Selling a product that lacks sex appeal?

Wood flooringAttract, assist, and affiliate are the cornerstones of today’s collaborative marketing model, but if your product is wood flooring, like that pictured to your right, your sales campaign is more challenging than if you were promoting Green Bay Packer tickets. Relationship selling? Who is going to follow Tweets about wood laminates? You can’t woo customers with targeted product releases or blog content if they won’t first “like” a Facebook page dedicated to removing dog hair from vents, right? You’ve launched a catalogue and/or why-to-buy web site; now, is direct mail to homeowners-at-large your only other option? No! If we delve a little deeper, you might be missing opportunities to (yes) create fans. Fans buy products and they also influence others to buy, so before we give up on cultivating your niche market, let’s give your brand a little boost in the sex appeal department.

Create a mission that serves a higher purpose than your product or service

People become “fans” for many reasons, but the strongest bond is formed when you cultivate trust that the brand wants to “do good”. Let’s talk soap for example. Ivory sells purity; its mission is to keep your baby safe from harmful additives. It hasn’t changed its message over time or identified with any other platform than its own. “Recommended by four out of five moms”, Ivory soap has 45,656 Facebook (FB) “likes” at the time of this writing. Dawn dish soap has 68,374 likes. When Dawn dedicated a facebook page called Dawn Everyday Wildlife Champions, clearly stating its product’s oil spill application and use — and its commitment to supporting wildlife during and after the BP oil spill — that page earned 497,958 likes.

By comparison, Dove soap has 683 likes as a stand-alone product FB page. However, Dove soap’s “real beauty” ad campaign, was created “to provoke discussion and encourage debate” about the startling fact that only about 2% of American women and girls consider themselves to be beautiful. Dove’s “real beauty” FB page has garnered 15,147,939 likes! Comments in the section show the fan’s adoration of the mission behind the product, and their resulting loyalty to the product.

Causes sell products. Can you clearly communicate a social consciousness alongside product utility? Think about impact. The more global your goodness (beyond your sales goals), the deeper traction the brand can get.

Invest in participatory platforms

I’m going to buy windows – a one-time purchase – and I want to know what other people have to say about area vendors. I’m not alone. Since more than 80% of online content is now user-generated, your social media competes with highly interactive content, calling for a fundamental paradigm shift away from marketing at consumers, and toward marketing with consumers.

This is a critical mindset because consumers are buying from consumers today, rather than from you. In fact, 70% of consumers report being influenced by customer feedback when it comes to choosing a brand. And polling also has its place in the one-time-sale space, where people have few emotional bonds to the buying decision. Asking potential consumers for their opinion – online or at trade shows, etc. — can bridge disinterest or neutrality. According to a recent survey by Crowdtap, 64% of the people asked to give their opinion about some aspect of a product said they then were highly likely to consider purchasing the product.

Monitor other conversations

Kleenex hit a home run with Israeli agency Smoyz, which searched through Facebook status updates looking for people suffering from colds and the flu. The agency then acquired addresses for the 50 people it chose by contacting their online friends, letting them know they would send them surprise Kleenex kits to help them feel better. Kleenex sent the kits with a request that the recipients post their reactions to getting them on Facebook, and the goodwill packages earned a 100% response rate for photo posting. The reach out also earned over 650,000 campaign views on the Kleenex site.

What we can learn from that example is to meet our customers in their own space at the same time we are trying to pull them into ours – and then take them by surprise with a relevant mission, a random act of kindness, or even a message that they want to hear that may have nothing to do with our product. And remember the polling idea? Guess who launched a limited edition “design your own box” contest in the U.K. and Ireland this past May? Kleenex is on a roll, and we can all learn from its example.

Since online success breeds online success, consider launching some Facebook-only or Twitter-only campaigns to teach consumers to check in with you often, and then post good content at least weekly.

Have a topic you’d like us to consider? Email it today!

About Jody Glynn Patrick

Jody is President of Glynn Patrick & Associates, which provides management consulting, executive coaching and strategic planning services. She is Publisher Emeritus of In Business magazine, which she published for 17 years. Selected as the “U.S. Business Journalist of the Year” in 2007 in Washington, DC, by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Jody has been a business reporter, editor, radio talk show host , and has won other state and national journalism awards. At the same time, she has helped corporate clients grow their businesses -- the basis for her practical coaching advice here. She also was the 2005 Athena Award recipient for her leadership role in mentoring other professional women. Jody will be talking with you weekly on TDS’ blog to share her insights and tips from the C-Suite perspective. Follow on G+.

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