I’ve converted countless friends to Mint.com, a sweet site for tracking personal finances.
It’s a marketer’s dream, a passionate customer with enough loyalty and audacity to push Mint.com on anyone. These are Mint.com’s “influencers,” a la Seth Godin.
The influencers are product pushers. They’re “that guy” during a computer discussion who ruthlessly lauds Apple and attempts to convert any PC user.
I’ve been thinking about the pusher’s talking points, or “ammo” recently. Does she rely on Apple’s product features (ease of use, speed, applications)? Or is it something intangible, like how Apple makes you feel?
Talking about Brands
Supposing I am in the middle of a recommendation pitch, where does it usually start?
Marketers have a simple framework to discuss brands (it’s branding 101). Think of this as a pyramid, starting at the bottom:
1. Functional Benefits – these are the benefits directly related to the product. If you’ve shopped for computers, you’ve definitely seen it: Computer A has 2GHz processor, Computer B has 1.5Ghz processor; therefore, A>B. Functional benefits are very easy to compare.
2. Emotional Benefits – Notice how easy it was for computers to compete on function–it’s merely a battle for speed. Functional attributes ladder-up to the emotional benefits: Rolex is about luxury, Apple is creativity. Try one-upping your competition on that–not so easy.
3. Self-Expressive/Higher Order: this transcends emotion. Apple makes you feel progressive or unique. Terracycle expresses green-movement and sustainability.
Back to Mint.com, the financial management site. One of my friends was a user of Quicken. Appealing to functional benefits seemed like a reasonable route: “Mint.com offers email alerts when you overspend.” Or “Mint.com has more customization than Quicken.”
But quite a few people have never used financial management software–they could care less about the features. That’s where the emotional and self-expressive benefits play. “Mint will help you get a better handle on your finances. You will feel a lot better about your spending habits.”
Arming your Influencers
If influencers, the really passionate customers, are pushing products through their network, are they well equipped for the task? Sometimes the functional and emotional benefits are not very easy to articulate. As a user of Delicious, I find it difficult to convert friends to the service. For the life of me, I cannot describe social bookmarking effectively. Is this my fault?
Mint has an awesome front page, loaded with several marketing bullets, emotional and functional. Perhaps subconsciously, I find myself exploiting these same talking points to friends. Some products are just so much easier to discuss and convert friends to. Why is this? It’s definitely worth some toilet thinking time.
In short, every service has a fan club, the influencers that ruthlessly push their favorite products on others. What’s their ammo? It comes down to the same points that marketers use: functional, emotional, and expressive benefits. If this is how we recommend products, are influencers getting all of the ammo they need? Are they equipped with talking points needed for a successful conversion? Food for thought.