In their book The Influentials, Ed Keller and Jon Berry identify how the most influential Americans get ideas and, more importantly, how they spread them. Influentials, who aren’t necessarily the richest or the best educated, are the most engaged in their communities where they wield a large amount of influence. Their word of mouth has become a powerful marketing tool.
To succeed today, you need to connect with people who are at the center of the conversation. Businesses, governments and nonprofit organizations must have ‘Influential’ strategies just as they need marketing, advertising, public relations, promotion and Internet strategies.
Specifically, you should make sure you are reaching the decision makers who are influential in others’ decisions. You should know where the opinion leaders get their ideas — the kinds of publications they read, the programs they watch, the radio stations they listen to and the websites they visit. You need to be out in the community listening to opinion leaders’ concerns. Ask yourself if your products and services, environmental stance and corporate practices would meet Influential approval.
There are clear business benefits to winning the favor of opinion leaders. Influentials are connected to nearly twice as many groups as the average American and are intellectually engaged in a variety of topics from news and current events to health and fitness, history, technology, travel, art and cooking. With the multiplier effect of Influentials, the result can generate buzz far beyond their portion of the population. But how do you go about getting into the conversation of the opinion leaders? You must find a way to reach the people whom people turn to when they need ideas and information.
There are six rules you should use to reach the Influentials:
- Be where the information is. Influentials value information. Businesses that want their attention should begin with offering them good, high-quality information. Where do you place the information? In media that are rich in information because that’s where Influentials migrate. Respect their intelligence.
- When critics come knocking, invite them in. Many Influentials who have a problem with a product or service try to do something about it. They often return the product or complain to management. They also tell their friends and family. Don’t shy away from their criticism. Engage it and assess its merit with the individual making the call.
- Get out into the community. One of the best ways to win Influential favor is to become active in a cause that will produce tangible benefits in peoples’ lives. Influentials prefer programs with tangible results over softer, feel-good campaigns. They are also willing to switch brands for a good cause.
- Make it easier and then make it easier still. Saving money, getting good value for the dollar and making life easier are the main focus when Influentials go shopping. They are, however, willing to pay extra for making life easier. Your marketing must convey the practical benefits of your products or services.
- Know the ‘exceptions’ and keep up with them. Influentials are utilitarians in many areas, but they make exceptions to the rule. They indulge in homes, cars, travel and personal health. They also have a penchant to shop locally at farmers’ markets and non-chain stores.
- Be a brand and tell the world. Influentials hold a high opinion of brands. Don’t be afraid to market your brand to Influentials. They are likely to stick with it once they are sold on its quality and other benefits.
Influentials are like marathon runners stopping briefly at a water station. If you want to reach them, you must place your water station along their route.
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