The World’s Greatest Marketer

The greatest marketer any of us could ever have is a happy and talkative customer with lots of friends. Of course, any one customer’s reach is pretty limited compared to a TV spot, even in today’s 500 channel, multi-tasking, timeshifting, DVR world.

Wom However, she’s also infinitely more credible to her audience than any TV spot, display ad, print ad, website or sponsored search term will ever be.

When we retailers focus on the customer engagement cycle, which I’ve always defined as Awareness, Acquisition, Satisfaction, Conversion, Retention and Referral, we often spend the majority of our time and budgets on the first stages of the cycle and hope for the best on the Referral stage.

But I think there are at least two steps to actively drive the Referral stage:

1. Provide the right products and service to ensure we have incredibly happy customers
2. Ensure our happy customers have great and easy-to-use tools to tell the world about us

The good news is that the web provides us a fantastic foundation to create these tools, and some of them are so simple you can get them going in no time.

Here are a couple of quickies to start with:

Send To A Friend
Many sites have a Send to a Friend capability somewhere on the site. However, the vast majority of these capabilities are severely understated text links that are hard to find or notice. And worse, the actual email sent is almost always a boring text based email with no branding and compelling content whatsoever. Even though as the sender I’m often asked for my name and email address, the actual message frequently comes from something like instead of coming from my full name, which would be far more recognizable to my friend and far more likely to be opened (I hope).

Why not outsize the Send to a Friend capability on the site itself with a fully designed email box with a sender, recipient and notes field and copy that encourages our happy customers to share our products with their friends?  Here’s an example from my past at Borders that worked really well:


And when we send the email, why not create a nice, branded HTML template that compels our friend to click though? Why not put as much time and effort into this email template as we regularly put into our weekly marketing emails?

Social Network Sharing

Most news sites have long since added buttons to their articles that allow readers to post their articles to Facebook, digg,, Twitter and other social network options.


All of our products should have these options as well. It never fails to amaze me how much people want to talk about products, and this is a great way to enable them to talk to all of their friends at once though social networks. These have much better reach than Send to a Friend capabilities, and the resulting post can then spread even deeper through other networks.

Those are two of the simplest ways to very quickly, with limited technical effort, give tools to your customers to help them be our best marketers. In a future post, I’ll discuss some more technically complicated but even more powerful options.

What do you think? What ideas do you have to create tools for your customers to be your best marketers?


  • By Andrew Orr, June 22, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

    Great Blog!
    I’d like to propose a third step to encourage referrals: Rewards.
    Incent her to play an active role in the referral process by allowing her to earn something for doing it. For example if you have a loyalty program you could award points for referrals.
    Now, instead of hoping she remembers that great experience enough to mention it to a friend we’ve made it easy and rewarding for her to do so.

  • By Paul Greenberg, June 24, 2009 @ 10:38 am

    Great points, Kevin. I also think it’s critical to reach out actively to where users are (Twitter, FB, etc.) and market to them by providing information they find helpful. I’ve been shocked by the amount of re-tweeting that goes on (which is tantamount to a referral) when we provide users with good content/deals/etc.

  • By Sarah, June 24, 2009 @ 1:57 pm

    Interesting thought, Paul: retweeting = referral.

  • By Kevin Ertell, June 25, 2009 @ 7:35 am

    Great points Andrew and Paul. Loyalty points offer excellent ways to incent behavior beyond immediate sales, but they’re rarely used in that manner. Look for a future post on ways that loyalty programs can be expanded to add greater value to organizations. I hope you’ll join me in that discussion.
    Good points about Twitter and Facebook, Paul. Social networks have awesome power. I’d love to hear more specifics about what you’re doing at TV Guide. Is there anything consistent about the content/deals that get retweeted the most?

  • By Mark Evans, June 25, 2009 @ 11:48 am

    Good topic – really one of the critical marketing issues in the digital age. Point one (great products, satisfied customers!) is especially important given that poor experiences and bad news travels so much faster and farther – that’s the reality.
    Twitter provides a great opportunity to track the greater conversation about your company or product. If we see a negative comment or question about our products, we jump in with our twitter account and help them out (or apologize and see what we can do to make amends.)
    Occasionally going overboard in righting a wrong can create a story that gets some traction – I’ve recently seen tweets from impressed customers of US Airways.
    My final point: emphasize that you will not keep or reuse email addresses! This is the one thing that makes me pause when I see the “forward to friend” features!
    Great start to the blog, Kevin!
    Mark Evans
    Above the Treeline

  • By David Fishman, January 26, 2010 @ 4:24 pm

    Just read your post on “The Worlds Greatest Marketer.” The customer satisfaction cycle and the power of a referral network are symbiotic. Don’t understand why more e-commerce have not emphasized more? There is a huge opportunity here for technology improvements that can help facilitate!

Other Links to this Post

  1. My Favorite Sites of the Year | Retail: Shaken Not Stirred — January 6, 2010 @ 8:03 pm

  2. The Missing Links in the Customer Engagement Cycle | Retail: Shaken Not Stirred — January 26, 2010 @ 1:42 pm

  3. Customer Affiliate Marketing « Random Bits of Useful Information — May 6, 2010 @ 10:50 pm

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