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Digital Word of Mouth

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Posted 31st October 2009 at 05:57 PM by Gama Seva

In classic marketing techniques, referrals are limited. You can ask your customers to refer you, but unless you're willing to pay them substantial referral fees, the odds that they will refer you are spotty. Human nature is that most people won't do something unless there's something in it for them. On the Internet, however, you can literally have armies of people referring you, and they might not even be your customers! All you have to do is know how to exploit the digital word of mouth.

There are many ways to get noticed on the Internet, but having someone vouch for you is the best way. People pay attention to what their friends like and who they promote. You can use that knowledge to create sales campaigns online that will make it easy and even profitable for people to refer business back to you online.

An Army Of Affiliates

One such way is to create an affiliate program and recompense people for promoting your offers online. Unlike a word-of-mouth referral, the pay can be per click or performance-based, depending on the affiliate network you use. Either way, you will not be paying hundreds of dollars for just one lead; you'll be paying a few dollars apiece and have an army of willing Internet marketers who want new affiliate offers to promote eagerly advertising for you.

If you're really smart, you'll want to create a multi-tiered affiliate program that not only rewards people for advertising your links, but also for referring other affiliates to you. That way, you’ll spend less time recruiting and creating advertising campaigns and let other people do the work for you. All you have to do is to provide a commission on the sales of the recruited sub-affiliates to the main affiliate for a specific period of time to motivate them more to recruit for you too.

Easy Promotion To Friends Or Followers

Make it easy for others to promote your sales or offers. Give them a little something back, like a referral bonus, for everyone they get to sign up. One way to do this is to have a referral sign-up area where visitors can add multiple email addresses to friends who might want to take advantage of some service you offer. Provide a template of the email that will be sent out when they add the email address to list and give a sign-up bonus for each person that takes the bait.

Use the power of the Internet to find new people to add to your contact list. Instead of buying lists from third-party companies, try to build your own organic lists. This would be very difficult to do offline, but online, the opportunity to connect with people who might be interested in your products or services is much easier. You can even take advantage of the newer social networking communities to facilitate the addition of friends and followers to your marketing activities.

If you've never gotten into social networking, now is the time to start. It's as simple as registering with places like Twitter.com or Facebook.com. Depending on the demographic you are trying to reach with your products or services, you might want to try out a few. Places like MySpace.com tend to draw in a younger demographic than Facebook, which originated as a way for college students to keep in touch. Twitter can reach a wide range of ages, but it's a bit trickier to draw in a targeted demographic, specifically for that reason.

Registering with these sites is free. You are not allowed to solicit people, but the point of joining them as an Internet marketer is to build your contact list, not necessarily to solicit them on the site. Once you have a bigger list of contacts, you can start engaging techniques to pull people off the other sites into your own online marketing ventures so as not to violate the terms of service agreement you have with each site.

After registering, you will want to post a profile on each site. There will be an area there for contact information and URLs that you can use to promote your different activities online. Always seek to aim your profile at the demographic you are trying to market. This will help you attract friends and followers who will be interested in what you have to offer as a business person, not just as a personal contact.

The Art Of The Soft Sell

Marketing yourself online is much different than classical marketing models offline. If you tried to use the same approach as a television commercial or the copy on a sales brochure, you would quickly find that this approach just doesn't work very well. People are quite jaded about being marketed online, and there are strict guidelines about how you can market to people there too. Whereas you might have the ability to buy mailing lists offline and send out postcards or advertisements to any house on that list with impunity, you will quickly find that the same is not true online. You can buy lists of email addresses from third-party vendors, but spam these addresses without their permission, and you can get in trouble and fined, not to mention that people will be pretty put off by the spamming.

For that reason, and many others, you have to really be careful on how you market people online. If you were to get on a social networking site and instantly start to solicit people, the end result would be that the administrators would ban you as a marketer, and you will have gotten nowhere for all of your troubles. You have to start to learn the casual art of the soft sell to succeed online. Soft selling doesn't have to be timid, but it can't be as hyper-aggressive as most classic models of marketing. You aren't going to be hammering people down until you make a sale. You are going to be building long-term relationships online that will produce fruit ONLY after a period of time. It may seem counter-productive to spend time cultivating relationships instead of instant sales, but in the end, it will pay off as people become loyal followers and friends and send other people your way due to your authentic approach.

Email Versus Snail Mail

The cornerstone to your approach for beginning the soft sell is always the contact list. Without the contact list and permission to contact people on the list, you will not get anywhere. You can buy lists, but half the time, the email addresses will be obsolete, fake, or not within your intended demographic. Plus, you take your chances subscribing someone from a list to your email campaign without his/her permission. It will quickly get you tagged as a spammer and can make you liable under Federal laws for damages.

Snail mail, though, is really old-fashioned. If you had to go back to that, you would find out that there are large expenses associated with sending out mass mailings, only to receive a paltry number of responses. It's also not terribly easy for people to reply as they have to switch mediums, from paper to online, or send something back in written form and put a stamp on it. In this day of convenience, snail mail is a highly inconvenient and expensive way to do your marketing.

Email, on the other hand, is free. No matter how many copies of an email you send out, it will be digitally spread and there are no stamps, packaging, or mailing efforts associated with it. When people receive an email, they can instantly reply, and it doesn't cost them anything either. If you have embedded links to your offers and sales, they don't have to put down a piece of paper, log in, and then find your website. They just click the link and they're there. It's a highly convenient and inexpensive way to market to people, but it does take some degree of responsibility to use this medium properly.

Growing Organic Lists

The big thing these days in Internet marketing is learning how to grow “organic” lists. These lists are lists that are homegrown and are very finely tuned to the demographic you are marketing to. They are authenticated lists with people who are genuinely interested in what you offer and what you have to say. The larger your organic list, the more potential there is to market your products and services to a wider audience with a simple click of a mouse.

Getting online on social networking sites is one of the most powerful ways to start building an organic list. However, you won't be able to directly solicit people on these lists until you get their permission to contact them outside of these sites. You might even be able to see a contact email address from within the site, but these people make it very hard to harvest email addresses. They make them image files that you can't automatically cut and paste into an address book, or they simply hide them (based on the users’ preferences).

That doesn't mean that you can’t get contact information; it just means that you are going to have to build the relationship to get it. You will want to update people using your status bar, posted links, and even using third-party applications to let people into your life so that they can get to know you. Once they find you interesting and worthwhile, they will contact you or click the links you provide to learn more and more about who you are and what you do. If some of those links go off-site where they can opt-in to get a freebie in exchange for permission to be added to your organic email list, then you will start to reap the benefits of creating a large group of followers or friends on these sites.

Double-Opt In Lists

Put in place a double opt-in list if you have a choice. These are lists that are created only when a subscriber has authenticated the addition of his/her email to your list via replying to an authentication email your system sends out. This does several things. It keeps people from adding fake addresses to your list in an attempt to get a freebie for nothing. It also keeps people from insisting that they did not give permission and that you are spamming them. Double opt-in lists protect you as an Internet marketer and keep your lists authentic.

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Double opt-in forms are very easy to implement on any sales page you put up. They not only serve the purpose of filtering people off the social networking sites and getting authentic emails that you can market to, but they also work well for the random visitors to your sales pages who got there via the search engines. Typically, the shorter the opt-in form, the more likely someone will sign up for it. You can make longer forms to capture snail mail addresses, but these are not likely to generate the same results as a simple email capture.

Keep your opt-in forms short enough to get an email address and not too much else. You can always request that a person update his/her information once he/she has been added to your email campaign. Otherwise, you may lose the opportunity to connect with a new person simply because he’s/she’s not willing to hand out any more information than an email address.

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