Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Is $3 Million better spent on top-down, or bottom-up?
It's that time of the year again. Time when we hear the exorbitant prices that advertisers will pay for a 30-second megaphone blast of advertising during the Super Bowl. It seems that the price tag this year for 30 ticks of advertising-goodness will set you back close to $3 million.
This got me, and others wondering if there might be a better way to spend $3 million. My thinking is, instead of going for a top-down blast of one-way advertising, what if a company spent that $3 million on a bottom-up effort designed to engage and excite customers?
First, let's hire a community manager. Someone that is absolutely passionate about the idea of listening to and empowering customers. People like CK, Tara Hunt, Chris Brogan, and Connie Bensen. I asked Connie via Twitter about salaries because I knew she had done some checking into this (here's a great post on her blog going into more detail). She said the salary range she found was $50K and up. Let's set the salary/cost for this position at $100K.
Second, let's hire some bloggers. But not really bloggers, people that will write at a blog, but that also understand the importance of engaging readers and fellow bloggers in their spaces. People that understand that much of the work required in growing a blog happens OFF the blog. Perhaps it would be more accurate to think of them as 'community advocates', people that understand the importance of engaging with current and potential customers online, and giving them a voice within the company. You'd be looking for people like Lionel Menchaca, Tim Jackson, and Jeremiah Owyang. Let's say the salary for these positions would be $60K each, and let's hire 5 for a total cost of $300K.
But what about offline? One of the great things that LinkedIn did last year was to start having meetups with its users. This is absolutely important, because a company needs face-to-face time with its customers, and it's also great to let customers meet and come together to form a community. Let's say you do 20 of these across the country at a cost of $5K each. That's still only $100K. And really if you think about it, this is about your evangelists (is your average customer going to want to attend a party to meet you? Probably not). So since these meetings are about meeting and bringing together your evangelists, let's create a position to facilitate the offline meetups. You're looking for someone that understands the importance of customer evangelists. Someone like, obviously, Ben and Jackie. Let's set the salary for this position at $100K.
Even with all this, we are still only at $600K. That's five seconds of Super Bowl advertising. There's no doubt areas I have overlooked, and there's probably more money that could and does need to be spent, but I don't think it will come anywhere near $3 million. And I also don't think the 30-second SB ad would be anywhere near as effective as this 'grassroots' marketing effort.
There's a fundamental marketing truth in play here: It is much more expensive to attempt to create the conversation for your customers, than it is to listen to and engage in the existing one. SB advertising might be sexier to big companies, but that doesn't mean it's as effective.
Pic of Kathy Sierra at SXSWi via Flickr user Brianfit
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing
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