New GE Study: Word-of-Mouth Referrals Improve Traditional Marketing Efforts

Marketers have long assumed content shared by friends or other influencers carries more weight than paid placements.  Someone is more likely to visit a restaurant when referred by a friend, the thinking goes, than from a television or radio ad.

Now General Electric has some proof.

In late 2011, the company compared the effectiveness of a paid advertising campaign and paid advertising campaign coupled with online-sharing.   Overall, consumers who saw the ad and received a referral from a friend were 138% more likely to view GE favorably than those who saw the ad alone.

The results of the test were originally published in the January 25th edition of Advertising Age.

“Personal referrals are far and away the most influential form of communications,” said Sparklight Communications President Joseph LaMountain.  “Yet many companies and causes fail to incorporate word-of-mouth into their marketing and communications campaigns.”

For example, organizations can raise significant levels of awareness, or funding, for an issue by asking its supporters to share  information to friends, neighbors and work colleagues.  Yet too often this valuable “human capital” is not effectively mobilized.

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Media Relations in the 90s. Then and Now.

For those of us who began our PR and Marketing careers in the 90’s, the press release on heavy, bonded stationary was king.

There was no Vocus, Cision or PR Newswire. Press people had a Bacon’s press book, with addresses and phone numbers so you could, yes, mail your press release and then call each reporter to see if he or she received it.

Nobody was in love with this system.

And while it sounds like things have changed so much, they haven’t really. Because then, like now, the only way a reporter would even OPEN your mail is if he or she recognized your name and thought you might have something valuable to say.

But how do you say something valuable, when your clients need/tell/want you saying the same thing over and over?

There were several articles in the last day or so about Twitter, relationship building and media outreach. Some were good, some obvious, and one was great.  They all discuss the importance of relationships, but was about shedding your Twitter ego and going a bit further, and following your competitors. This quote is from the article, Why Bill Gates Should Return Eric Schmidt’s Twitter Follow by Rupal Parekh and discusses what marketers would gain by seeing how the proverbial other half lives.

“For example, how often do your rivals communicate with their customers on Twitter, and what’s their tone?” Parekh writes.  “What type of personality do they have? What sorts of promotions are they running in their Twitter communities, and what types of crises are they are facing?”

Besides being a hilarious title, following your competitors, monitoring their relationships and interactions – that’s interesting and compelling stuff. And while such activity won’t earn you a higher open rate among the press, it will provide you with valuable insight and  interesting things to say. And sometimes, that’s half the battle.

10 Tips for Bonding with Customers, Clients and Members

Over the last year, I’ve become more interested in the psychology of decision-making.  In other words, (a) how do our basic psychological needs influence the decisions we make and (b) are there ways to adjust our communications and marketing strategies to take advantage of these needs.

The best book I’ve read on this subject is Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini.  In it, he identifies six “weapons of influence” that can be used to increase compliance with your requests.

These are extremely valuable weapons whether you are trying to convince someone to purchase your product or an convince an advocate to take action in support of your cause.

Brian Martin, the Founder and CEO of Brand Communications, expands that list to 10 in a recent issue of Advertising Age.  “Fortunately,” he writes, “when it comes to identifying what people want, we aren’t particularly complex. Direct your actions toward meeting as many as possible, and your brand will grow exponentially.”

Kindling Word-of-Mouth Buzz

AdAge published an essay about a new grassroots marketing ploy.  The White Horse communications agency is sending a Kindle, pre-loaded with agency information and case studies, to their best business prospects. 

Is this a good tactic for generating new business?

As author Jennifer Modarelli writes, the Kindle giveaway has generated awareness of the agency and started some conversations.  It has also “introduc[ed] ourselves to the right audience in a memorable and innovative way.”

But the campaign has not yet any money for the agency.  And at $259 per unit, plus the labor costs of loading and sending each device, the costs of such a campaign can run into tens of thousands of dollars.

I agree that this approach is memorable and has been implemented in a very targeted manner.  Who knows, maybe a million-dollar contract will develop as a result of the conversations it starts.  But my gut tells me that there are less costly ways to effectively start conversations with your desired audience.

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