Small businesses rely on word-of-mouth marketing; I’ve never found one that didn’t. Some rely on it more than others, but I think every small business needs happy customers and/or interested observers to help spread the business name to friends.
This human element of marketing is part of the SEO Success Pyramid, and can come in several forms: buzz/viral marketing, word-of-mouth, community development, and more. These aren’t found among the pyramid blocks, but they help you along as you work your way up the pyramid. They’re the gray arrows on each side pointing from bottom to top.
Community was the focus of Wendy Piersall‘s excellent presentation last month at the Small Business Marketing Unleashed conference in Houston.
Wendy runs Sparkplugging.com, a super-successful blog network with a large community of readers; your situation may be different, but you still have a community of customers and need to take care of them. So, in the points below, I’ll add “customers” next to each mention of community to show how the ideas apply to any business.
WIIFM? (What’s In It For Me?)
One of the key points Wendy emphasized is the need to take good care of your community. With every decision you make, ask yourself what’s in it for your community (customers). Because that’s what they’re always asking: “What’s in it for me?” If your community (customers) wants something, give it to them.
Making happy customers is your primary goal; happy customers are the ones most likely to tell friends about your product or service. Strong word-of-mouth marketing always begins with happy customers.
Communicating with your Community (Customers)
Wendy emphasized the need to respect your community when communicating with them. She shared four things under the heading, Really Important Stuff:
- People want to connect with people. Be authentic, be personal to maintain relevance.
- Lay out the welcome mat. Create sections on your site for new members (customers), encourage stupid questions, make it OK to feel uncomfortable. “You’re only a stranger once.”
- Give members (customers) a voice. Community is a conversation, not a lecture. (I would say that marketing, when it’s great, is also a conversation.)
- Make your members (customers) Rock Stars. How? Reward their participation: give public recognition, create membership levels in a forum, showcase their talent, etc.
You may not be building a blog network, or creating the next great niche forum, but the concepts of community development apply to any business. And they’re an important part of the SEO Success Pyramid. A strong community of happy customers will push you up the pyramid more quickly, helping all aspects of your online marketing plan.
You can download Wendy’s “Building a Community” presentation on Sparkplugging.com.