Harnessing social technologies to energize sales

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This blog post comes to you live from the 2008 Forrester Marketing Forum, held April 8-9, 2008, in Los Angeles. The purpose of the event is to take a snapshot of the state of the art in successful marketing.

In an afternoon session April 8, Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li, authors of The Groundswell, discuss harnessing social technologies to generate sales. The headline here: to use social media technologies effectively, figure out your strategy and approach first for how social technologies will strengthen consumer relationships. Don’t put the cart (technology) before the horse.

Josh and Charlene both identify a couple of possible approaches, such as using social technologies like blogs and community sites to to raise awareness and increase brand affinity. Typical measurement metrics include raised awareness and time spent on a site.

For instance, Blendtec creates industrial-strength blenders. The company invites consumer enthusiasts to nominate items (including an iPod) to blend in its products. The results are posted on YouTube. Blendtec has enjoyed more than 5 million views and thousands of comments — metrics that show you can measure engagement in a world of social media.

Josh and Charlene categorize a second class of technologies that energize — or inspire your customers to talk about you. Energizing means identifying enthusiastic customers and inspiring them to persuade others. Social applications include brand ambassador programs, communities, and widgets. Metrics include community membership, online buzz, and sales.

Example: Loblaw, a Canadian grocery store, encourages shoppers to rate products — online and in-store. Consumers say great things, but they also complain, too, an example being a shopper outcry over the difficulty of using the spring-loaded cap for a Loblaw private-label barbeque sauce. Loblaw not only fixes things that need to be fixed, but it also earns the enthusiastic support of Loblaw consumers who appreciate the store’s responsiveness — which is boosting marketshare and sales for its own private-label brands.

Note that Loblaw is particularly effective because its approach is rooted in the offline experience.

How to get started?: pick one application to pilot your approach. Make sure you can measure success. Then get more ambitious after demonstrating early success. But, you also need to protect yourself by finding a high-level revolutionary inside your company to support your effort.

Are you willing to be a revolutionary . . . or at least find one to help you?

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