“Topics”: The Second Step in Developing Word of Mouth for CDFIs

12 Jun

Welcome to the third post in our series about creating powerful word of mouth marketing for community development financial institutions. As we mentioned in our intro to WOM for CDFIs, using the Andy Sernovitz/Word of Mouth Marketing book approach to developing WOM, there are five key elements of developing word of mouth. Conveniently and alliteratively, they all start with the letter ‘T’:

  • Talkers: who will be most likely to talk about us (when given something worth talking about)?
  • Topics: what will these Talkers find so interesting that they can’t keep it to themselves?
  • Tools: what can we do to make sure the Talkers are able to share the Topics easily?
  • Taking Part: once we’ve spurred word of mouth with our Talkers about our Topics, how can we join the conversation?
  • Tracking: now that there is WOM about our CDFI, how can we keep track of it and measure its impact on our business?

In today’s post, we will discuss the second ‘T,’ Topics.

What Are Topics?

Topics are the things we can “give” talkers that they find so darn interesting, they can’t possibly keep it to themselves. In other words, it’s the thing that they actually find buzzworthy and want to tell others about. It might be something tangible or physical we gave them (like a gift, or a voucher for a free sample), or an idea or message we gave them (like a slogan, a joke, or surprising offer).

So, what kinds of things do people find so interesting? Well, the specifics vary from person-to-person, but in general there are things that we humans tend to take special notice of:

  • Things that make us feel important, smart or in-the-know
  • Things that surprise or shock us
  • Things that make us laugh
  • Things that we have a strong opinion about
  • Things that make us feel helpful to others

Let’s look at a few examples of buzzworthy things we an all relate to.

Tom’s Shoes: People talk about Tom’s Shoes all the time. Why? Because with their one-for-one program, for every pair you buy, the give a pair away to a kid in a developing country. This is a talkable idea–it surprises us with its generosity.

A Great New Restaurant: Remember the last time you went to an amazing new restaurant? The next time you saw your friends, you were sure to tell them all about Chez Delish, and the amazing experience you had there. Unexpected free dessert, the chef came out and introduced herself, and they wrapped up your leftovers in tinfoil and shaped it into a dinosaur for your son. You told your friends all about this memorable, talkable experience because it made you feel cool, in-the-know and helpful to be the first one to discover and recommend this great new place.

Viral Ads: I’ve shared Kmart’s recent ad campaign with my friends on Facebook. Why would I market Kmart’s ads for them, for free, to my friends? Because it was shockingly funny and I knew my friends would appreciate it if I shared it with them. And I loved knowing they heard about it from me first.

The Bottom Line: People talk because it makes them feel good to do so.

Each Talker Probably Needs A Different Topic

To be most effective, you must custom select your topics based on your Talkers, and what will make them feel good to talk about. That means, you must brainstorm Topics on a Talker-by-Talker basis.

Example

Let’s go back to the Talkers we identified in our previous post. We had chosen one Talker group, Small Business Borrowers, and identified that they were likely to care and talk to their friends about:

  • Growth: Increasing sales and growing the business
  • Vision: Seeing their dream come to life
  • Financial Stability: Being able to continue making their payments on time
  • Stress: Avoiding and managing the pressure

Given this insight, what are a few things we might brainstorm that we could “give” them that they would find remarkable and talkable? Here are just a few quick ideas:

Tangible Items

  • A “skip-a-payment” voucher at the end of the year, mailed with a handwritten card that says “Finish the year strong–skip a payment this holiday season” (credit unions have been known to do this)
  • A framed picture of their business, to hang in their office.
  • Placing an ad in the paper with their business name and picture, with a “congratulations on your growth–we are proud of you” message (law firms do this all the time)

Ideas and Messages

  • Offer to donate $500 to their favorite charity for every referral they give you in July.
  • Make it a policy that whenever a borrower closes a second loan with you, your Executive Director will cook them a homemade dinner for their whole family.
  • Always shake hands with your left hand–tell them it’s your way of making sure they don’t forget your agreements

These, of course, are just examples. Some are silly, others are serious, and a couple of them I can already see you are planning to steal. Please do. The main point is this:

Every touch point is a chance to be remarkable.

If you just take the time to ask “how can I make this touch point remarkable instead of just going through the motions?” you have the opportunity to create another great Topic for your Talkers.

Action Step: For each of the previously identified Talker groups from the previous post, brainstorm at least one Topic that you think would get them talking. What could you give them–tangible or intangible–that they wouldn’t be able to keep to themselves because it was so memorable?

Next Article: “Tools”

The articles in our word of mouth marketing series are cumulative and sequential. Now that you’ve got a good understanding of Talkers and Topics, we can move on and talk about the third ‘T’: Tools: ”How can we make our talkable message spread further and faster?”

“Talkers”: The First Step in Developing Word of Mouth for CDFIs

28 May

Welcome to the second post in our series about creating powerful word of mouth marketing for community development financial institutions. As we mentioned in our intro to WOM for CDFIs, using the Andy Sernovitz/Word of Mouth Marketing book approach to developing WOM, there are five key elements of developing word of mouth. Conveniently and alliteratively, they all start with the letter ‘T':

  • Talkers: who will be most likely to talk about us (when given something worth talking about)?
  • Topics: what will these Talkers find so interesting that they can’t keep it to themselves?
  • Tools: what can we do to make sure the Talkers are able to share the Topics easily?
  • Taking Part: once we’ve spurred word of mouth with our Talkers about our Topics, how can we join the conversation?
  • Tracking: now that there is WOM about our CDFI, how can we keep track of it and measure its impact on our business?

Today we dive right in and start learning all about the first ‘T’ for CDFIs: Talkers

Who Are The Talkers for CDFIs?

Talkers are the people who are mostly likely to talk about you–IF we give them something that’s worthy of talking about.

Because of the many different audiences and stakeholder groups your CDFI communicates with, you likely have a long, varied list of Talkers you can focus on. And while the exact Talker groups will be different for each CDFI, there are definitely some common categories of potential Talkers to consider:

  • Loan applicants
  • Current borrowers
  • Your investors
  • Your partners
  • Media people (reporters, etc.)
  • Depositors (if you’re set up as a depository institution)
  • Lawmakers
  • Local movers and shakers
  • Your staff

Be as specific as possible in segmenting your list. For instance, you may choose to break “current borrowers” down into three smaller groups: small business borrowers, individual borrowers and affordable housing borrowers, because they have different attributes and perspectives.

And remember, companies don’t talk; people talk. In other words, Talkers are not organizations….they are individuals. The ACME Foundation isn’t a talker. But Susan, who does communications for ACME, might be. So even though you may categorically label Susan and Dan as “investors,” remember as you brainstorm that it’s Susan and Dan specifically who will be flapping their lips–not their company.

Action Step: Pick the top five Talker groups you feel are most relevant for your CDFI. Choose from the list above, or add in your own ideas.

Example:  After brainstorming your Talker list, you’ve identified the following five Talker groups as your highest priorities:

  1. Current small business borrowers
  2. Current individual consumer loan applicants
  3. Reporters who write about economics in your region
  4. Local city council members
  5. Your staff members

What Will They Talk About?

The next question you need to ask yourself is “what will this Talker group be likely to talk about?”  And while working to answer this question, you may likely find yourself asking another deeper question: “What matters to this Talker group? What do they care about?” It’s no surprise: the things that matter to them are the things they are most likely to talk to others about.

The answers to these two questions, of course, are different for each Talker group. So you must brainstorm specific answers to these questions one Talker group at a time.

Action Step: For each of the previously identified Talker groups, brainstorm what matters to each of them, and what they are likely to talk to their friends about.

Example: Current Small Business Borrowers.  From brainstorming, we think they care and are likely to talk to their friends about:

  • Growth: Increasing sales and growing the business
  • Vision: Seeing their dream come to life
  • Financial Stability: Being able to continue making their payments on time
  • Stress: Avoiding and managing the pressure

Where Can We Find Them?

The final question we must ask ourselves about Talkers for now is, “where can we find these Talkers?” In other words, how can you reach them and where can you interact with them? Depending on your Talker groups, the answer may include some of the following (and many others):

  • Publications
  • Local business events
  • Local social/community events
  • Out and about around town
  • At their home or place of business
  • Mail
  • Email
  • Online
  • In-person meetings with them

Action Step: For each of the previously identified Talker groups, brainstorm where you can find these people when you are ready to reach out to them with your word of mouth marketing efforts.

Example: Current Small Business Borrowers.  From brainstorming, you realize you can reach them in the following ways:

  • In the mail, via your regularly scheduled correspondence with them (statements, loan docs, etc.)
  • During regular in-person meetings with them to review their loan and or check in on their business
  • Email, in the email newsletter you send to borrowers
  • Local business events where they are networking

Next Article: “Topics”

The articles in our word of mouth marketing series are cumulative and sequential. Now that you’ve got a good understanding of Talkers, we can move on and talk about the second ‘T': Topics: “What Can We Give These Talkers That They Will Want to Share?”

Introduction to Word of Mouth Marketing for CDFIs

29 Apr

This is the first post in an extensive series of about the very important topic of word of mouth (WOM) marketing for CDFIs.  In this series of posts, we will discuss what word of mouth is, how to develop buzzworthiness, remarkability and WOM-friendliness, and generally getting other people to do your CDFI marketing for you–for free!

[Word of Mouth Marketing a topic near and dear to our hearts here at CBC. In fact, a few years ago we created a separate brand for our WOM work here at CBC, and we called it PSST!]  

word of mouth marketing for CDFIs

What is Word of Mouth for CDFIs?

The Word of Mouth Marketing Association defines word of mouth quite simply:

Someone sharing something interesting with someone else

And it’s indeed really that simple. But while it’s simple, it’s not necessarily easy to create. For CDFIs, word of mouth is several things:

  • Existing borrowers telling prospective borrowers about you
  • Foundations telling their peers about you
  • A bank sending you a lead to a potential borrower
  • Employees telling their friends about you
  • Government policy makers spreading your message
  • And more–anytime someone is spreading your message on your behalf!

OK, Then What is Word of Mouth Marketing for CDFIs?

If we understand the definition of word of mouth, then what is word of mouth marketing as it relates to CDFIs?  We like to define word of mouth marketing as Andy Sernovitz (sort of considered the father of the formalized word of mouth marketing industry) has defined it:

Giving people giving people a reason to talk about you, and making it easier for that conversation to take place.

So what does that mean for CDFIs? It means several things:

  • Making our ‘WHY’, vision and mission compelling and clear
  • Communicating our story in a way that is “sticky” and memorable–making it easy for others to retell it
  • Creating experiences for borrowers, employees, partners, investors and more that they cannot stop talking about
  • Joining the conversation that you’ve sparked
  • And more

Make no mistake: word of mouth marketing is a discipline all its own–it has its own “science” and techniques that make it work. It’s not about “being nice to people,” or “doing something silly so it will go viral.” Instead, it’s about strategically identifying what things others will find impossible to keep to themselves, and then giving them this share-worthy message in an easily sharable format.

Why is Word of Mouth So Important for CDFIs?

To be honest, word of mouth is incredibly important for any company or organization. Yet, most of these organizations are really not very good at it. Financial institutions and CDFIs specifically are no exception. But the good news is word of mouth marketing can be learned.

CDFIs have important stories to tell, and important missions to fulfill. With that in mind, CDFIs deserve word of mouth arguably more than any other type of organization. Yet, word of mouth is not granted by a higher power to the most deserving; it’s a reward for those organizations who earn it. Word of mouth is “earned media.”

Speaking of “earned media,” one of the benefits of word of mouth is that it doesn’t cost a lot of money; it does, however, cost a lot of energy and hard work. This is a good situation for CDFIs, who often don’t have a ton of money to work with–but the trade-off is investing greater energy in becoming buzz worthy.

Word of mouth is also more powerful than traditional marketing. Why? Because people trust and believe the recommendations and referrals they get from their friends and colleagues far more than they trust and believe paid marketing messages! Reflect on your experiences as a consumer and you will quickly realize how true this is. If your best friends tells you “Chez Delish is amazing!” it carries a lot more weight than if you see an ad from Chez Delish that says “we are amazing!”

There are many benefits of word of mouth marketing, and we will continue to explore them throughout this series.

What Are the Elements of Word of Mouth Marketing for CDFIs?

To make this series of posts about WOM for CDFIs as clear and helpful as possible, we will organize our posts around the “5 T’s” that Andy Sernovitz explains in his great book, Word of Mouth Marketing. These 5 T’s provide a simple, clear and cumulative framework for understanding how word of mouth works. Here is a quick preview:

Talkers: who will be most likely to talk about us (when given something worth talking about)?

Topics: what will these Talkers find so interesting that they can’t keep it to themselves?

Tools:  what can we do to make sure the Talkers are able to share the Topics easily?

Taking Part: once we’ve spurred word of mouth with our Talkers about our Topics, how can we join the conversation?

Tracking: now that there is WOM about our CDFI, how can we keep track of it and measure its impact on our business?

Recommended WOM Reading for CDFIs

Upcoming posts will be published one at a time starting in the very near future! In the meantime, if you are already intrigued by word of mouth marketing for your CDFI (and we hope you are!), here is some excellent recommended reading and resources you can explore to get a head start! Also, of course you can always contact us to chat about helping spark word of mouth marketing at your CDFI.

Word of mouth marketing for CDFIsWord of Mouth Marketing, by Andy Sernovitz

 Purple Cow, by Seth Godin

Free Prize Inside, by Seth Godin

 Likeable Business, by Dave Kerpen

Made to StickMade to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath

Resources

Word of Mouth Marketing Association

WordofMouth.org

SocialMedia.org