Once you have identified the talkers you need to give them something to talk about and this is where “topics” comes in. Sometimes the topics are short-term in nature, such as promotions and other times may represent a long-term marketing strategy such as business planning or branding.
The third T is “tools.” Remember that word-of-mouth marketing is getting your customers talking about your business and putting things in place to make it easier for them to do that talking. Your job then is to figure out the tools to make it easier for your customers to talk. Some businesses are effectively using the Internet, via blogs and online discussion groups as tools, but if online blogs are not for you, there are many other effective word-of-mouth marketing strategies, which we will discuss in more detail.
An important part of a word-of-mouth marketing campaign is that you will be “taking part” in the discussions with your customers. It is OK for you to take part in the word-of-mouth marketing initiative, but be honest and open about your presence in the discussion. In fact, customers will appreciate the fact that you are part of the discussion because you can often answer questions and clear up misunderstandings very quickly.
Any good marketing program requires constant monitoring which brings us to the fifth T of “tracking.” Develop a mechanism for keeping track of all activity related to your word-of-mouth marketing initiative and monitor the information regularly. Of course, your word-of-mouth marketing program will only be effective if you continuously adapt your initiative to take advantage of this new information.
Putting the Five T’s to work
In today’s business environment your customers have a real and immediate need for not only marketing information but also the analysis and interpretation of that marketing information with respect to what it means for their farm operations. Most of your customers have access to the Internet and therefore they have access to an extensive amount of both information and analysis — and in fact that is the challenge. The amount of information and analysis available on the Internet is so large it’s overwhelming. Here lies the opportunity for you to help make sense of it all. You can serve a need your customers have and word-of-mouth marketing can be an effective tool to use.
Your goal here will be to become the place that farmers talk about when the questions such as “What is the impact of the recent change in interest rates by the Federal Reserve on the agricultural economy?” or “How will recent changes in world oil prices impact us as farmers?” and others. You want to not only be the place that farmers talk about, but you want to be the place that farmers refer to as the place to get solid and useful answers to these questions.
Let’s evaluate the critical components for this program using the five T’s. As you implement a program like this you will learn these five T’s are interconnected.
Talkers: In identifying the “talkers” start by identifying the leaders of both commodity organizations and community groups as well as your most productive farmer customers. These are the people you want to get participating in discussion about economic conditions and what actions are appropriate for farmers as a result. Make a list of these target “talkers” to use as you consider the other four Ts.
Topics: The “topics” for you will focus around the market reports and analyses of economic conditions and implications for farm operations. Remember, your goal is to have farmers, when talking about changing economic conditions, refer to your business as the place to get solid and useful answers to these key questions. You may find from time to time you can take this one step further by introducing programs that are appropriate as the market conditions change, such as pre-payment options for inputs.
Tools: So, how are you going to do this? What “tools” are you going to use? Begin by identifying some market services and analysis that you find particularly helpful for your customers. Then identify the time the “talkers” you identified above tend to stop by your business. Now you have the information you need to initiate your word-of-mouth marketing program. Establish specific days/times when you and/or your marketing manager are in the lobby or meeting area along with your customers. Have hard copy print-outs of the market analysis noted above, as well as have the most up-to-date information on a computer screen for everyone to see.