One of the most effective ways to get a prospect to try a new product is to have it recommended by a friend. There are a couple of big advantages to using this kind of feedback. First, friends listen to friends and trust their opinions and recommendations more than they do an obvious advertisement. Second, the marketer doesn’t have to pay for this kind of advertising. It’s free!
Word-of-mouth has always been invaluable for marketing, but these days, with the Internet magnifying the possibilities, positive word of mouth can skyrocket the success of a business.
Before the days of electronic communication, one person who liked a product could tell a friend, or maybe even a number of friends, but it would mostly be through individual, one-on-one contact. But now, thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and even plain old-fashioned email, one individual can share information with every friend he or she has.
But perhaps direct mail marketers have thought that this kind of effect is outside of their purview. Direct mail is sent to individuals, and that’s it. It isn’t possible for people to press the “Like” button on a magalog and have it go up on their Wall.
You should remember that one of the strengths of direct mail marketing is that it plays well with others. It can be used in conjunction with just about any other form of marketing to increase the power of both media.
So let’s look at some of the ways you can use direct mail marketing to encourage prospects to share the information about you with others.
Engage Your Customers
Social media is – well – social. It is used to build connections, express opinions, create a feeling of unity across space. That means that if you want to increase your customers’ social media use with regard to you, you have to be social with them. Be friendly. Ask for their opinion. Send friendly messages that make them feel good and want to share. Cultivate relationships.
So, let’s say you send regular mailings to existing customers. Perhaps you want to let them know about seasonal promotions or upsell them to new products. Build some buzz by creating a “family” or “club-like” feeling in the copy. Have one individual – a personality – who represents your company and signs your sales pieces, as though they’re coming from this one person. If your customers feel as though they’re part of a community and that somehow they have a stake in your success, they’re more likely to share information about you. So use every mailing you send them to foster those friendly feelings.
Reward Customers for Sharing
In your mailings to your customers, encourage them to tell others about you, and tell them they’ll get a nice gift if a new customer mentions their name as having referred you to them. Then take the next step, and send a thank you to the referring customer. Recently, I was discussing this very issue with a business associate, and she told me this story:
“Years ago, we referred someone to Allstate. Our agent sent us a hand-written thank you note, chocolates, and I can’t remember what other do-dads, along with some of her business cards in case we thought of anyone else we would like to refer. It was a nice touch and made us feel good about referring the person.”
Here’s another technique you often see in the magazine publishing industry. Many magazines send letters to subscribers offering them a free gift subscription for a friend if they renew their own subscription. They will even send a gift card in the subscriber’s name to let the recipient of the gift subscription know about it. The subscriber is rewarded by being seen as generous, and is therefore more likely to share the name and address of a friend. The magazine is making very good use of word of mouth to build its subscriber list – and its value to its advertisers.
Send Something That People Want to Share
Word-of-mouth advertising can also be encouraged by sending unique and creative sales pieces or informational material that people want to share. For example, you can send a piece with color-changing ink that reacts to changes in temperature, or when placed in sunlight. Other fun possibilities include edible paper and ink, or water-reactive materials that you have to run under water to make a hidden message appear.
You can also mail interesting toys or promotional materials related to your business – what we call tchotchkes – that people might find delightful and want to show others. Whatever you send that people want to share with others will spread your name around.
Use direct mail to invite your customers to a special customer appreciation event
Send out a direct mail piece to your customers inviting them to a special event at your place of business. Maybe a Halloween costume party, a spring flower event where you give out potted plants or packets of seeds, just a little party with punch and cookies – and tell your customers to bring friends. This brings social networking right into your office.
Use the Word of Mouth That Comes to You
Finally, you can use the good word of mouth that you hear about yourself. When clients and customers give you great testimonials, put them in your direct mail pieces. When you send your pieces to a new group of prospects, they will be assured if they see that other people like them are enthusiastic about you and your product.
Testimonials always improve the effectiveness of sales pieces. You can subtly ask for them by asking customers to tell you how you’re doing, fill out opinion surveys, take polls, and so on. Then share your good feedback with others by adding them to your sales message.