In an earlier post, I talked about how marketers are amplifying the pitch of marketing claims to garner attention (see, "Marketing Mad Libs: The "Next Biggest Tsunami" Headline Generator"). The result is an online circus of vendors hawking their wares. Consumers and business buyers alike are jaded, sick and tired of being hoodwinked into buying stuff that doesn't deliver as promised.
So, how can marketers cut through the noise and get their messages across? A few do's and don'ts for the digital age.
- Get people to go on record about their customer
experience. Here are some ways to get people to speak up:
1. They may reticent about promoting your product, so have them promote the reason they bought your product. Some customers want to promote themselves as knowledgeable, innovate and "ahead of the pack." This is free exposure for them.
2. Offer reasonable incentives. Customers are often willing to trade access to new products and the ability to influence product direction for feedback that can be used publicly. Discounts can also be effective, as long as customers are not asked to say things with which they don't agree.
- Present case studies—even if you don't have empirical usage data, hypothetical case studies provide potential buyers with a way to evaluate an offering's value to them.
- Use objective sources to support your marketing efforts—analyst reports, objective survey data, and books/articles by reputable authors can help make your case. Be careful here not to misrepresent information — that can be a huge boomerang.
- Offer free trials so people can try for themselves—if your product or service can be sampled—let people try for free, no strings attached. Happy users are your best advocates—often, you won't even know who these folks are. Influential bloggers in your offering's market space are especially important people to target for this, since their feedback is especially influential.
- Seek out influencers in your space to talk about the need or desire your offering addresses. Bloggers, conference speakers, analysts, and consultants are good people to contact and they are often looking for good content. Make it easy for them to relate to your message but distilling it down into simple, bite-size chunks.
- Don't misrepresent your customer's experience with your product or service—this will have a double-whammy. They will resent this and you will turn an advocate into an adversary. Besides, somebody will likely pick up on this and blog about it, causing you further embarrassment.
- Don't use a customer's name or brand publicly without their permission. Same double-whammy as for the previous point.
- Don't misrepresent data or quote material out of context. People aren't stupid. This just gets them angry—hardly a goal for a successful marketing campaign.
- Don't disparage competitors. It's okay to challenge competitors in a good spirit of commercial rivalry, but be careful not to project a mean-spirited or vindictive stance. This will also boomerang ... and it is just not good business.
- Don't make false or misleading claims about your product or service. This just serves to add more noise and clutter to the marketplace and actually makes it harder to get your message across, as potential customers tune out.
Got some other good ideas? I would be happy to hear about them.