In my previous post, I talked about the importance of a community outreach program to find your rock stars. To reiterate what community outreach is, it’s engaging and building relationships with your influential customers (your “rock stars”) in order to generate positive word-of-mouth for your company, organization, and/or products. I highly recommend reading the previous post to get a better idea of the importance of and principles behind community outreach, but today I’m going to talk about how to find your rock stars through community outreach.
Community outreach is more of an art than a science – it is, after all, about relationship-building. There are certainly different methodologies depending on the audience and marketing channel (blogs, forums, groups, social networks, etc.); however, there is a set of best practices that form the foundation of any community outreach program.
Today, I’d like to share with you Tuvel’s outreach methodology in the hopes it gives you a better understanding of these best practices.
Step 1: Articulate Goals & Develop a Plan — Like with any marketing and communications campaign, it’s very important to define achievable goals and lay out a clear plan for your community outreach program. Ask yourself these questions:
- What is the purpose of the outreach campaign? Increase awareness, increase sales/donations/membership/other type of conversion, or all of the above?
- How many influencers do you intend to find and reach out to?
- What is your timeframe for the campaign?
- What kind of response and/or conversion rates are you expecting? What are other metrics are important for determining success?
Step 2: Identify your audience segments and marketing channels — Once goals are determined, identify your specific audience segments to reach out to, as well as the marketing channels you’ll target – blogs, forums, email lists, groups, social networks, etc. Once you’ve identified audience and channels, you can then begin your research.
Step 3: Identify & Validate Groups — As you conduct your research, be sure to validate each group and individual for overall effectiveness as message carriers, based on criteria such as marketing opportunity, activity (has anything been posted recently?) and relevance. Actually read some of the posts on each blog, forum, or group to get a good idea of the hot topics and how you can best be of benefit to them.
Step 4: Create Contact Database – Include information for researched bloggers and other new media publishers. Each entry includes the name of the communication vehicle, marketing channel, contact name and e-mail address.
Step 5: Communications Planning – Develop appropriate campaign messages based on audience, marketing channel and mode of communication for those identified, then test messages to determine the most appropriate formats for online dissemination. It’s also important to give a very brief background and get to the ask as quickly as possible – don’t make the message too long or heavy with marketing-speak. Speak to your community in their language.
Step 6: Program Execution — Once messaging is right, begin rolling out the campaign:
- Customize and personalize each note you send, referencing a specific post you found of interest.
- Make it as easy as possible for them to post something, whether that means providing sample text or a link to the information they need.
- Engage in discussions within the community – It’s important to engage in open and transparent conversations with your community influencers on their blogs, forums, or other platform. This means representing your company, but identifying yourself honestly and not hiding behind a logo. For instance, posting thank you comments in response to blog posts published as a result of your efforts is a way to further engage blogger and build relationships with them.
- Encourage others to pass the word along by providing an easy way for them to share your message.
Step 7: Follow-up and build relationships – When someone responds to your message, respond to them in a timely manner. If someone promises to post in their blog, follow up after about a week to give them a gentle reminder. If they do post something for you, send them a thank you note and leave a comment on their blog. Be as helpful as possible when they ask questions.
Step 8: Program Reporting and Analysis – You’ve already determined your metrics for success as part of step 1, so now it’s time to analyze the effectiveness of your program and return on investment. This also includes gauging response and feedback to your program from those to which you reached out. Don’t wait until the end of your program to do this – it’s important to gauge effectiveness throughout the campaign (see step 9).
Step 9: Revise, Improve and Do It Again —Revise your messaging based on feedback and campaign response. Test different messages to determine best response.
Our methodology will, of course, differ from other methodologies for outreach programs – but this will still give you a basic idea of how you can find and reach out to your rock stars – and build lasting relationships with them. For examples of how Tuvel has implemented community outreach on behalf of clients, check out our case studies for the National Association of Broadcasters and Share Our Strength.