Word-of-mouth is a powerful marketing medium. This is also true in the online world; there are many places where the issues of your market segment are being discussed and where people are sharing their experience with or opinions about building products and manufacturers.
While new platforms such as Facebook and Twitter get more notice these days, the "automated mail list server," a concept first developed in the 1980s, is still an important medium
. Google Groups and Yahoo Groups are types of list servers, and they exist in many other formats as well. When an email is addressed to a list serve mailing list, the email is automatically sent to everyone on the list. The result is similar to a newsgroup or forum, except that messages are transmitted as emails and are therefore available only to individuals on the list. The owner of the particular list server can determine whether inclusion in the list is open to anyone that subscribes or to only a controlled list.
EXAMPLE: I have subscribed to the ArtConcrete
list server for many years.
Most of the subscribers are artists or artisans that use concrete in their work: sculptures, landscape installations, furnishings, and even jewelry. The moderator of the group, Andrew Goss, is the author of the seminal book, Concrete Handbook for Artists,
making him an important figure at the nexus of art and concrete.
I joined because several of my clients make products for decorative concrete. While the total amount of material actually purchased by concrete artists is minuscule compared to the tonnage consumed in building or civil engineering construction, monitoring the group has provided valuable information and opportunities
. I have:
- Identified prospects for my clients.
- Gotten early market intelligence about new products.
- Learned about technologies and products not used in the US.
- Heard concerns and about experiments that have stimulated new products, market niches, and distribution channels for my clients.
- Discovered new uses for existing products.
- Corrected misrepresentations about my clients' products, and provided an alternative perspective about competitors.
- Found examples of "artistic" uses of my clients products that provided unique case studies and illustrations for our clients' sales collateral.
- Gotten my clients' brands discussed by a global audience of "early adopters" and innovators.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Monitoring sites like this is an increasingly important part of an overall social media marketing strategy. I recommend you identify and monitor list servers that relate to your market sectors
. Postings come right to your email box, so they are easily accessible. Depending on the amount of traffic on the list server, it may take only a few minutes a day to follow; if necessary, assign the task to someone on your team or to a marketing consultant.
List servers, generally, are not the place to be overtly commercial -- for example, don't post press releases here. Etiquette calls for peer-to-peer sharing.
Within this guideline, however, I can join discussions about my clients' products, suggest solutions, refer people to information that is posted on my clients' websites.
I can also post requests for feedback, for example: "My company makes [is considering] a new product. We think it has X, Y, and Z benefits, but we don't have much experience in this regard. If you have any thoughts, I would love to hear from you, either via the list server or directly at my email."