jared,” the man now famous for losing hundreds of pounds through their products. Subway’s success came not from presenting bullet points about their Club Sub, but from relaying a compelling story. The campaign began with a series of strategically placed articles in newspapers and journals, and then transitioned into a series of ongoing television advertisements. Social marketing and traditional marketing techniques often augment one another.

Genuine Connections

Social techniques appear faddish to some, but these concepts are rooted in one of the core tenets of good marketing: serve your customers with value. In today’s landscape of corporate behemoths and offshore call centers, consumers cherish the experience of genuine service and real connections with people they perceive to be like themselves.

Social marketing is a way to humanize your organization in the public eye, and that can make a world of difference to your bottom line. If you listen to your customers and deliver true value to them, you might even find that word of mouth is taking off on its own. Is there anything better around which to build the rest of your business?

(Also, if you haven’t already, be sure to sign up for my free social media e-course.)

Photo Credit: Paull Young

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