It's the holiday season; it's the season of giving. Or so the saying goes. We often read stories about companies that get the whole idea of helping their customers become evangelists for their products. Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba, who have just released Citizen Marketers: When People are the Message, wrote an excellent book a few years back on Creating Customer Evangelists. BlackBerry must have missed the memo.
They have big banner ads everywhere directing people to this site where they seek customers' endorsements for their products. In effect, they are asking customers to write their own ads. Look at the top:
We love to get people talking about the BlackBerry because word of mouth is our best advertising.
Of course you do. Do you call this expensive campaign word of mouth? Where's the benefit to me?
Tell us why you're passionate about the BlackBerry...
People don't talk this way. How about, "Why do you love your BlackBerry?" Or even, "How does your BlackBerry make you more competitive?" Anything would be better than this. And while you're at it, is it time for *my* benefit yet?
... and we might use your story on our website or in our advertising.
See anything wrong with this picture? First off, your utilization of my name and testimonial is a benefit to you, not to me. Second, the word advertising contradicts your word of mouth claim -- and only marketers like advertising. Third, I'm insulted that you value my endorsement so lightly. Your target customer is a busy professional. Don't you think our time is worth something?
Want to make it right?
Follow some of McConnell and Huba's advice. Not everyone will love what you do and stand for. Some will, and few will even testify on your behalf. Those few will be your customer evangelists. At the time of their book release, 67% of the US economy was found to be affected by word of mouth (source: McKinsey Study).
What do customer evangelists do? They spread the word, recruit new customers, offer suggestions and comments actively, defend you and support you. On a psychographic profile, these customers are activist-minded, connected, influential, and trendsetters. They have an active mind, love input and are computer savvy. They are also busy professionals.
How do you build customer buzz? How about offering a token to everyone who participates. Surely there are some inexpensive items off your catalogue that an existing customer might like -- ideally, something that reinforces your brand against the dozens of vendors who are springing up to steal your base.
If you choose someone's story, they should receive a tangible benefit. The bigger the benefit, the larger the pool of stories you'll have to use. So it's win-win. But this is really about your customer, not you. You are targeting users, so how about offering them a free month's service if you elect them?
You really want to get some entries? Say you'll link the blog or business website of the people who win, so you can tell their story, too. It costs you nothing, and it's very valuable consideration.
Going out on a limb here. Promise to everyone whose story is chosen that they will be placed in a drawing for the first new BlackBerry model of 2007. Surely you can afford to give away one. Use a suggestive graphic like a hand holding a Blackberry that's wrapped up and labeled top secret or something. You'll convert some of the folks who don't win into buyers, and it will give you one more opportunity to use the winner's testimonial. It's also forward-looking.
Happy Holidays from a BlackBerry user.
[Written in collaboration with Chris Baskind of more minimal]