Sunday, September 14, 2008

Inspired Customers Fail to Fuel Growth

Jeremy Epstein is high energy. I like that in a speaker.

He was the headliner this past Wednesday at the Tech Council of Maryland’s sold out seminar titled “Growing Your Business Through Social Media." I settled in to my chair as Jeremy grabbed the microphone and -- despite a plea from the event organizer for presenters to remain at the podium -- proceeded to pace the front of the room. He led the 100 or so attendees through a 45 minute presentation loaded with animated gestures and witty remarks.

Here are his eight tips for success in marketing and social media:

1. Be remarkable for differentiation. Jeremy cited Rock Creek Restaurant and their “mindful dining” philosophy as an example.

2. Listen as a fundamental marketing practice. Dell’s Idea Storm initiative rates high with Jeremy.

3. Advocate as a practice. Comcast takes lots of knocks, yet it is making a concerted effort to advocate for customer service via its “Comcast Cares” program.

4. Find your raving fans. Even if their representation of your corporate brand isn’t perfect, empowering these passionate supporters will create a viral buzz for the business.

5. Be the connector of social networks.

6. Don’t abuse permission. Jeremy shared an anecdote of a short-time Facebook friend who used the network as a platform for spam.

7. Be open…don’t hide. Jeremy and I both subscribe to the view that is completely unacceptable to make anonymous comments on the Internet.

8. Participate…don’t control. Another great example from Jeremy – Tiger Woods “Walking on Water” video on YouTube.

The premise behind Jeremy’s comments is his view that we live in an “attention economy.” Marketers are taught to shout at their key audiences with the hope of grabbing a slice of mind share. Jeremy argues that companies should instead focus on their existing customers with the goal of inspiring them to spread the word.

This is where things break down for me. I’m all for loyal and passionate customers talking up a company. Yet, like-minded individuals tend to participate in the same communities (online and offline). Eventually, the referral model fails to drive growth. It happens every time.

This is why it’s critical for organizations to reach outside their defined sphere of influence. Help the sales team generate leads…support the acquisition of new customers…and then inspire their passion. That’s the job of marketing, social media and PR.


Capital Communicators Group said...


I'm not sure I agree with your argument about where things break down. Using my own life as an example... I have my PR circle (which actually has numerous smaller subcircles inside it), my JHU (career and alumni) circles, my UVA circles, my neighborhood circle, etc., etc. And each of my contacts has their own set of circles, some of which overlap with me and some of which don't. Social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook, etc., are allowing people who don't know me to hear about my testimonials via our "shared" friends.

Even outside of social media I think about how this phenomenon applies to my own grad school experience. I heard about the program I ended up enrolling in through a friend whose mother had taken the program. I assure you I did not hang out with this woman's mother. But when I mentioned to the woman that I was interested in this particular type of program, she started raving about her mother's experience. I did my research, applied, and enrolled. And now I rave about the program to everyone I meet.

Are there finite connections? Maybe, but I'd argue these connections are not as finite in today's digital/social media world.

Marc Hausman said...

@Capital Communicators Group --'re right on that social media has dramatically increased the sphere of influence for individuals (and companies). Yet, you ultimately bump into scalability issues.

Consider a new business opportunity Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) is currently pursuing. It's a software as a service (SaaS) provider that has grown significantly during the past three years through word-of-mouth. However, their target in 2009 is more than 10,000 leads. This is the business case to fund a proactive public relations and advertising program.

jeremy said...

Marc-somehow I missed your write-up of my presentation a while back. So much for "listening as a practice", eh?

I guess I'm being "open" and not hiding about that, so that makes me 1-1.

Anyway, I appreciated your analysis, and perhaps the modification is not that Community Driven/Raving Fan marketing is the ONLY way (though it may be the best and most cost-effective) and there is room for others, such as data-driven highly targeted/strategic marketing.

Solid write up. Going to (long over due) add you to my rss reader.

Happy Thanksgiving.