Customer opinion is the single greatest influence on other customers' purchases. Help customers make their feelings known.
Talking with non-industry friends at brunch the other day, the subject of the Internet arose. One of the guys is new to the Web. Another began waxing rhapsodic about the wonders of this new medium. It got me thinking... what is so great about the Internet, anyway? Has it changed people's lives in any qualitative way?
If I were the one waxing rhapsodic, here's what I'd praise: consumer empowerment. The Internet has become critical to any number of purchase decisions. Marketers know this. Web sites and email newsletters are now essential.
A recent DoubleClick study found Web sites and online marketing play an important role in helping people make purchase decisions, especially when they're learning more about products and deciding what to buy. This holds true for categories such as automotive, electronics, mortgage/insurance, prescription drugs, travel, and telecom. For the most part, these are high-consideration purchases, which usually means high prices (and high stakes for marketers).
More influential than online marketing, according to the study, was another key driver of purchase decisions. This element has "more impact than any paid marketing in building awareness of products" and "ranks for [the] further learning and purchase decision" stages. What's this mysterious influencer? Word of mouth.
Word of mouth is nothing new, of course. Marketers have been trying to tap into it since marketing began. As the Internet and people's methods of using it for communication have matured, opportunities for marketers have grown.
The first step in word-of-mouth marketing is to have a good, solid product or service. There's no way you can ensure talk about your company will all be positive. We've all heard the adage about how quickly (and widely) people spread the word about a bad experience. Once you have a good product and happy customers, you can employ word of mouth to get more. Here are some ways to do that.
Epinions.com and Other "Customer Comments"/ "Customer Reviews"
Product-Oriented E-Mail Discussion Lists
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Pamela Parker is a former managing editor of ClickZ News, Features, and Experts. She's been covering interactive advertising and marketing since the boom days of 1999, chronicling the dot-com crash and the subsequent rise of the medium. Before working at ClickZ, Parker was associate editor at @NY, a pioneering Web site and e-mail newsletter covering New York new media start-ups. Parker received a master's degree in journalism, with a concentration in new media, from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.
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