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“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?”