Marking 101 - Increasing Your Product, Service Street Cred

Posted: 09.17.09

When our kids were growing up, they asked us what we did…really?? The answer changes … constantly. Over the past 20 + years in the PC/CE/communications marketplace, we’ve had to learn and relearn our job 40-50 times. Every time the industry changes, every time the communications avenues shift; life/opportunities change.

Since the Internet (recently celebrated its 40th anniversary) and Web came into their own; editorial and promotional outlets/targets have shifted…dramatically. We all read the same studies, the same reports -- WOM (word of mouth) is the most effective marketing/sales tool available.

Yet PR people – at the cattle prodding of management – constantly target the same reviewers again and again. You know – PC Mag, PC Wld, MacWld, Max PC, Laptop, WSJnl, NYTimes, WashPost, Dvice, BizWk, Fin Times, Videomaker, Pop Photo, (your favorite title/site/blog here)… There are thousands of these reviewers in the Americas and around the globe, and they must be breeding because every week a new publication, new review site, new “tech” blog is introduced. Like good little communications people, we check them out and give them a try. BAM!!! Add another “great review” outlet to the target list.

Don’t get us wrong…they’re important.

They were great when we worked to introduce the Atari Lynx (now there was a portable game system!) and the Portfolio (a really cool palmtop computer!). But recently, we received a review from Tom, a regular guy we’ve gotten to know over the past year, who likes to check out the latest and greatest in technology and talk/write about it. He discusses it on his morning TV show. He writes about it in his Facebook space. And lately, he’s added a new dimension to his coverage (at our urging). He publishes his review impressions on the open forum customer review sites.

When we read his write up, it got us thinking how valuable and how credible his discussion, his analysis really were.

Regular People

Professional journalistic reviewers always slip on their techie reviewing cloak when they test/try a product. They test, retest, analyze and then write their reviews very carefully, very analytically.

But our “regular guy” user/reviewer in Atlanta writes articles that are fun to read. They’re exciting, enthusiastic, and technically pretty darned accurate. His work is credible. It is real!

He is like a lot of user group folks -- there are over 500 Mac and PC user groups across the country. There are similar photo/video, home entertainment, mobile device user groups in online and physical communities around the globe. These are people who come together and pay dues for camaraderie and to learn more about using the constantly changing technology. We’ve worked with hundreds of them over time to do product reviews with varying degrees of success.

Still, management asks why waste our time and the product with these amateurs? Focus on the “real” reviewers…the people who count. Wait a minute…these are real reviewers, real users, real customers, real people who talk to real people! Isn’t that what you want?

And the comebacks are:

  • They don’t know how to use the product? The ordinary user may/may not be technically inclined, but then neither are most of the people who buy the product at the store or online.
  • They don’t follow the user/reviewer’s guide when they’re testing? Yep, that’s what customers do!
  • Your media reviewers reach thousands and millions. These folks only reach three or a dozen? Yes and those three/dozen tell three/dozen and …

And the more traditional uses of social networking? … Aw c’mon, do you think an ad, a sales presentation or company person chatting on any of the thousands of social sites will move consumers to plunk down their credit card or hard earned money? Why should they? People today are only a few key clicks away from learning first-hand what results and comments other real people have made about the company, the product, the organization’s service. These people tap into the real user reviews/comments/reports and make their decision.

Hey…we finally understand this WOM thing-- this buzz stuff -- really works.