According to Li and Bernoff, “energizing the base is a powerful way to use the groundswell to boost your business”. This is due to the fact that when a customer is energized then they will become the viral marketer who lets others know about your brand, product or service. This is known as word of mouth marketing. Word of mouth has the ability to achieve the success no media campaign can achieve due to 3 reasons– (1) it’s believable, (2) it’s self-reinforcing, and (3) it’s self-spreading (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg. 130).
How to Connect & Energize
We learned in chapter 3 that one in four of a brand’s customers are “blogging, uploading video, and maintaining websites… one in three are commenting on blogs or posting ratings and reviews… (and) more than two-thirds are reading the blogs and watching the videos” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg 131). So, it’s easy to see how much exposure you could get your brand if you got one of those customers to write/post something positive about you. Li & Bernoff concluded three basic techniques for connecting with a brand’s enthusiasts (2011, pg. 134):
Li & Bernoff concluded three basic techniques for connecting with a brand’s enthusiasts (2011, pg. 134):
Tape into customer’s enthusiasm with ratings and reviews: Ideal for retail companies or any company that has direct contact with their customers. Example: eBay
Create a community to energize your customers: Works for companies that have customers who are really passionate about their products and “have an affinity for each other, especially in business t business settings”. Example: Constant Contact
Participate in and energize online communities of your brand: Example: Lego
Advice when Energizing
Energizing the groundswell is much riskier than listening and talking to it because it involves “people who are going to talk about your brand” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg 147). Most brands don’t actually know how to deal with their customers or the challenges brought forward. There are 5 steps when applying the techniques of energizing to your own organization.
1. Figure out if you want to energize the groundswell.
Energizing the groundswell works well for companies that have customers who are or can be enthusiastic about the company and its products/services. It’s important for a firm to listen to the groundswell first and develop an idea towards what their attitudes and feelings are like towards your brand before they start energizing it.
2. Check the social technographics profile of your customers.
Research is key. Look into your customers and see how many of them are participating in the groundswell and how frequently. Depending on what you’re selling, it is not always easy to get your customers to participate in the groundswell if at all.
3. Ask yourself, “what is my customer’s problem”?
There are cases where there are no issues with your product but instead, a bigger issue exists. It is important a brand is able to recognize this and work to resolve these problems.
4. Pick a strategy that fits your customers’ social technographics profile and problems.
Some examples of energizing strategies include rating and review systems and online private communities, however, not all companies can benefit from the same strategy. For example, retailers and direct sellers benefit heavily from ratings and reviews but communities would not. It is also important to consider the costs of each strategy. In the case of communities, there are incurred costs from “the costs of design, moderation, and marketing” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg 149). Some brands also already have a customer set up and run communities so in those cases it is cheaper to participate in those rather than to create a new one.
5. Don’t start unless you can stick around for the long haul
Regardless which strategy is chosen, the company needs to dedicate itself to continuously updating and supporting it or else it would become “stale and less popular” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg 150). The results could be disastrous for your brand and company as a whole.
Benefits of Energizing the Groundswell
This chapter focused on energizing a company’s most enthusiastic customers who expect the company to listen to them. In fact, “an energized community expects a response and energized customers wield power within the community of customers” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg. 150). What they usually want is information about what the company has to offer in the future and to see that they are actually making a difference within the company (i.e. helping the brand develop new products). A company that properly energizes their groundswell will get a group of individuals who are essentially doing their research and development for them, for free.
Li, C. & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, USA: Forrester Research Inc.