Letters and Deals That Are Just for You

Personalizing the Message

I’m talking to you today about marketing. Groupon, step aside, Facebook Deals has arrived—in the U.K. at least.

Starbucks, O2 and Mazda are among the first participants. Mazda is offering five free cars for five months, Starbucks is giving free coffees and O2 is giving away PS3s and Xbox 360s to select people at select stores who upgrade their phones. It is a Europe-wide launch, with the UK being the first country. “Facebook Deals represents the power of word of mouth marketing and personal recommendation,” said Joanna Shields from Facebook. “By checking in and taking the deal, this is shown on your news feed so your friends can also see what deals are taking place…Borders are fading away and a new global social fabric is appearing in front of our lives.”

She went on to say that “over 200 million people use Facebook on their mobile phone. We are now offering businesses the opportunity to connect with people in an entirely new way.”

We’ll be talking a lot about mobile marketing in future columns—and at future SIPA conferences. But here what struck my chord is “word of mouth marketing and personal recommendation.” (my emphasis)  That, even given the power and enormity of Facebook, their officials still talk about marketing in such a personalized, one-to-one way.

Jim Sinkinson, publisher at Infocom Group, talked in a sense about this philosophy last week on the SIPA marketing listserve. “Always write a sales letter to an individual person, not to a crowd. A letter is a communication from you to one other person. Interestingly, this is a good policy to remember when giving a speech or addressing a large crowd. Speak to each person as an individual, and you’ll be listened to and heeded much more effectively. The receiver of the message should not be allowed to ‘disappear into the crowd.’ Rather, this message is from me to you. Thus [the] use of the rhetorical device ‘more and more of you’ is not as effective as, simply, ‘we realize that you may be considering adding ad sales to your mix…or may already have.’”

Personal recommendations—especially unsolicited ones—have indeed become cherished items in the marketing world. So how do we get them? Sean Oberle, publisher of Product Safety Letter, used the term “stealth testimonials” on the same SIPA Listserve thread last week. He noticed that SIPA’s promotion of its new webinar series and then the follow-up comments on how that promotion could be improved worked very well in “reemphasizing those benefits and repeating recipients’ exposure to the promotion—all without you appearing to be overly repetitive.”

We all know how hard it is to get comments and suggestions from people online. We marvel when we see hundreds of comments on someone’s site. Here was a case where people felt they could make something better—a testament to the helpful nature of SIPA members, but also probably some human nature at work as well. I’m probably more apt to take the time to write a comment where I have an improved way of doing something, as opposed to even hitting the “Like” button on Facebook—which may take all of a split second but is not much fun. (Sometimes it just means I’m going to get more unwanted emails on the subject.)

As we come back around to Facebook in all its pokey, friending glory, I’ve just entered the url www.facebook.com/deals/ that the article recommended and up popped three local deals, one of which for a restaurant that I very much like. If I buy the deal, my friends will—accurately—see that as a personal recommendation. And on goes the cycle.

“Borders are fading away and a new global social fabric is appearing in front of our lives.” It’s a fabric we all need to get more comfortable wearing.

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Models for a New Decade

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