Tricks of the marketing trade

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How to turn your customers into enthusiastic ‘co-marketers’

It’s a well-worn cliché to say that ‘people’ are at the heart of your business. However, far fewer businesses ever realise that, in terms of external marketing, their customers are potentially the most valuable resource they have.

Think about it. You spend years nurturing people who buy your product, but do you then work with them to help spread the good word? Do your consumers engage with you? If not, you’re missing a trick. They should – and, what’s more, they could take on many of the task ordinarily confined to your marketing team, such as driving quality brand awareness and trial, generating credible recommendations, identifying purchase intent and creating content to be leveraged across other channels, not to mention providing incredibly powerful insight and feedback.

Recent research suggests that 88 per cent of people want a more meaningful relationship with brands, 83 per cent of CEOs want to engage better with consumers and yet only 6 per cent of marketers know how to do this, perhaps because it involves a fairly radical shift in thinking.

For a start, try ditching the word ‘consumer’. People don’t just consume. They have passionate opinions and views. Think less about consumers  and more about ‘co-marketers’.

I was lucky enough to hear Aedrian Bekker of OR Consulting speak at a recent event and explain his theory that people will only engage and become a Word Of Mouth (WOM) advocate of your brand if you answer the following question satisfactorily: “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM)? When data enters our brain, we route it to represent either a potential threat or a potential reward. We then attach emotion to the data. The WIIFM question helps an individual to assess and consider a number of things (sometimes represented by the acronym ‘SCARF’) simultaneously:

Standing: Our standing in groups or communities. We care about looking good and not looking foolish. Will this enhance our social standing, our social currency? There are various ways of brands leveraging this that don’t involve expenditure. For example, TripAdvisor gives ‘trusted contributor’ badges.

Certainty: We like to learn and inform ourselves on an issue. We like the facts. In brand terms, this might mean giving customers the inside track on new developments, which can be a great way of building trust among your customers.

Autonomy: We love to be in control and to have choice. We actually prefer ‘choice’ over ‘quality’, as it gives us a sense of being in control. In brand terms, this might mean offering different options of engagement. The key is to treat people as individuals, not as a mass.

Relatedness: How do we relate to something? It’s crucial to give people something to connect with and someone they can relate to. If you successfully create a sense of connection and of ‘being on the same wavelength’, consumers will be more willing to take your ideas seriously.

Fairness: We like a fair and just world. We want to take action. In brand terms, Dove is a great example of a brand who has utilised this with its Real Beauty campaign.

With the focus often on online and mobile communications with customers, it’s sometimes easy to forget that real interaction, between real people in the real world, is still really important. Two thirds of all conversations about brands happen offline. Brands must find those conversations and use the power of digital to leverage and scale them.

Don’t worry about “loss of control” of your marketing, because, in reality, brands never had control in the first place. People had always had these conversations.  Trust goes both ways: if you want your customers to trust your brand, it’s time for your brand to place its trust in its customers.

Rebekah Mackay Miller is managing director of trnd UK.

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