Once you become presentable through good grooming, it’s time for you to make contact: that is, distribute your brand name to the masses with some advertising.
The options to advertise are many (ranging from billboards, TV spots, banner ads, pay-per-click, affiliate programs, etc.), yet the goal is universal: get your name out there. Similar to individuals seeking companionship, the method you choose to get noticed as a marketer depends on a few things: your level of desperation, available resources, quality of your product, existing contact base and degree of creativity.
I’ll give you some examples…
I could walk up to a girl in a bar and just plain ask her for her number. This is the equivalent of billboard that simply says: Buy Brand X! There’s no context. She doesn’t know why she should give me her number any more than why she should buy Brand X.
If I do make it into a conversation with a potential date, I might try structuring my responses around what she is talking about. This is analagous to search engine marketing (SEM), which uses keyword search terms to drive ad placement. Effective, yes, since users searching for a given item will see ads pertaining to that item next to the search results. But as attention spans shorten, users have less patience to look at ads in addition to search results.
I like golf. I could hang out at the golf course and try to strike up a conversation with a lady-golfer, hopefully hitting it off over a shared interest. Advertisers do this all the time, online and off. A golf retailer advertises in a golf magazine and/or on a golf website, knowing that the readers ready to buy as well as learn will be a subset of the total subscribers.
I could use online dating to find a companion. This is akin to buying leads from a 3rd party: it’s easy if you have money, but the quality is sometimes dubious.
I could hire a matchmaker to set me up on dates with women they’ve screened for compatibility. This is comparable to an affiliate network, where publishers are paid for each new sale they drive to your brand. Of course, not every sale is the same… some “stick” longer than others.
I could always just stalk somebody until they notice me. Behavioral targeting and banner ad Retargeting methodologies do just this: they identify your target user, cookie them, and show them your ads everywhere they wind up going online. This can be very effective for marketers (and stalkers, actually), as long their approach doesn’t become too obvious or intrusive.
Or, a friend could set me up with someone he thinks I would like. Think of this as word-of-mouth marketing (WOM). This is some of the best distribution you can get; studies show 90% of consumers trust friends whereas only 10% trust ads. Facebook, Twitter, email and other digital channels make this easier now than ever, for marketers and for singles.
Extole’s Refer-A-Friend product focuses on the last approach of WOM and referrals. This is one of your most powerful channels. But it’s not easy. How do you incentivize your users to refer their friends while maintaining the sense of sincerity around the recommendation? And how do you manage the program while maintaining the friend-to-friend experience?
We create solutions that maintain the feel of a pure, sincerely-motivated referral. Here are a few ways we do this:
Provide relevant incentives. Reward your users for referring their friends by giving them a discount to your site or a free product. If they actually care about sharing your brand, this should entice them properly. If you do decide to go with a 3rd-party reward, at least make it relevant. We have a client who specializes in iPhone and iPad warranties and because their customers already have warranties, a discount there doesn’t make sense. Instead, we give away an iTunes gift card to anyone the successfully refers a friend, because it’s a very reasonable assumption that iPhone and iPad users would value an iTunes card.
Make it personal. When consumers share with friends using our platform, the email they send comes directly from them vs. from us, is delivered in plain text vs fancy HTML, and the sender’s address shows as the referrer’s address, not firstname.lastname@example.org or something commercial.
Make it easy. With our platform, users can choose how they share (whether via email, Facebook, Twitter, IM, etc.), and can also customize what they say to their friends. After seeing some of the messages people have sent, you can believe me when I say are personalized. The range of “color” consumers use in our programs is vast, and maintains an authentic tone with their friends, who would probably delete a canned email if their friend hadn’t had the opportunity to customize it.
Make sure your customers know about it. Effective promotion isn’t always obvious. For example, advertising your referral program on your home page is often less effective than promoting it on the customer account, post-sale confirmation page, or even via dedicated email drops to your customer distribution list.
If I were an advertiser (or if I were single), I’d test a number of the techniques employed above. SEM, affiliate programs, banner ads, billboards, ads in magazine, behavioral targeting, content targeting all have value and you’ll want to explore them all to find all your potential users. But without a WOM or user-to-user approach, you are missing out on one of your most valuable marketing tools: your own customers.