In this day and age brands can only achieve so much with traditional broadcast and social media marketing. To truly experience the power and influence of sound marketing strategies, brands need to embrace collaborative marketing; marketing with, not at their consumers and do so on a large scale.
It's by collaborating with people, the people who the brand want to eventually use the product or service, that marketing can achieve great things for brands. After all, not many brands can afford to create a hive mind of 1,000 marketers within their own organisation. They can with collaborative marketing, by working with existing customers as co-marketers.
Build a pool of co-marketers
Cultivating an online community of loyal consumers who are passionate about the brand is one of the most powerful ways to create and share a marketing or advertising campaign. These people will work with the brand's marketing team to highlight and resolve problems with the product or service. They will create content, and share their passion with friends and followers.
The advantage of creating a community for consumers is that those who join are doing so because they want to give a portion of their time and attention to the brand. While an individual brand's voice is easily lost in the fray on social networks, the voices of 1,000 plus people invested in a brand are far more likely to be heard.
The online community offers a place where brand and customers can work together to discuss the brand, and its products and services. How can it be improved? What's it doing right? Would fans rather have new product X, or an upgrade to popular product Y? Brands stand a far better chance of getting rich data and feedback from their own community on a technology platform built to do just that, than they do on social networks – where most people will only be marginally interested (if they even see the posts in the first place).
So, how can brands engage their new 'marketing team'?
People value and trust the opinion of other people more than they do brands. In 2015, Nielsen found that 81% of people in the UK valued personal recommendations above all other forms of advertising.
What's more, these opinions spread. One study, by Lithium, found that just 1,000 customers can generate up to 500,000 conversations about a brand. The brand's role is to select and nurture the first 1,000 people, creating a team of co-marketers around the brand.
To do this, brands need to connect with people. They need to become something that people look forward to engaging with. Maybe they do it by asking influential members of their virtual communities to trial products, or by giving them other forms of exclusive access. The key is generating interest and excitement. If it doesn't spark an interest in the close-knit online community, odds are it won't interest those less invested in the brand either.
'Real content marketing'
Brands often create content that they think is important and meaningful to their audiences, but there's an awful lot of digital content out there and, to an extent, we're all suffering from an element of content fatigue.
Content needs to be meaningful and relevant to the people it's designed for, and this is where a brand's collaborative online community can help. For example, while food retailer Lidl has a recipe section on its website, it also has one on its community site – giving people a space to share recipes that they have tried and tested themselves.
People want to hear from other people. By seeking out and showcasing these opinions, brands can demonstrate not only that they care about what its consumers think, but that it understands that people value and trust the opinion of others.
Innovation and co-creation
The consumer market is fast-paced and ever-changing. Brands can invest millions into research and development, but if brands want to know what people like right now and what they want to see in the future, all they need to do is ask.
Some brands even use their consumer communities to come up with new ideas for products and services – just look at MyStarbucksIdea. When people realise that they are part of a community that doesn't just pay lip service to collaboration, where the brand actually implements ideas, it motivates them to invest more of their time and thought into the community. It engages them.
Collaboration is about creating connections between people. Collaborative marketing works with the relationships forged in this process and uses the collective experiences, opinions and ideas generated by engaged consumers to power a brands marketing, advertising and product development. Brands that develop and maintain a thriving online community of co-marketers can harness this power to achieve things that are beyond the means of traditional marketing – and a traditional-sized marketing team – alone.
By Rebekah Mackay-Miller, Managing Director, trnd UK
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