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“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?”