Getting people to talk about you

Wednesday, March 9, 2005 at 1:00am

Word-of-mouth has become perhaps the single most important consideration when developing advertising and marketing strategies.

The driving force behind word-of-mouth is a segment of the population known as "opinion leaders" or "influentials." Influential Americans can make or break a brand. That's why it is important to have a people strategy that targets them first.

Targeting opinion leaders is also an economical means of getting your message out. Influentials represent roughly 10 percent of the total population, but they have an outsized influence on the other 90 percent. No form of media can have the same level of impact. Most Americans turn to their favorite influential for advice before any other source of information when it comes to places to visit, restaurants to try, vehicles to buy, ways to save or invest, computer equipment to use, movies to see, and the best brands and buys.

Central to a solid people strategy is the customer experience. According to Edward Keller and Jonathan Berry in their book The Influentials (Free Press), 88 percent of influentials said that past experience with a brand is among the most important factors when making purchase decisions. Conversely, only 23 percent consider how well-known a brand is when making their choice.

Getting the attention of the buying public is one thing. Persuading them to choose you is another matter entirely. Adapted from The Influentials, here are six rules for developing a people strategy.

1. Be where the information is. Advertise. And make sure you maintain high visibility in all places people go for information. You do have an on-line strategy, don't you?

2. When critics come knocking, invite them in. When someone comes to you with a problem, there's a good chance he or she is an influential. Fix the problem and reap the benefits.

3. Get out into the community. Become active in a cause that will produce a tangible benefit to people's lives.

4. Make it easier

Filed under: City Business