Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Procedure for Mobile Viral Marketing

This entry is inspired by an actual implementation of word of mouth marketing, applied by the late professor Nicolas Hontzeas when he started the first overseas branch of the National Hellenic Conservatory of Music in Montreal Quebec (Εθνικό Ωδείο, παράρτημα Μόντρεαλ).
So this entry isn’t inspired by a textbook or an MBA course, but from true life experiences, experiences I had the pleasure of participating in.
First of all I should mention that any type of viral marketing,mobile or otherwise, is more effective when it comes to building awareness for services rather than products. This is because services can’t be trialed beforehand by the consumer, and perception is formed upon the actual purchasing and experiencing of the service. The consumer then, after having experienced the services, is prone through word of mouth or a communication device to promote, not promote, or negatively comment on the service. Services are also much more sensitive to after purchase effects such as cognitive dissonance.
Indeed, before purchasing any sort of service (whether visiting a doctor, attending a music conservatory, going and listening to a rock band or a symphony orchastra etc…) the consumer is apt to direct his inquiries to family, friends, a social group, and/or a group of experts to seek advice and referrals. After having experienced the service, the consumer will detail his/her experiences again to the same groups mentioned above, including the detailed expression of his/her level of satisfaction (and reasons) with the service as well as act as a future information reference for the service. Communication will be done through word of mouth, or an extention of this human capability via communication networks (internet, and mobile internet, fixed or mobile phone network) and the respective communication or mobile communication devices.

Before I outline the procedure, I would like to also mention something else.
When it comes to marketing and selling, there is a common saying that you can’t sell refrigerators to eskimos. Well it depends. If every Eskimo is using natural refrigeration (I’m omiting greenhouse effects and the opportunities that may arise because of this sad statement of human irresponsibility) then maybe Mrs. Eskimo would like to differentiate herself from most of the other Mrs. Eskimos by purchasing and showing off her uniqueness (and higher income capabilities) through a refrigerator. Of course this implies that the necessary infrastructure and supply chain exists to support the product and its accompagning services, but maybe the benefits offered by the technology (cleaner, longer freezing cycles not dependent on nature etc.. as well as the “showing off” factor) may provide enough motivation to support a sale. And if this sale goes well, you can be sure that some of the other Mrs. Eskimos (through viral communication) may wanna purchase the technology and related services. Thus the importance of marketing research and knowing who your customers (and related tastes, habits and propensities) are.

Proposed Procedure:
  1. Make sure that you indeed have something different, and worthwhile to offer. You first of all must believe in your offering, must understand your offering, and must ensure that your offering is different from other offerings. Differentiation can be in features, services and price (although if you’re basing you offering solely on price beware of pricing wars and possible comoditization; any offering based solely on price means that it is no different from other offerings and with possible bracketing within the staple products group). So as Mark McCormack say’s were basically talking about common sense and if we haven’t got any of that, then there’s nothing more to be said.
  2. Communicate your offering to a small group of people, preferably by word of mouth. Get them to try it and ensure that what you advertise is what you deliver. The targeted group of people should be a portion of your target market and should include initialy, if not solely, the reference group of this service. If you’re dealing with a new industry (or are in the process of creating a new industry) then single out individuals that are known to you, or by referral, whom this service may be use. The google initiators used their Standford contacts,and Marc Zuckerberg his harvard friends. Then through word of mouth and trial the services (both google and facebook are services) expanded rapidly, of course bot services were unique and good. Talking directly with people instead of mass communication via technology will avoid spam effects and the related psychological turnoffs. We will all do well to remember that Markets are conversations.
  3. Once the offering has been gone through the limited friendly trials, then communicate with the trialees and ask them for feedback and improvements. Then motivate them to mention your offering to their friends and social groups.
  4. After obtaining permission only, streamline your communication to your friendly users through technology (SMS lists, email lists,social network communication forums and messaging technologies and other communication enablers) and encourage your initial circle to promote this useful offering to those they think may benefit. Offer something in return for each new member brought by your initial circle.
  5. Always keep a list of your customers, expand your communication streamlining and always communicate with your potential customers requesting feedback, improvements and related information updates of new features,services and releases.
  6. As your information circle expands go back to 4.
Finally remember that viral marketing, mobile or otherwise, may be whole it itself or a subset of the overall marketing program depending on what you have to offer and who you’re targeting the offering for.
Its a pretty rough procedure and I’ll improve it through more research and feedback, but its enough to give a general idea

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