What's the point of good word-of-mouth if nobody pays attention?
Jay Gierak, co-founder and president, of Detroit-based Stik, a social-enabled business recommendation service, wants to help businesses leverage the good experiences of friends, family and happy customers to attract more happy customers and influence their buying behavior. Essential to the effort: adding good reviews, testimonials and accounts of superior customer services to a company's online marketing in a targeted manner.
"Word of mouth is really critical for all businesses across the entire spectrum," Gierak told Small Businesses Computing during a phone interview. "It is far and away most powerful influencer on customer experiences."
In Gierak's experience, the opinions and experiences of family and friends carry tremendous weight in terms of buying decisions. But even strangers can influence shoppers, he said. "People like what other people have to say even if they don't know them." His company's targeted-marketing platform helps turn their insights into trusted recommendations.
Fusing Word-of-Mouth with Advertising
Having already laid the groundwork with Stik, a recommendation service site that integrates with Facebook to "help individual professionals and small businesses build their reputation," said Gierak, the company has taken the next step with the recent launch of SocialProof.
SocialProof is a cloud-based analytics platform that lets marketers turn good word-of-mouth into engaging ads and online experiences. In typical startup fashion, the service got its start as a custom project that evolved into something more.
After cooking up a version of Stik's social recommendation technology for General Motors, a giant global automaker, the founders quickly realized that other businesses had the same word-of-mouth marketing needs. SocialProof was born.
SocialProof works by collecting content—reviews and testimonials that are usually solicited—and storing it on the platform. After analyzing reviews and demographic data on reviewers, the service then intelligently distributes those customer success stories using a variety of channels, including email, Facebook advertising and published Web content. SocialProof also offers customer relationship management (CRM) integration, which allows targeted campaigns that pinpoint the right content for a given customer or prospect.
The company calls the endeavor Customer Success Marketing, which "combines scalable content creation with mass personalization and cross-platform precision delivery, allowing companies of every size to put their success stories to work," said Gierak in a statement.
The result is a much higher rate of engagement compared to traditional online advertising. According to the company's data, customers are experiencing up to 13X better engagement with SocialProof's word-of-mouth driven platform versus purely promotional ads.
On mobile devices, the effect is even more pronounced. Stik co-founder Nathan Labenz said, in a written statement, that his company is "seeing roughly three-times higher engagement compared to desktop. As dollars and user time shift increasingly toward mobile, this is especially enticing for companies in mature industries that struggle to engage customers on mobile."
A Marketing Platform for Businesses of Every Size
So far, SocialProof has attracted some big brands. GM remains a customer, along with Quicken Loans, Caldwell Banker and Farmers Insurance. They serve to demonstrate the platform's ability to tackle big marketing projects, but Jay Gierak assures that "companies of all sizes can transform customer success stories into promotional content at scale."
Gierak noted that his platform is helping customers turn "online reputation into an offense instead of a defense." Rather than hope and pray that customers will pen great Yelp reviews—and that competitors will play nice—business owners can proactively distribute their customer success stories.
"Words form your happiest customers are your best asset," said Gierak. We built SocialProof to help capitalize on them, he said.
SocialProof is available now.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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