Are Customers Really The Best Marketing?

In a far-reaching post, Brad Feld asks the question: “Are customers your best marketing?

Yes. Well, yes (mostly). To beat an already overused word into twitching submission, the marketing done by customers has to “authentic,” doesn’t it? (Don’t get me started on the whole Bzzagent thing again.) In other words, what a company provides has to do one of two things:

  • Provide real value (in the form of information or insight)
  • Provide something that is creative and/or entertaining

These are the obstacles that need to be overcome in order to get folks talking around the real and virtual water coolers, IMHO.

Back to Brad. Feld:

“[Companies need to] stop talking about “marketing” and instead focus on getting their existing customers to tell the world about their product through blogs, references, online interviews, and at cocktail parties (these are both products that the target customer will ultimately start talking to a friend about over a drink).”

Good stuff. Read the whole thing.

Update: Graham Hill brings up two great points in the comments below.

2 Replies to “Are Customers Really The Best Marketing?”

  1. Chris

    If you take a look at the Bass Diffusion Model that describes the rate of uptake of a new product in a market (or any of the other standard product diffusion models), you will see that uptake is driven by a combination of traditional marketing and “word-of-mouth” (WOM) marketing. And that WOM marketing only becomes really effective once a critical mass of customers have already started to use the product and have developed a very favourable opinion.

    I see two key challenges:

    1. Getting traditional marketing and WOM marketing to effectively work together to drive rapid uptake. WOM marketing alone is simply not enough to drive rapid uptake with the vast majority of products.

    2. Providing products (and wrap around services and experiences) that are good enough to drive customers to want to tell other people. That means organising the business system that sits underneath each product to deliver a superior “end-to-end experience” for the customer. Most products are common or garden and are simply not worth telling anybody about.

    Graham Hill

  2. Graham…your point (2) is really the crux of this, isn’t it? If the product’s not worth talking about, should it even be on the market? Actually, let me rephrase that…the *product* is really only one part of the equation. You’re spot-on when you say it’s the “end-to-end” experience that matters — the product, the people, the service, the support, etc. — the whole enchilada. If that entire package isn’t worth talking about, then that class of offering from that provider is doomed to failure. You can still be offering a “commodity” product (that is, the “thing” itself), but if superior service or experience or support can be wrapped around it, the product ceases to be a commodity at that point, doesn’t it?

    Re: Bass Diffusion Model

    Of course, this is the canonical link on the “Bass Diffusion Model”:

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