Customer Referrals in the New Marketing Democracy Spell the End of Ego Marketing

Ego marketing is an easy trap to fall into, especially if you’re passionate about your company and its products. It’s only natural to want to tell consumers about why your products are better than any other in the marketplace today. However, making your marketing campaigns all about how great your company is instead of how your products can improve the lives of potential customers will only get you so far. Savvy consumers will quickly see through self-important messages. Ultimately, consumers want to do business with brands they can respect and trust, and dominating a conversation is one of the quickest ways to end a relationship.

The rise of social media has created a “new marketing democracy” where consumers are empowered by digital channels. By giving a voice to anyone with an Internet connection, the new marketing democracy lets consumers “vote in” the winners and losers in the battle for their hearts, minds, and wallets. While this certainly empowers consumers, it also presents brands with an opportunity to develop close relationships with their customers that prompt them to refer the brand to their social networks – and multiple studies show that consumers trust recommendations from friends far more than from brands.

In order to succeed in the new marketing democracy, you need to enlist your customers in your overall marketing efforts. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier column, you need to know where they are hanging out on the social web, as well as monitor (and potentially respond to) what they are saying. Once you have that information, you can start developing campaigns that encourage your customers to provide feedback and share positive experiences. Instead of solely pushing out company news via your Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube pages, focus on content that promotes interaction among fans of your brand, thereby providing a forum for long-time, new, and prospective customers alike.

Because customer referrals trump ego marketing in the new marketing democracy, you should seriously consider embracing authentic word-of mouth marketing programs that inspire your fans to organically promote your brand to the far reaches of their social networks.

Email marketing can be an extremely effective way to target your most active customers with a referral marketing program that rewards them for extending a valued offer to their network of friends. Pinpoint targeting is key, because you want to first test any program to a segment of your target audience before rolling anything out more extensively.

Asking a customer to refer your brand can be a tricky endeavor, and you want to learn any lessons during a test with a limited distribution. Get in the mind of your loyal customer and create a promotion that you predict will not only provide them value but will also make them look good in the eyes of their friends. The easiest way to torpedo a referral marketing program is to make your customers look like shills in front of their friends.

No one wants to be friends with or go to bat for a braggart, so tone down your ego marketing and focus on the benefits and attributes of your brand that improve the lives of your customers. Take the time to understand what makes your customers tick and then frame your brand in the appropriate context. Showing your customers that you’re listening to them on the social web and incorporating that feedback into your social presence and marketing (email and otherwise) will go a long way to fostering the kind of brand loyalty that can turbocharge a referral marketing program.

The new marketing democracy is here to stay. Now that consumers have a voice and a vote on the social web, they won’t be giving it up anytime soon (or at all). It’s better to adapt your marketing strategies for this new reality and take advantage of the opportunities it presents.

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