The really smart innovator grabs everything he/she can get his/her hands on that is new, special, unique. Then…they find someone who’ll lug their stuff around for them while they stay out of the rain.

Insider #92 – Influencers, WOM

THE Insider

Insider #92 - Influencers, WOM
Organically Growing Champions,
Sales, Market Share

The really smart innovator grabs everything he/she can get his/her hands on that is new, special, unique. Thenthey find someone who'll lug their stuff around for them while they stay out of the rain.

Vista hasn't exactly swept the globe.

BD nor HD DVD optical formats haven't gotten people rushing to stores with cash flowing out of their pockets begging to buy either flavor of burner, player, optical disc.

Forget about laying blame on any of the companies involved.

My gawd they're doing their part.

They're spending truckloads of money to convince consumers - business and individual - that tomorrow is hereit is betterit is time to make the moveNOW!

They point with pride to the positive reviews.

They have their share of early adopters who are first in line to buy anything.

Can't Get Enough - Technology innovators and early adopters can't gobble up new and different technology fast enough. Fortunately there are a lot of them around the globe who are first in line to buy. They do it again and again, casting off yesterday's products before the price tag is cold. Source - NY Times

You know the guy/gal in your neighborhood or company who is always on the bleeding edge of technology.

Their marketing people are creative and smart.

They have more plans and programs in the works all designed to convince folks that if they don't get on the horse and ride they'll be left in the dust.

In today's instant news, constantly connected world they know that for the products to succeed they have to tap into and leverage consumer behavior.

There's only one thing missing.

Giving more than lip service to their best weapon -- their best marketing tool - customers.

You know those innovators and early adopters that folks turn to for information and recommendations.

Figure 1 - Big Jump - The challenge for most products, most companies is leaping across the small break in the buying cycle to reach volume sales and profits. Source - Geoffrey Moore's "The Chasm"

If the products don't jump Geoffrey Moore's Chasm fast enough they advertise moreadd featuresintroduce new versionslower the prices.

The marketing/advertising options are almost limitless today.

Figure 2 - Reaching the Masses - In the rush for sales volume and "acceptance," marketeers use all of the communications tools at their disposal to send out their controlled message. Unfortunately word of mouth is seldom aggressively pursued because it is something the company can't control. Source - DoubleClick, ROI Research

Companies will do almost anything to get visibility for their new products.

They want the press coverage, the reviewers' praises, the analysts' reports, all of that marketing buzz that makes products fly out of the warehouse and off the shelves.

But they seldom leveraged word-of-mouth (WOM).

You know advice from family, friends, business associates, people actually using the products.

Talk to and work with the customer on a real 1:1 basis?

Are you out of your freakin mind?

That requires timerequires effortrequires patiencerequires painful "self analysis" that the product, documentation, solution may be fallible and might - just might - need updates, modifications before it is ready to go mainstream and win the hearts and pockets of the early majority.

All of the post-Chasm crowd relies on word of mouth - face to face, blogs, company review sites, community interest/networking sites - for their purchasing information and ideas.

Figure 3 - Personal Recommendations -- While broad searches of the Internet help people garner general information about their hobbies and their work, it is the recommendations of people you trust and feel have specific hands-on knowledge that carry the most weight in your consideration to buy. Source - GFK Roper

And in today's iNet world; word of mouth information is almost instantly available to consumers in Europe, Asia Pacific, the Americas, Middle East.

With very little effort anyone, anywhere can easily tap into this trustworthy information and customer insights/opinions/recommendations.

If this resource is becoming so broadly consulted by prospects, it has to become an integral part of firms' marketing strategy.

Figure 4 - 1st Hand - When people are looking for new products, new services, new ideas they read every source and resource they can. They check the reviews of professionals they have come to trust and respect. They pour over features/capabilities charts. They turn to other users to get what they feel is an honest assessment of the product/service they are considering. Source - Avenue A/Razorfish

Unfortunately most firms blow off WOM.


Oh yeah - it's time consuming - it requires patiencelots of patience - it means you have to look at the users' views, opinions, ideas in a non-defensive manner with an understanding that the user - the real user - might know more about what he/she wants, how he/she wants to work than engineers, programmers, designers (translation - sometimes the king may not have any cloths on or he simply has mismatched socks) - it requires cold, hard analysis of what was said - and not said - and delicate handling of the feedback to the people who nurtured the product from concept to introduction. Trust usno one likes to be told their kid is ugly!

But some firms are giving these undiluted user inputs, ideas and recommendations the attention they deserve even when it hurtsa "little."

Dell is one of the latest to closely examine and mine these inputs and unbiased opinions for ways to improve policies, programs, products.

Michael has finally gotten his head around the fact that consumers - channel partners, corporate buyers, individuals - trust the opinions of other consumers.

If his team doesn't listen you can darn well bet those who ask for advice willthat could hurt a lot more than an unhappy/dissatisfied customer.

If individual online reviews are going to be posted and trusted by other consumers. Getting in front of the situation isn't just importantit's vital!

The challenge is two-fold.

We all know that ticked off customers are the first to post and tell others. Ten, 15 years ago that wasn't a huge problem. The dissatisfied customer would probably only complain to 10-15 people.

Today he or she posts his/her complaint and BAM!! it is instantly out there for 10-50 million people to readand pass along.

The other challenge is inspiring happy consumers to help spread the positive words...the praise.

Do it wrong and they'll get the idea you're trying to con them, turn them into shills.

Not good.

Do it right.

Very good.

There are millions of passionate, empowered consumers out there in special interest/user groups who are more than a little favorable toward brands/products that they like/use in their work, hobby, home.

You know die-hard Wii or Xbox groups; PC/camera/video user groups; product/service specific groups.

These people spend hours at work and late into the evening scouring the iNet chatting on uselists, searching web sites, devouring blogs and sharing information and ideas with people who are just as passionate about their interest area.

Some have regular meetings to exchange information and "tricks" to do things better with their products. Most special interest groups have web sites where they review products with varying degrees of expertise for anyone/everyone to read.

And read them people do!

Figure 5 - Experience Counts - When all is said and done and people have read the news, studied the companies literature, evaluated the pros/cons of the various products/ services that are available prospects turn to other people's reviews and analysis to make their purchasing decisions. Source - Deloitte & Touche

More importantly, consumers looking for advice and assistance find these groups, these sites, these reviews extremely credible because: - they share something in common with the reviewer - the reviewer talks in usage terms the reader can identify withwhere the rubber meets the road

The problem for most marketers is that influentials are only important to them when they want to sell something.

The influentials and their sphere of influence are a pain in the *** when it comes to: - helping them with their web sites/publications - supporting their special events, educational activities - assisting them in developing a more organized effort to expand their membership, their numbers

Too bad.

According to eMarketer there are about 26.8 million influencers (you know folks who are regularly asked for advice) in the U.S. today and 58.7 million worldwide.

Most are not only first in line to buy, they actually enjoy the responsibility of providing others assistance.

When they spread the wordinfluencees buy.

The Wise Innovator - The really smart innovator grabs everything he/she can get his/her hands on that is new, special, unique. Thenthey find someone who'll lug their stuff around for them while they stay out of the rain.

Ok we admit it. It isn't as sexy as a thoroughly researched/crafted ad that taps into the very deepest reaches of the consumers' behavior.

But those geeky, weird, passionate influentials might do a helluva lot better job of grabbing more customersand keeping them longer.

Organic growth may not agree with you but don't wait for someone to ask the question

Listen to the whisperer.

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