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How to spread word of mouth by doing the right thing

This is a post from our WordofMouth.org project. Check it out for more great word of mouth marketing tips like this every day.

Here’s the fantastic thing about word of mouth: The good guys win. The companies who earn our respect and recognition — the ones we tell everyone about — do it by doing truly wonderful things.

But we know that even with the best intentions, it can be easy to forget to make goodwill a part of your strategy. So here are three examples to help get you going:

1. Host a charitable event
2. Ask them to pay it forward
3. Invest in your community

1. Host a charitable event

You don’t have to have a huge budget to do something great for a cause — sometimes all you need are the right people to participate. For example, some Sonic Drive-Ins host school fundraisers where teachers serve as “celebrity carhops” and collect tips as donations for their school. It works because teachers tell all of their students about it, who tell their parents, who tell other parents, and spread the word all over the community.

2. Ask them to pay it forward

Paying it forward is one of the most inherently word of mouth-worthy acts of kindness, because it asks people to spread the message. To do it, reward your fans with stuff to pass along to their friends. For example, Outback Steakhouse hand-selected some of their biggest fans, surprised them with 40 Bloomin’ Onion vouchers, and asked these fans to share them with their friends. These folks (who were already big talkers) suddenly had a fantastic new reason to tell a lot of friends about their favorite restaurant. For every coupon they ultimately redeemed, how many conversations do you think their fans started while finding friends to share them with?

3. Invest in your community

This tip is so obvious that some people miss it: The best way to earn trust and respect from your customers is to show them some first. For example, everyone talks about Portland’s Plaza Cleaner’s offer to dry clean outfits for job seekers going to an interview — and they’re not the only ones. Adobe gave away copies of their Flash Builder software to unemployed developers. You can bet that when these people find jobs, they’ll know where to do their dry cleaning and where to buy their software, plus they’ll tell all of their friends about it.

Why ASAP makes work suck

This is a post from The Pursuit of Happiness, a blog on happy workplaces and work culture at my company, GasPedal. Check it out for more posts like this every week.

Here at GasPedal, we have functions that each team is responsible for. They’re the recurring things we have to do to keep the business running — things like paying the bills, preparing for an upcoming event, or taking the time to write this post, for example.

They’re important, but they’re not always urgent.

If we’re not careful, it’s easy to get caught up in the latest new project or new “emergency” and the other, everyday stuff suffers. It’s not that the new stuff is actually more important, is just feels more urgent.

Rodrigo Medina did a good job of putting it this way:

The main problem of making everything urgent by default on your organization is that people start loosing sight between the difference of important and urgent, if everything simply gets piled up in the urgent stuff it will always be easier just to do trivial urgent stuff than the actual important things that should be addressed, besides creating an unnecessary permanent state of drama and hysteria which produces people to burn out or that simply constrains them from doing their best work.

Read his full post here.

Sherri Maxson, Social Business Leader at Grainger

This is a post from my company, SocialMedia.org’s blog. Check it out for more profiles and stories about the people running social at really big brands.

Sherri Maxson is one of those all-star SocialMedia.org members who has taken us along for her career as a social media executive at three different brands. She’s been a member since 2010 and a speaker at two different SocialMedia.org Member Meetings.

With nearly 20 years of professional experience in the digital world, Sherri Maxson’s career started back in 1994 as a web developer when the Internet was still new and shiny — before she would move on to lead social media at three major brands.

As a hobby, she built web opportunities for photographers to sell their art. But her fascination with the web started when her colleagues started creating ecommerce sites for major retailers.

“In the very early stages of ecommerce, it was apparent that people were not as receptive to buying online. What it really proved to me was the importance of marketing online. But this was even way before there was such marketing,” says Sherri.

Sherri says when she started her career the web was still a positive, supportive place to learn from other people.

“There were communities of developers sharing code with each other. It was a really friendly atmosphere and a creative environment. It was very aspirational, and I just fell in love with this space.”

She kept that mindset of learning and building up her skills over the next 12 years as things evolved for ecommerce and new platforms and ideas emerged like Google, YouTube, SEO, and blogging.

“Whatever it was, I wanted to learn it so I had a really strong toolbox to work with,” she explains.

She’s taken her skills in ecommerce and digital marketing with her to lead social at a university, a BtoC, and now a BtoB.

Sherri’s been the Director of Digital Marketing and Social Media for DeVry University and U.S. Cellular, where she lead an award-winning social customer service model. Now, she leads social business at Grainger, which ranked 15th in the Top 500 Internet Retailers in 2013.

But if you ask her, at the end of the day, her strategy for each organization isn’t too different.

“Every company is a snowflake, but it’s still about human-to-human interaction. You’re still talking to people. It’s about making sense of digital for the company and their strategy,” she explains.

She says where each company is unique is how they connect with their customers. For example, at DeVry, they were looking at things from a student perspective, engaging them in word of mouth and activating communities. For U.S. Cellular, it was about mobilizing an extremely large community base with customer service and applying a social business strategy enterprise-wide, which she described at a SocialMedia.org Member Meeting in 2012.

Her current work at Grainger, a BtoB you might know for supplying your office with everything from paper towels to industrial generators, focuses on building relationships and providing solutions for the people who make those purchase decisions. In her case study presentation at our Member Meeting in Chicago, Sherri described how Grainger’s social strategy is to make their customers the heroes.

She explains one of the biggest challenges for businesses in social is to get around all of the noise and think about the customers.

According to Sherri, “There are tons of ‘gurus’ and a hundred different companies to choose from to work with. But what I think is really important is that the business stays focused on what their strategy and goals are and more importantly, who their customers are and what’s relevant to them. Customer and human insight and the arithmetic really work together. It’s about transferring the goals and the customer needs into social.”

Connecting those business objectives while connecting with people is what Sherri says she loves most about her job. She says it’s energizing to see a team have conversations with customers who are just as excited to talk back.

“We all know there’s a reason we’re all excited about the future of social, and there’s a lot of buzz around it,” Sherri says. But she also acknowledges the need for big brands to see a connection to sales.

“It still has to make sense for the business, and we have to be able to account for the return on social and the value it brings to a company.”

Explaining the value of social is especially critical for bigger companies, but it can be a challenge.

“The value is there, and there’s lots of ways to show it. More importantly though, social media is about having conversations with your customers and listening to the conversations to help your customers. Social is not necessarily a direct revenue channel,” Sherri says.

But it can be difficult inside of a large organization. She says you have to think of the organizational structure, the checks and balances, and the people to work through to earn buy-in. On top of that, there’s a lot more at stake with shareholders, risk mitigation, and liabilities.

Sherri says, “There are also internal collaboration and social networks that have a lot of business value that can’t be overlooked as a part of the strategy.”

But making those connections seems to be paying off.

At Grainger, building relationships through social has helped them see growth.

“We’ve spent the majority of 2013 building the foundation, and we’ve seen some tremendous growth in terms of community size and amplification. We’re really getting the organization excited about social, and we’re starting to get different business units more socially engaged, which has been great,” she says.

One of the most exciting accomplishments for Sherri is seeing customer advocates emerge from the communities they’ve built at Grainger.

“We’ve been working hard on the foundation and keeping our customers top of mind in the process. It’s been great to build customer relationships and see them engage with us and our content in new ways.”

Say hi to Sherri on Twitter, or watch one of her fantastic Member Meeting case study presentations for Grainger and U.S. Cellular.

3 word of mouth tips for local businesses

This is a post from our WordofMouth.org project. Check it out for more great word of mouth marketing tips like this every day.

Local businesses have a great opportunity to tap into community pride and earn passionate word of mouth from people around town. The businesses that get this right become the icons of a community — the companies people think of when they talk about what makes their town unique. (P.S. This works for local franchises of big brands too.)

How to become a remarkable local business:

1. Be a hometown billboard
2. Don’t forget your best influencers
3. Take part in local pride

1. Be a hometown billboard

In Denton, Texas, Frenchy’s Lawn and Tree Services turns their distinctive orange trucks into community billboards by writing messages on them with giant magnetized letters. They announce stuff like school plays, wedding anniversaries, and well-wishes for students leaving town. People take pictures in front of them and post them to Facebook, blog about them, and look for the new messages on their trucks every day. By shining a spotlight on the community, Frenchy’s gets lots of attention around town.

2. Don’t forget your best influencers

As a local business, you have a great opportunity to get to know your most vocal talkers around town. Some great ones to remember: schools, sports leagues, churches, and charities. Groups of people are more likely to spread word of mouth than an individual. Do something for these groups like hosting one of their events, sponsoring a game, or helping out with their cause. These acts of goodwill can help you make relationships with the people who will talk about your stuff the most.

3. Take part in local pride

Even if your business isn’t from around here, you can still earn word of mouth by celebrating some local pride. Coca-Cola certainly isn’t local to Denmark, but when they heard it was named the “happiest country in the world,” Coke wanted to share that accomplishment with the Danish people. How? By dispensing Danish flags from a billboard at an airport. The simple gesture made Coke a part of a Danish tradition to greet arriving travelers with waving flags. That gave people at the airport something to talk about (and something to smile about).

We’re expanding our events team

My company, GasPedal, and its brands, SocialMedia.org and WordofMouth.org, are growing fast. And we’re looking for talented, passionate people to join our team in Austin and Chicago. We’re hiring a VP of Events and a Senior Meeting Planner. These folks will join our existing, awesome event team — and they’ll help us continue delivering amazing […]

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Newsletter #1017: The “Lessons from Crocheting” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.] Krochet Kids intl., started as a group of teenage boys who loved the novelty of crocheting their own hats and scarves […]

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Brandon Rhoten, VP of Digital and Social Media at Wendy’s International

This is a post from my company, SocialMedia.org’s blog. Check it out for more profiles and stories about the people running social at really big brands. For this SocialMedia.org member profile, we chatted with Wendy’s VP of Digital and Social Media, Brandon Rhoten. Brandon’s been a member since April 2012 and presented a fantastic case […]

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Fans can help you build anything

This is a post from our WordofMouth.org project. Check it out for more great word of mouth marketing tips like this every day. When it comes to this word of mouth stuff, we see a lot of BtoB marketers throw their hands in the air and say these ideas will only work for the BtoC […]

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