The ROI on Little People

February 2, 2009

Winfrey on the cover of O, The Oprah Magazine.

Image via Wikipedia

One of the more difficult paradigm shifts for traditional marketers is the increased (and increasing) power of the individual.

For so long, we lived in a “command and control” marketing environment.

If you really wanted your “message” to resonate, you had to get it repeated by someone with a big platform and huge reach.

TV or Howard Stern or the New York Times or Oprah (or just pay for a ton of advertising and/or rent lists).

That was the ONLY way.

It was expensive and time-consuming, but you had no choice. And Malcolm Gladwell, (writing before the advent of social networking sites) drove this home in The Tipping Point.

Now, you do.

I’m not arguing that a blessing from Oprah or the New York Times doesn’t make a difference. It certainly does.

We saw this with Seth Godin in the Johnny Bunko contest.

What I am arguing is the ROI equation.

You can spend A LOT of time trying to convince “the powerful, rich, and famous” to tell your story (which almost everyone else is doing).

OR you can spend the time to find a lot of the “little people” who are passionate, who are the ‘raving fans’ for your product and who may have networks of 300 instead of 30,000 or 3 million.

What’s better?

1 person with a ‘reach’ of 30,000 who will talk about you once?

OR 100 people with a network of 300 people who will talk about you A LOT….because they LOVE you.

And in a highly scalable world where you can easily communicate with your raving fans via your blog or Facebook and they can promote those messages out for you, it just might be more cost-effective to do the latter.

Mack Collier had one of the best posts I’ve seen recently challenging the traditional thinking of whether it makes sense to go after the so-called ‘influentials.”

(Now, if your fans do it for you as in the case of Bunko and Godin, great, but that’s not your ROI calculation).

This concept…that many ‘little people’ who aren’t traditional ‘influencers’ may actually generate more positive marketing ROI than anything else is at the core of Community Driven Marketing.

For some more good reading on best practices of community building, see Dion Hinchcliffe’s recent post.

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