Sunday, March 27, 2011

Water is Everything

charity: water is truly the master of online word of mouth. Check out their latest campaign, Water Changes Everything, that educates audiences about the connections between an everyday matter such as water and macro issues such as education, food security, sanitation, women's issues, healthcare and economic development.

The campaign first caught my attention on Facebook with clever depictions of what lack of water would mean for us in the developed nations.

Then I found the trail to the web area where they have six key messages you can Tweet and/or like, each one of them opening the viewers' eyes to the impact clean water can make in a country's economic development and public health. 

Between these messages and the photos on Facebook I generated four tweets and three likes, which turned into four additional re-tweets. In other words, one enthusiast created more than 10 messages through direct involvement and pass-alongs. Randomly peppering like buttons on a web site does not guarantee online buzz. Yet giving a community of advocates strategically packaged, byte-size messages can turbo-charge word of mouth. 

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Monday, March 21, 2011

What About Direct Selling?

Ever since I've met Mr. Hakki Ozmorali through his blog The World of Direct Selling, I've been interested in the similarities between word of mouth marketing and this form of network-based marketing. The Avon ladies, the Tupperware parties -- can't they teach us a thing or two about sampling, experience-driven word of mouth and sales? Hakki has lead teams at Oriflame, Herbalife and LR Health & Beauty Systems as their Country Manager in Turkey, and as North American Regional Manager for the Canadian network marketing company Lifestyles in Toronto, Canada. He currently runs his own firm, DS Consulting. Here are Hakki's valuable thoughts on the opportunities in direct-selling businesses. 

What do you think is the connection between direct to consumer marketing and word of mouth? Is there an overlap?

Obviously, direct selling relies very much on word of mouth. In its network marketing form, this reliance is even stronger. Companies expect and promote network marketers to conduct their businesses in their close circles. That is, you take the word to your circle of friends and acquaintances and they take it from you to do the same in theirs. As a consequence, people enjoy the luxury of using the products they like, of referring them to the people they like, and make money from this. 

Word of mouth marketers are grappling with measurement issues. It is hard to ask for more projects without proving their worth and ROI. Any learnings you can share from direct selling?

One of the strongest aspects of direct selling is its measurability. One can keep track of all the transactions that take place between the direct sellers and the company. And those transactions expand through word of mouth. One might say here, “Hey, you talk about direct sellers. How about the end consumers?” First of all, it is very rare to see a direct seller not using the products the company he or she is affiliated with. So, a direct seller is in fact, always a consumer as well. Secondly, many direct selling companies have “preferred customer” programs where end consumers can directly buy from the company at discounted prices where you again, can measure everything. So, when a company can find the way to register the user, it can do all measurements one can think of.   

What are the best approaches and practices that work in direct selling? How does consumer experience play into these?

In time, we have learned many lessons. There are some generally accepted rules now. For instance, you need to have a meaningful product line, a solid compensation plan to reward the field, and an operation that satisfies well the needs of direct selllers and consumers. On top these, we have the Internet. A direct selling operation without serving on the Internet now, belongs to yesterday. And today, we are faced with another phenomenon called the “social media”. With that, we have the most powerful tools ever to reach out to younger generations. As a side note, younger generations have traditionally stayed not-so-close to the direct selling model. Oriflame’s “Dare to Be” that I had covered on my blog previously is a very innovative example to such efforts.

 With regards to consumer experience, I can say it is in the heart of direct selling. It is very unusaual that a direct seller who personally did not have a positive experience will go out and promote.

Where do you think the future of direct selling is going, with all the changes in social media landscape? Does powerful consumer mean powerful marketer, in your opinion?

Every single day, the industry is exploring new opportunites that the social media tools provide. If this is all about networking, now a lot of networking is going on the Internet. When you have a meaningful presence there, you can benefit a lot. So, I don’t think the advances on the Internet will challenge the future of direct selling in a negative way. Having said that, another challenge is there because those who utilize these tools better than the others will be winning. It is important to note here that Sequia Capital after investing $37 million in the direct selling company Stella & Dot said it had done so because “the direct selling industry is on the cusp of a new age, with e-commerce and social networking transforming the landscape of the traditional direct-sales approach”.

Coming to your second question,  yes, empowering consumer is actually the essence of network marketing. That is, if you have a powerful consumer, that person will be a powerful marketer for your product as long as you show him or her how to do it and compensate for doing so.

You have an interesting trail of international work. What would be your recommendation to global brands in today's communication landscape?

While there is so much going on in the direction of globalizaton, local languages, cultures, tastes, attitudes are still there. I’ll give you an example from Facebook. The Turkish people make up the fourth largest audience among Facebook users. This is not because the Turks are one of the most Internet savvy or technologically advanced society in the world. This is simply because Turks love to socialize, to network, and to share. So, when launching a marketing activity, one may choose not to utilize Facebook in a specific country, but apparently, you don’t have that luxury in the Turkish market.  

Thank you very much for your time and insights!

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Experience Is Key in Car Sales

Is the economy coming back? Here's a sign: According to a Mintel study released in March, new car and light truck sales increased by 11 percent between 2009 and 2010, marking the first increase in car sales since 2000. I had written about the role of experience and word of mouth in getting consumers to purchase cars. The Mintel study also underscores the importance of hands-on experience in getting shoppers to seal the deal. When asked about the influences on the purchase of the last new car model, majority of consumers (63 percent) pick test drive from the list of retailer offers and features. The trend holds true across age, gender and income groups. Consumers across the board are checking on marketing claims and deciding which car suits their needs best through hands on experience, on their own. Word of mouth may bring them to the showroom, but it needs to match what they experience to close the sale. 


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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Technology with Emotion

My dance teacher’s email signature said ‘dance is motion with emotion.’ How true! If that’s the case, then social media is ‘technology with emotion.’ Think of the most common terms we use in this field: engagement, sharing, passing along, experience and communication, among others. Outside the marketing context, none of these suggest coupons, samples, downloads or payments. The experiences we are trying to create through social media are successful when people are inspired, entertained and touched.

Let’s say you are trying to create a Facebook page for a brand. There are many elements you need to pull together from design to development. The order of applets (e.g., polls, quizzes, games) you use is not as important as the journey through which you are taking your audience. If your campaign invokes emotion, then it will be successful. That’s when people will have stories to share. That’s when people will have the inertia to take action.

Consider food bloggers or those who write about travel. They talk about creating experiences that appeal to the senses. That’s why they’re intriguing. That’s why there are millions of people who write about these topics and millions more who follow them.

So, before launching another page or posting another announcement in social media, run it through the emotion test. Share it with some people and see how they react. If they talk about how it makes them feel, then you have a good story in hand. If they are worried about where to click and unsure of what they will get out of that click, then go back to choreograph your dance and to create.


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