Energizing! (It just keeps going and going…)

This blog is a response to chapter 7 of the groundswell textbook called “energizing the groundswell” for my MARK4474 course.

The word energizing always makes me think of the Energizer bunny.

This commercial is almost as old as I am. Scary. But, like the end of the commercial says, “it just keeps going and going”. This is pretty much what energizing is. Energizing is getting people excited and talking, creating word of mouth and starting a chain of people talking about the same thing. Word of mouth just keeps going and going… whether it be one person telling another, who tells another and then another, or multiple people that tell multiple others, or anyone who will listen to them.

Word of mouth is a form of advertising that shouldn’t be underestimated…

  • It’s believable. Testimonials and stories from real people are more credible than media sources, or what the company says itself.
  • It’s self-reinforcing. The more you hear the same thing from different people, the more you know it to be true.
  • It’s self-spreading. If a product is worth using, people will share and spread the word (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 130)

According to the Word of Mouth Marketing Marketing Association (WOMMA), word of mouth “is the most honest form or marketing, building upon people’s natural desire to share their experiences with family, friends and colleagues.” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 131)

By connecting with customers, you are energizing the groundswell. You are getting people to talk – mostly your loyal customers. Think of a brand, a brand that you really like. I mean REALLY like. Why do you support them? Is it because you like their products/services? Like mentioned above, people will share and spread the word about something they enjoy and/or are passionate about. Customers can become the best brand ambassadors.

Here are three ways to tap into your brand enthusiasts:

  1. Tap into customers’ enthusiasm with ratings and reviews.
  2. Create a community to energize your customers.
  3. Participate in and energize online communities of your brand enthusiasts (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 134)

I really think that AMA can benefit from the first point – tapping into customers’ enthusiasm with ratings and reviews. Having the ability to rate and review different travel packages, from Disney vacations to Las Vegas deals,  on the AMA website would help the decision making process of visitors. If other customers rate it as a great package/deal, then they are more likely to take the leap and book a vacation. The higher the ratings on anything – the more likely they are to buy it. On the AMARewards portal, members are given the opportunity to rate member rewards offers and comment on them. The only part that the portal is lacking is notifications. When someone replies to another person’s comment – they aren’t notified, and if the person doesn’t check back, they won’t know. This is also a negative as when AMA replies to negative comments, as the member can’t be reached. Contrary to belief, bad comments aren’t totally bad. They do make the website look more believable. If the AMARewards portal was full of positive comments, it would appear too good to be true, or unbelievable.

To wrap up this blog – energizing customers, and creating word of mouth, is an powerful and risky technique and it can be very rewarding. I think if AMA taps into the groundswell and energizes it, they will see more success!

-B.


Bibliography

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.

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Tweet a little Tweet on Twitter

This blog is a response to chapter 10 of the groundswell textbook called “tapping the groundswell with twitter” for my MARK4474 course.

Like the title says – tweet a little tweet on Twitter! If you don’t get the reference, it’s from this musical and lyrical YouTube video.

Oh, Twitter. Some people just don’t get it. I however, love Twitter – I’ve almost migrated from Facebook to Twitter completely – almost. I still scroll through my Facebook feed briefly every day,  but find that the content isn’t interesting, or it’s repetitive. I find that Facebook is mostly used for people updating you on their boring lives, or in my step dad’s case, sharing every single video/image he says followed by “LOL”. Twitter on the other hand is more digestible. People can talk about their lives, but they’re limited to 140 characters! Ah! Besides, most people don’t boast about their lives on Twitter. It’s used for interacting, engaging with others and finding cool content. You can follow anyone, search for hashtags, retweet interesting tweets, share links and follow updates easily. It’s easy to use, mobile-friendly, and fun.

While great for personal use, Twitter is also a great tool for companies to take advantage of. Some companies are great at interacting through Twitter, while other companies fail to remain relevant and interesting. AMA’s main Twitter account, AMA in the Community, does a pretty good job of listening, talking, energizing, supporting and embracing with Twitter. AMA responds to people who ask them questions or mention them on twitter, and listen to what people are saying about us. AMA also retweets people’s tweets, like positive experiences they’ve had with AMA – or more recently, photos of people enjoying their ice cream from the #AMAIceCreamTruck. This Twitter account also lets members know what’s new in the “AMA world”, and tweets about other happenings in Alberta, showing that AMA is #PracticallyFamily.

AMA in the Community's Twitter Account

Of course, Twitter is most effective if you choose a clear objective and strategy. Some learnings before going out and creating your own Twitter account (whether is be for a company, or person use) include:

  • Lock up your handle.
    • Make sure you get the Twitter handle you want. For example, if you’re company is called Super Sandwiches you’d want to get @SuperSandwiches as your twitter handle, before someone else does.
  • Listen first.
    • Simple enough.
  • Follow others.
    • Following someone can give them a thrill if you’re a well-known company/brand. You also need to follow them to give them a DM (direct message).
  • Be ready for a crisis.
    • Have a PR plan in place for when things go wrong. People will look to Twitter to get answers, and you better have them.
  • Respond, retweet and link.
    • An effective Twitter camapaign usually contains all of these elements.
  • Staff it.
    • Someone needs to have time to incorporate Twitter into their job (whether it be full-time, or an added duty).
  • Check with legal and regulatory stuff.
    • Don’t publish personal/private data on Twitter. It is open for the public to see. Also be sure you are prepared when doing contests on Twitter.
  • Having gathered a  following, don’t waste it!
    • Keep people engaged and continue to be active on Twitter (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 210 – 211)

If you don’t have a Twitter account yet, I definitely suggest you get one! It’s simple to use and sign up for. 🙂

-B.


Bibliography

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.

Helping the Groundswell Support Itself

This blog is a response to chapter 8 of the groundswell textbook called “helping the groundswell support itself” for my MARK4474 course.

Customers cost companies money – technical support calls cost money and add up over time. Of course, companies want to reduce their costs, and they can thanks to a combination of the wonderful world of the internet and outsourcing their call centers. I’m sure many people have Googled problems before calling companies to see if they can resolve the problem first.

When I bought my first Dell laptop and had a driver problem, I scoured the internet for a solution. Eventually, I found one! Someone else had posted the same problem I was having and I read every solution that other Dell owners had suggested to try and fix the problem. I fixed it, and never had to call Dell! People commenting on tech forums and Dell’s community support forums saved the day! I was happy that I solved the problem myself, and Dell was happy that I didn’t cost them money by calling them. It was a win-win situation. That’s not to say all problems can be resolved by Googling, but it can reduce the number significantly.

A screenshot of a few topics on the Dell laptop forum.

A screenshot of a few topics on the Dell laptop forum.

Some tactics companies can try and use to reduce the number of calls they get include:

  • Creating a forum where customers can ask questions and get answered by other customers and topic experts
  • Wikis where companies can share a collection of information and customers can edit and keep it active (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 163, 168)

Currently, the Alberta Motor Association has a knowledge base (aka FAQs) on their website. Members can type a question in the search bar and it will pull articles that were made by AMA, answering the customers question. Of course AMA can’t predict every question a customer will ask and write a webpage on it. Also, if members want to find opinions and ask questions to other AMA members before contacting AMA, there really isn’t a place to do so. I think it would be great for AMA to create a forum or community where members could talk to each other and ask questions like, “Has anyone been on the Riviera Cruise Trip? How was it, and what was your experience like?” or “I am looking for car insurance, but am having a hard time choosing what level to go with. Help?”

Having a forum would open it up for members to discuss their experiences with AMA Travel and the trips they’ve taken, and what to prepare for (like tips, etc.). This would help members in their decision making process, so when they talk to a travel agent they take up less time on the phone, or choose to book online because they are confident they have all the information they need. Or, if they have a question about how their membership works, where they can get discounts in their area, they can also find that information in the forum or ask it instead of calling AMA. This helps members that have questions feel more engaged with AMA (although not directly engaged), and will also make members who are answering others questions feel engaged in the community and with AMA.

Some things that AMA (or any company) should consider before creating a community include:

  • Start small, but plan for a larger presence (at AMA this may include just having the forum for one line of business, like travel, and then expanding it for others)
  • Reach out to your most active customers (they have insight on how they want to participate)
  • Plan to drive traffic to your community (advertise it, and use SEO to make sure it’s one of the top searches)
  • Build a reputation (people like feeling rewarded for their participation)
  • Let your customers lead you (listen to customers and users, and adapt accordingly) (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 174 – 176)

Of course, AMA can also have a presence on the forums and step in when needed, like if a question can’t be answered by a member. I believe that having a forum where members could talk and ask questions would be very beneficial. In a forum, AMA can both listen and participate, and act based on insights they’ve learned from the conversations that are happening.  🙂

-B.


Bibliography

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.

Can you hear me now?

This blog is a response to chapter 6 of the groundswell textbook called “talking with the groundswell” for my MARK4474 course.

Everyday, people are bombarded with marketing messages. Commercials, billboards, posters, signage, web ads, flyers, direct mail – the list goes on. Every company is SHOUTING, wanting their message to be heard. WHEN EVERYONE IS TALKING TO YOU LIKE THIS IT IS EASY TO IGNORE THEM. But, when a company talks to you, whether it be one-to-one or a message to a group of people, it kind of makes you want to listen. It’s interesting.

While advertising (SHOUTING) creates awareness about a product/service to consumers, talking to people about their opinions or even reading a stranger’s reviews on a product online greatly affect if the consumer will buy or not. Marketers call this a “marketing funnel” which follows the path of a consumer during their decision making process from start to finish.

Customers in the middle of the funnel are engaged in conversations on blogs, in discussion forums, and in social networks. Your company can participate in these places, but shouting doesn’t work. Conversations do.” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 102)

A great example that the textbook uses is Blendtech, which is known for their “Will it Blend” YouTube videos. Via the company’s  blog, they let people know when and where they can see a blender demonstration, and they also invited people to suggest different items to try and blend in their YouTube videos (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 102). One of my personal favorites is when they blend a bunch of glowsticks! Blendtech understands that they must talk to their customers, as well as listen and respond to them – and not constantly SHOUT.

 

There are a few different techniques for talking with the groundswell, they include:

  • Posting a video online, and letting people share it (aka “go viral”)
    • Creating a viral video is best for creating awareness
  • Engage in social media websites
    • Social networks helps spread word of mouth about your company
  • Start a blog
    • Blogs help solve the problem of having a complicated message (ex. complex products and services)
  • Create a community
    • Creating a community allows a company to move the conversation to a place where you can participate (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 103, 124-125)

When looking at the company I’ve been discussing in my blogs, the Alberta Motor Association, they are talking via both social media and blogs. Like previously mentioned, they have a Facebook page where respond to members posts, ask them questions and post relevant information related to AMA and Alberta. And with the relaunch of the AMA website, they started producing blog content. I think that AMA started to produce and talk via blogs to help solve the problem of having a complicated message.

AMA has so many products and services to offer and that the message can be a bit confusing. Of course, AMA wants members to know and feel that being a member is rewarding. Members can take advantage of AMA’s registry services, travel agency, insurance, and as a member, you can get discounts at places all across Alberta and around the world! Of course, most people get the membership for roadside assistance. However, it is important for members to know that their membership can also do so much more. If a member doesn’t use roadside assistance for some time, they may feel like it’s a waste of money. I think this is why AMA producing blogs is so important – so they can communicate and talk to members about everything AMA has to offer, as well as show that they are practically family, by posting blogs about topics that matter to Albertans.

-B.


Bibliography

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.

Hey, listen!

This blog is a response to chapter 5 of the groundswell textbook called “listening to the groundswell” for my MARK4474 course.

A wise fairy once told me, “Hey, listen!” This fairy was Navi of course from the Legend of Zelda series. I did not hear this once, but multiple times. The shrill piercing voice of Navi can easily be recalled from memory.

What wise words of wisdom they were! Listening is an important talent to have. Yes, I’m calling it a talent, as many people don’t know how to listen – most people just know how to talk.

Many people can talk the talk, but can they walk the walk? Many companies may think that they can and currently are. But are they really?

A really interesting point from the textbook that caught my attention was,

Marketers tell us they define and manage brands. Some spend millions, or hundred of millions, of dollars on advertising… We bought this brand, they say. We spent on it. We own it.

Bull.

Your brand it whatever your customer says it is” (Li & Bernoff, 2008, pp. 78).

Companies can spend as much money as they want trying to shape who they are, but when it comes down to it, what people think of a company’s brand is what is really is. A brand can be really convincing, but if the company doesn’t hold up their end of the deal, then that vision shatters.

The Alberta Motor Associations brand is “practically family”. AMA is there for your when you need them – they “save the day” rescuing when you’re stranded on the side of the road because your car broke down, or slid into a ditch in the winter time. And they’re also there for you for a lot of other things – from insurance to travel, and rewards to driver education.

I did some listening of my own for AMA, and here is what I found:

  • Googling “Alberta Motor Association sucks” revealed a blog from a couple years ago that had a chart comparing the different roadside assistance options. The blog itself was fair, but in the comments there was a disgruntled customer. However there were also many positive comments about AMA. The second listing on Google was a comment on the AMARewards portal sucked, as the member wanted to be able to take advantage of it in-store and not online.
  • Googling “Alberta Motor Association is great” showed multiple happy customer reviews on Yelp.
  • Taking a quick peak at the Alberta Motor Association Facebook page showed there are many positive wall posts made by people, and very few negative.
  • Searching for the Alberta Motor Association on Twitter didn’t pull up much besides some new articles and posts from the AMA twitter account.

Do people think that AMA is practically family? Well, a lot of people are thankful that AMA was there for them when they need it – especially for roadside assistance. AMA definitely has the opportunity to work with vendors that provide professional tools to help them listen, and set up private communities so they can gain more insight onto what their members are thinking. AMA can use this information to help change and adapt so they are viewed in the light they desire.

Listening is great skill that everyone needs to use and practice. Any relationship – whether it be husband and wife, friends, or a company and their customers, requires listening so they understand one another. Check out the video below to learn about how Ford uses social media to listen to their customers.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

-B.


Bibliography

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2008). Groundswell. Boston: Harvard Business Press