Talking with the Groundswell

This week’s reading summarizes talking with the groundswell. Two of the main and expensive that marketing departments use to connect to customers is advertising and public relations with the most money being spent on television commercials. The main measures of advertising are reach, which is the number of individuals contacted, and frequency which is the number of times each person is contacted. The key to advertising is mass, public relations on the other hand aims at exposure in the free media.

The marketing funnel is a metaphor that describes how customers move down the path from awareness to purchase to loyalty. In traditional marketing theory, consumers are driven into the big end through awareness activities like advertising. They proceed through stages including consideration, preference, and action – to become buyers. Marketers have little control over what happens in the middle stages, but the influence of the groundswell is the heaviest there (Li & Bernoff, 2011). Forester Research analysts discovered that marketers no longer dictate the path that people take to conclude that once people are aware of your product, a new dynamic kicks in. That is, people are learning from each other.

Social technologies influence word of mouth which is increasing the influence of regular people while diluting the value of traditional marketing. Most people trust recommendations from friends and acquaintances over reviews from strangers. This influences the idea that advertising and marketing is only limited with customers and the best approach is to talk with customers and listen as they are talking back. Relating back to the first activity, the company I work for maintains a large and interactive presence online and the majority of customer comments and inquiries are replied to within the same day. Customers provide feedback such as the experience they had or items on the menu that are available in some locations and not in others that they want to see back in the menu. The most common way this company talks with the groundswell is engaging in social networks such as Facebook where people can comment on and share posts. It is used as a means of advertising as well as for other people to tag their friends in, who all become engaged. There are lots of ways to talk with the groundswell. The most common ways are:
1. Post a viral video.

2. Engage in social networks and user-generated content site.

3. Join the blogosphere.

4. Create a community

They key to succeeding in social networks is to help people spread your message and to measure the result, but branding on social networks isn’t for everyone. To determine if you should use social networking sites to talk with your prospective customers, the groundswell provides some advice:
• Use the Social Technographics Profile to verify that your customers are in social networks
• Move forward if people love your brand
• See what’s out there already
• Create a presence that encourages interaction
If you’re ready to make a longer-term commitment to your customers, then it may be time to look at another way to talk with the groundswell: blogging.

Many products are complex and buyers need help as they reach the middle of the funnel: consideration and preference. Buyers need a human face to help them along. A variety of blogs all over a company will help generate traffic and awareness. The main benefit is that they company can respond to customers in the middle of the funnel. Blogs generate trust because they’re personal statements from the executives and they stimulate discussion among other buyers and bloggers.

The prerequisite for starting a blog is to want to engage in dialogue with your customers. What starts on blogs can rapidly spread to mainstream media. If your company is ready to consider entering the blogosphere, remember to start with people and objectives – the P and O in POST. There are 10 suggestions for beginning the dialogue followed by implementing your strategy and technology appropriate to accomplish your objectives:
1. Start by listening
2. Determine a goal for the blog
3. Estimate the ROI
4. Develop a plan
5. Rehearse
6. Develop and editorial process
7. Design the blog and its connection to your site
8. Develop a marketing plan so people can find the blog
9. Remember, blogging is more than writing
10. Final advice: Be honest

To summarize, we have now seen four ways to talk with the groundswell – viral videos, social networks, blogs, and communities. All the marketing techniques in this chapter tap into word of mouth: talking with the groundswell means stimulating conversation. Which will work for you?

Reference
Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell. Boston: Harvard Business Review.

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