People I talk to about endorsement marketing constantly ask the same question: “How can I put my best users/customers/zealots to work in getting the word out for me?”.
This is the right idea.
The key is to first make sure you clearly understand the motivation of your users to when it comes to them actually evangelizing you. And, don’t flatter yourself. Only the most zealous of your users will do so out of their sheer passion for you and your stuff. The rest are really just self-interested like the rest of us.
Put yourself in the mindset of one of your customers who might be in a position to spread the good word for you. Most of your best prospects for this are people who thrive on recognition, fame, notoriety, and the pride in being known as an expert. Classic “maven” stuff. (Re-read Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point” folks).
Thus, what you want to do is give them a vehicle for promoting themselves with you benefiting from a down-stream halo-effect of their self-promotion.
What do I mean, exactly? How about a couple of examples.
One that I’ve seen first-hand work particularly well is the “People Love us on Yelp” campaign I had a hand in creating and implementing during my time at Yelp. This program is a recognition program for great local businesses who have received a requisite number of high quality reviews from their customers on Yelp.
The “window cling” is a badge of honor for the business owner, who typically prominently puts the sticker in their storefront window for all patrons to see. All the while, they are tacitly promoting (and even endorsing) Yelp.
Awards are great for this sort of thing – particularly for business-to-business endorsements (“Zagat rated”, “Best of Citysearch”, “Webby Award Winner” and other recognition programs come to mind). I mean, who wouldn’t want to brag about these honors?
As for getting humans (your users) to embrace this idea, there are fewer obvious examples. What come to mind are aspirational (and often high-fashion) brands where consumers willingly flaunt these brands as a way to express their own identity (think Abercrombie & Fitch, Coach, Honda Element, you get the idea).
In the realm of online, I’m starting to see this happen with so-called “widgets” (someone nuke this term, please) or “applications” on social media sites (like Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, etc.). The way this works is that a brand or company creates a cool, funny or useful utility that a person can “install” on their page, thereby tacitly promoting the corresponding brand and spreading the word on their behalf. Music brands (iMeem, Last.fm, etc.) have done this well and there are many others. (Other examples folks?!)
Finally, giving customers VIP status and facilititing them to flaunt their VIP status is another idea to consider. More than giving your best customer card-carrying status, see if you can figure out a way to enable them to flaunt their status in a way that is visable to others. But, as always, be careful about authenticity and maintaining purity of motivation.
Let’s hear from you. What are the ways you’ve seen this work in your world?! Discuss!!!