Andy Sernovitz is a passionate advocate for Word Of Mouth Marketing (WOM) and his book Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking is a must read for all niche ecommerce retailers.
So how does small retailer with a limited marketing budget ignite a following?
The first thing to seriously consider is the caliber of the product. No amount of WOM helps an ill-conceived idea. The second step is to concentrate on finding evangelists (an article about finding evangelists).
Alright, now that you’ve done the groundwork and identified a nice list of passionate customers you need to dream up creative ways of using them as brand propagators. Here are two ideas:
Give away one item for free – Pecard prides itself on being an awesome leather horse saddle polish. Mary, who lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan is an evangelist who orders on a regular basis. The polish itself is inexpensive ($4) but matching shipping costs make it unattractive for the non-Marys of the world. So, next time Mary orders I’d send her two free bottles accompanied with a hand-written note requesting she share the polish with a close friend. Passionate horse lovers almost always know other passionate horse lovers. If next month you find a mysterious new order from Ypsilanti, Michigan you’ll know your strategy worked.
Get evangelists to sign up as spokesmen – I love my dry-cleaners and if they made a local TV commercial I’d be more than happy to endorse them in front of a camera. So, if you sell great bonsais ask your evangelists if they’d mind being local references. Those who want to participate could even provide their email addresses and give on-the-fence customers a good reason to buy. If you think asking for an email address is a little extreme just remember people do it all the time on message-boards.