The Neighboring Marketing Model: Real-Time Connected
By Todd Tweedy
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 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
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, the
total number of orders or cut costs. I believe for businesses to
grow using IM they must increase the number of customer networks
they are engaged in. Neighboring is designed to solve the
problem of communicating product and service recommendations across
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:
1: Gain IM client and alias names of your most valuable customers
2: Invite customers to support your business and offer incentives
for them to refer your
services or products across their networks
3: Acknowledge their support
4: Be committed to being of service, and leverage customer permission
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.
What will businesses gain from Neighboring?
Here are the four biggest benefits of marketing using the Neighboring
ability to transform personalization techniques into scalable systems
that support mass
targeted and permission-based interactions
ability to detect whether someone is online and deliver just-at-that-time
referrals through small closed-networks of private contact lists
or buddy lists
A Simple Start: Building a List of IM Customers
Register an IM alias name(s) on each of the public IM networks
for your corporation,
or product. Ideally, secure the same alias name on each of the three
public IM networks - AOL, Yahoo and MSN.
as part of
overall customer contact activities.
Data Fields & Revenue Sources Enhance your registration fields to
of IM client, and the alias name information your customer is using.
Add opt-in messaging within your registration process to
capture IM data as well as
communicate clearly to invited customers that you intend to send
them instant messages.
Please feel free to copy and paste this text for use on your site:
Please include me on your private list to receive
e-mail updates and instant messages -- IM's -- for product and
Reaching Mass Audiences: One Neighbor at
The idea of targeting goods and services to people joined by common
interests or demographic characteristics isn't new. In 1972, direct
marketing technology and your Sunday morning newspaper was forever
changed by George Valassis when he invented freestanding inserts
(FSIs) - newspaper coupons - which allowed advertisers to target
newspaper readers by city and neighborhood. However, in recent years
people have received more than enough "targeted" communications.
According to a Jupiter Media Metric report, by 2005 the average
person is likely to view 3,000 ad exposures daily, with nearly 30%
of these exposures from online sources. With so many voices trying
to be heard, people have learned to ignore mass marketing messages,
especially blatant commercial messages
The lack of productivity from too many marketing messages flooding
e-mail in-boxes, and social networks closed to businesses will require
marketers to rethink mass marketing. The way to make mass marketing
work again is to give individuals the power to be of service-to
become a neighbor-a selling agent that testify to the value of your
product or service. In fact, as ad clutter increases, I believe
that advertisers will seek out Neighboring--a new marketing
platform that is cost-effective, can sustain revenue and acquire
However, many businesses appear ready to exploit the unique economies
of scale of IM as an inexpensive direct marketing channel. Major
brands and IM name speculators have already moved quickly to secure
alias names - the identity individuals create on public IM networks
-- in preparation for future marketing programs. If your new Internet
business plan was to resell IM alias names, you're too late: BurgerKingBuddy
is gone; CheeriosPal is taken; VWBuddy is registered; and, GeicoBuddy,
BacardiBuddy, and CitibankBuddy are gone too. Regardless, even if
a mass marketer is able to temporarily penetrate a closed network
by using an interesting alias name, attempts to broadcast traditional
mass marketing messages will be ineffective when individuals have
the power to permanently block future unwanted messages.
The use of alias names has spawned a new type of automated mass
marketing agent, which provides search functionality within an IM
window. Think of these bots - software applications serving so-called
"smart" interactive agents that are programmed to deliver content
to instant messenger windows -- as the "Ask Jeeves" of IM marketing.
Bots, as well as spam-generated IM marketing messages, have already
begun reaching millions of households and offices based on sending
a single predetermined fictitious conversation. While this functionality
is certainly clever, these keyword-triggered "conversations" are
nothing of the sort.
Public IM networks have also begun providing advertising positions
to support mass marketing activities, including customized "skins,"
or creative units, which are served as part of an application's
presentation layer as well as simple banner ads.
Companies likely to Get Neighboring
Initially, businesses will use interactive sessions like IM
as a foundation to establish relationships with product loyalist.
Similar to what Matt Reese did with creating grassroots organizations
to support political campaigning, public affairs and issue lobbying.
Simply, businesses will start asking for support and reward those
customers that support them.
Here are a few organizations and businesses to watch:
Farmers Insurance Group Farmers Insurance
The country's third-largest writer of both private passenger automobile
Farmers' operates in 41 states supported by nearly 18,000 employees
than 15 million customers. Recently, the insurance giant provided
each of their sales
a personal computer. Imagine the combined network effect of 18,000
actively asking their customers in real-time for sales referrals.
Trade Associations, in particular, run highly effectively grassroots
supporting one continuous unified message. Imagine the "pass along"
power of a
when someone knows you are online and present at your computer,
in real-time to communicate to a legislator? Watch out Washington!
framework is likely to be mimicked by political campaigns as a tool
to support GOTV
Instant messaging is unique from other communication vehicles
in that it has the power
to detect whether someone else is online, a quality known as "presence."
Bacardi is likely to use IM as an event support mechanism to send
individuals to drive people to show up at promotions, events and
parties. Don't be surprised
when more people just start showing up!
Building Neighborhoods: The Next Step
To reach mass audiences effectively through IM, corporations will
need to rely on the power of their customer's influence over individuals
in small groups. When these small networks are combined, Neighboring
becomes a mass marketing tool for marketing professionals to use
to create networks of smaller marketing organizations with disproportionately
high market shares.
I believe marketers will continue to uncover new ways to use IM
as a mass marketing vehicle, however, successful instant messaging
marketing strategies will include Neighboring-based
Invitations will be expanded beyond the individual as corporations
begin asking for support across small groups that will be only accessible
through a neighbor's IM buddy list. The neighbor will be the link
that initiates interactions, builds awareness and supports education
objectives of a marketing campaign by allowing individuals to establish
collaborative dialogs across small groups within IM sessions.
Marketing is a contest for people's attention, and there's a lot
of competition. Corporations that empower their customers to use
their own voice will be the ones that succeed.