As an entrepreneur, one of the things that you have to face at some point is marketing. In fact, I can’t think of a single business that can get away with not doing effective marketing. Yet, it is one of those things almost every business owner grapples with because so much is at stake. If you pull it off, you will reap the rewards. If you don’t, you'll waste a lot of dough in the process, and there are no rewards. Nothing. Squat. You get the point...
But there is another way to market, and it's the closest I have ever experienced to being a sure thing. I call it involvement marketing—a variant of crowdsourcing specifically oriented toward marketing.
Involvement simply means to be included or to participate. If you are trying to reach a sector of the population with your business, wouldn’t you be more successful if you were to involve them in determining your product line? Of course you would! And that is where involvement marketing comes in. Using it, you are going to have your customers participate in the bringing about and building awareness of your product or service, rather than just be bystanders.
Involvement marketing is quite simply getting your customers and the community involved in the process. If you are not involving them, it means you are just bombarding them with “buy my stuff” messages. This works on occasion (think infomercial), but it won't be nearly as effective as opting for involvement marketing.
Why it works
Now you have the idea that you need to get your customers and basically the community involved in your marketing efforts. But you may not be sure how it will work or the best way to go about doing pulling it off.
Involvement marketing is so effective because it allows your customers to get immersed in the process, which makes them want to purchase, and in turn, spread the word about it. They end up feeling like they have a stake in the product, and it also creates a sense of loyalty, so they will continue to be customers. They will feel all warm and fuzzy because their ideas have been heard and taken into account.
Threadless, the graphic T-shirt design company, is a great example of this. Rather than put out a line of T-shirts designed with what they—or a graphic artist—wanted to see on them, they used crowdsourcing to create it and involvement marketing to spread the word. Their customers submit the designs, voted on the ones that should be turned into T-shirt offers, and ended up buying lots of the ones that are chosen. Plus, and this is were involvement marketing kicks in, they recruit their friends because it’s their design (or they helped to get it chosen for printing). The community has a sense of ownership in the product, and therefore they promote it like it is their own.
This same concept can be implemented in your own business. Regardless of the business you are in.
How it’s done
To take advantage of involvement marketing, you need to get your customers participating in the inception of new products, new services or new variations of what you already have. You can do this in a myriad of ways, including getting their input, suggestions, feedback, etc. Ask them what type of product they need from your business. Find out what they would like to see changed or added. Then, the important step that comes next, is that you actually do something with their feedback and suggestions—and give them credit for their contributions. It’s the act of seeing their input put into action to create change (and being recognized for their efforts) that will get them loyal and want to recruit others.
Show your customers and the community that their involvement is desired, appreciated and rewarded. They will be more loyal and likely to continue buying from you. Think of it as a relationship, only instead of having one that is one-sided where you just bombard them with ads to buy, you get them involved in the process. Mom always said relationships are a two way street, after all.