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A New Marketing Model for IM

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Posted May 17, 2002 By Staff     Feedback

Consumers who use instant messaging are usually farther removed from marketing messages than Web surfers. Learn how 'Neighboring' can bring advertisers and IM'ers closer together.

By Todd Tweedy

For many marketers, the explosive growth of real-time communication isn't raising questions about whether to advertise on the Web using instant messaging (IM), but how.

A major barrier marketers will face when using IM as a marketing tool to acquire new customers will be how to penetrate an individual's private network of contacts or buddy lists, which is created by that user when an IM tool is personalized.

I believe these private IM networks will create two degrees of separation from advertisers, and prospective new customers. In order to reach a private network advertisers will need to utilize a new marketing model. I call the model Neighboring.

Neighboring will change the context of product and service recommendations by encouraging individuals to express their own views and voice about a product or service to their own private network of personal contacts.

Getting Connected: Turning Buddies into Neighbors

It's a simple tenet that individuals in our lives are more capable of effectively communicating product and service recommendations than businesses are. Remember when you moved into a new apartment or house, and your neighbors told you about the "best" dry cleaners, pizza place, grocery store, electrician, painters or yard service? Neighbors can have an extraordinary influence on purchasing decisions.

Unlike most marketing campaigns, Neighboring uses dialogs that are initiated, modified, and terminated by individuals within an IM network -- not by a corporation or marketing firm. Neighboring, in contrast, lets advertisers gain access to closed-social networks by using real-time communication tools, such as IM, so that advertisers can communicate product and service recommendations from neighbors to individuals across small groups. The power of the Neighboring model lies with the influence an individual has in an established small network, as well as the strength of the relationship an individual has with an advertiser.

Instant messaging has already become a powerful relationship tool for individuals, but since businesses are prevented from becoming involved in a networked community, they will be forced to rely more on their current customers to initiate and distribute product and service recommendations.

Neighboring: A Preview of How it Works

So how will marketers make connections with their existing customers and find new customers using IM?

Special notification messaging -- IM alerts -- is a start, and I believe will lead to more meaningful marketing based on interest recognition.

For businesses to grow, they can increase average order sizes and the total number of orders, as well as cut costs. Businesses must use IM to increase the number of customer networks they are engaged in. Neighboring is designed to solve the problem of communicating product and service recommendations across closed groups.

Why Neighboring? Businesses can't be everywhere online. Businesses need connective marketing strategies, like Neighboring, to drive cost-effective online acquisition activities, deepen customer relationships, and to expand reach online.

Here are four easy steps to follow so that you can initiate a Neighboring marketing model:

Step 1: Gain IM client and alias names of your most valuable customers
Step 2: Invite customers to support your business and offer incentives for them to refer your services or products across their networks
Step 3: Acknowledge their support
Step 4: Be committed to being of service, and leverage customer permission to request opportunities to reach out to customers in their network

Neighboring is instructive and service-oriented, and will tell others how and why to become a customer of a business based on a neighbor's persuasive interest in a product or service offering. Marketers will need to ask individuals to have conversations with their networks of contacts. These word-of-mouth referrals -- new marketing conversations -- will take place during real-time online communications.

Here are the four biggest benefits of marketing using the Neighboring marketing model:

  • The ability to transform personalization techniques into scalable systems that support mass marketing objectives
  • Providing targeted and permission-based interactions
  • The ability to detect whether someone is online and deliver just-at-that-time communications
  • Distributed referrals through small closed-networks of private contact lists or buddy lists
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