Harnessing the Power of Social Hives for Your Marketing Strategy

By Jeanette McMurtry

Humans seek and form hives in all areas of our lives. Our social hives are usually made up of people who dress like we do, like the same entertainment, humor, and activities, and have the same religious and political viewpoints and affiliations. Professionally, our hives are made up of people who do the same line of work, have similar achievements, and so on.

Given that each of your customers belongs to many hives, you then have potential access to individuals in those hives that are just like them. Gaining access to customers’ hives is critical for marketing success and to acquiring customers with some of the lowest costs of acquisition.

Most people belong to several formal and casual organizations compromised of people just like them. These groups provide support systems, structure, and opportunities to collaborate with others on common causes, or to just have fun. Most importantly, they provide emotional bonds and loyalty to causes and others that are hard to break.

Brands can do this, too. And they must because the most powerful form of marketing is consumer to consumer, or C2C, which applies to both live and digital worlds. Despite all the time people spend socializing on “social media,” they still thrive being around people, meeting with them face to face rather than just screen to screen.

Events that bring customers together are powerful for not just delivering messages, performing product demos, or introducing new products; they’re most powerful for building validation and passion for a brand and its products and escalating loyalty because to leave a brand means to leave your support systems, friends, and social network and risk being embarrassed among those you recruited to the group.

Imagine the kind of movements you can spark for your category and brand by tapping your customers’ social and real‐world networks. Find out which groups and causes your customers tend to align with. Ask them in surveys or at the point of sale. Find out what matters most to them and find affiliated organizations that also make sense for your brand to support. These organizations often provide opportunities for live interaction, content marketing, sponsorship, and advertising options.

Following are some ideas for events and experiences that can help you build your relationships with customers and qualified prospects, strengthen your place in their lives, and inspire them to introduce you to their networks of like people and, of course, like customers.

“Face” your customers: Events that inspire engagement, loyalty, and referrals

Although you can use many tools to automatically communicate with large networks online, you can never underestimate the power of engaging face to face. Even in a digital world, there is still a need for human touch. People still like to shop at retail stores, see others giving them product advice, and touch the products. This is human nature, which will never change.

The possibilities for face‐to‐face marketing are many, but no matter what you do, all interactions in the real world, and the digital world for that matter, should provide a meaningful experience that is relevant to your consumers and the role you play in simplifying or enhancing their lives. The goal of your live interaction with customers and prospects should be to make every customer feel like your most valued, no matter how small or big his revenue stream is for you.

Here are some ideas for live marketing events designed to strengthen your bonds with customers and inspire them to introduce you to their hive:

  • Customer events: Events are important to building relationships with customers that create loyalty beyond just customer satisfaction. The key to success is to keep them meaningful and interactive and not just lecture about your brand or products. Think of events for your customers in general and for your segments for highly relevant engagement.
  • Trade shows: Trade shows are great for building visibility and presence among customer and partner prospects within your industry. You can get a lot of value from exhibiting and getting in front of prospects or just attending for some informal networking.
  • A client‐appreciation event: A party for entertaining and recognizing your customers can be a great way to strengthen relationships.
  • A fundraising dinner for an important charity: Supporting worthwhile causes is critical to gaining trust, support, and loyalty among your customers. In May 2015, Cone Communications conducted studies that showed that more than 70 percent will donate to and volunteer for a group supported by a trusted brand.
  • A community event for families: Not everything has to be business‐oriented. If you have the resources, consider organizing a fun, social event that enables you to mingle with your customers and build friendships.
  • A client advisory board: Invite a select group of good customers to join your advisory board. Organizing and funding meetings in interesting venues can make it worth their while to provide new ideas and open their networks to you.
  • Local supply chains where you wholesale to your neighbors and local stores that sell to their own communities: If this sounds like an old‐fashioned trunk show, that’s the point! It’s face to face and person to person without any sales pressure.
  • A workshop in which you share your expertise or solve problems for participants: Live workshops are engaging, social, and a great platform for building trust with customers and prospects.

Live events are a great way to build better bonds with your network and your customers and prospects, and they’re a great way to meet people in their collective networks. Send invites to customers and encourage them to bring their friends. Make them feel recognized and special when they come.

Find a way to mingle customers with prospects so that your customers become ambassadors at your events, spreading your message directly. Always make sure you collect names and contact information for attendees so you can add them to your database and follow up accordingly.

Whatever the business‐oriented opportunity, keep in mind that you’re still trying to attract and hold the attention of people, not businesses. You’re interested in the people in any business who make the purchase decisions. Make sure your ­business‐oriented events are relevant to people, not just an industry.

Mix up your marketing to create interest and ROI

If you’re planning your own event, keep in mind that it needs to be entertaining as well as professional and informative to draw attendance. To get someone to sit through two days of lectures on the impact of new technologies in the industry, or product demos of any nature, your chances are higher if you make it fun and social at the same time. Add cocktail receptions, outings such as golf, sunset hikes, dinner concerts, and other activities relevant to your invitee list.

Attendance is often high at conferences and other corporate events at places like Las Vegas that attract tourists and offer a lot of interesting after‐hours things to do. But be careful, especially when planning events targeting B2B purchasers. With corporate travel budgets declining, if you have too much fun planned and not enough functional take‐away sessions, your event could seem like a junket, and your customers could fail to get approval to attend.

Some events become staples that gain visibility and impact with each repetition. Customer events, such as those hosted by Salesforce, Adobe, and Microsoft, attract thousands each year and are challenging attendance at long‐running events hosted by trade associations.

If your event seems to be a success, find ways to do it again, and make it big enough to attract sponsors who add credibility, value, and of course funding.