Monday, October 19, 2009

The power of endorsements

Last weekend, I randomly stopped by a cell phone store to pick up a charger for my wife. And in a show of excellent customer service, the guy that helped me went the extra mile to get me what I needed with the support to back it up. So the next day, I posted my experience on Facebook, in case any of my friends were interested. The next thing I know, a buddy of mine that saw the post went to this store and bought two new phones and service plan for himself and his wife. Before he saw the post, he didn't even know the store was there.

That's the power of an endorsement. Obviously, I'm not famous. But he trusted me and that was enough to at least consider the option.

We see endorsements all the time, but do they actually work? Consider the following two examples.

On Thursday,  October 15, I was listening to Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio. His show, The Herd, is a nationally syndicated sports talk show and Cowherd is a humorous host that comes across as genuine. Presumably on a whim (though I guess we never really know what is on the script) he found a YouTube video of a jumbo jet that nearly decapitates a bunch of people on its landing. The video, originally posted April 12, 2008, had amassed 236,040 views and 357 comments prior to October 15, according to YouTube stats. Cowherd talked about the video on his show for about three minutes, offered some search terms and posted a link on the show's website. In less than 24 hours the number of views went up 18.3% (to 279,440) and the comments increased by 20.7%, most of which thanked Colin for pointing out the video or simply promoted his show. The number of views has now passed 307,500, a 30% increase.

Another example: I was listening to Jim Rome on his sports talk show. Rome is an edgy host and has gained his loyal followers by being a bit more controversial. But he is also considered genuine. Rome mentioned one of his listeners had a Twitter account with only 12 followers. At his urging he drove the number of followers to over 260. While a 248 person increase may not seem like a lot, consider that it could only affect those listeners that happened to hear what was said in those specific 5 seconds AND had a Twitter account AND were sitting at a computer during those 5 seconds. Not bad.

Strong endorsements come from people that have built up trust. Powerful endorsements combine that trust with some form of celebrity. And while the endorsement may not actually cause an action, it will at least put whatever is being sold into the consideration set.

If you are thinking about using someone to endorse your product or service, consider the following: are the endorser's fans/listeners/friends in the same market that you are seeking? What is the endorser's reach? And, most importantly, how much is it going to cost you?

In the case of the cell phone store, it took me very little time to post it on Facebook. In the case of Cowherd and Rome, it cost them a few seconds of their air time. All parties delivered on their promises and even built their trust. And the people that benefited got what they expected and will probably continue to listen.

By the way, the cell phone store was the Verizon dealer, located at 520 S. Meridian Rd., Suite 100, Meridian, ID. Thanks Brian!

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