Embracing fans of a service company

This is a guest post from Spike Jones — SVP, Managing Director SW Region at Edelman Digital and co-author of the book Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable Word of Mouth Movements. See the original post this is adapted from and more like it on his blog.

I’ve had the honor of doing a webinar with the good people at Vocus. It was a great experience all around, and that was especially true for the follow-up questions I was sent afterwards. There was one in particular that stood out to me and I realized that while it’s asked often, it’s one that I’ve never written about. So I’d like to remedy that.

Basically the question went something like, “Ambassadors are great for companies that have products, but what about service companies? How do you embrace your fans if you don’t have a physical ‘thing’ that you sell?”

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A great question. And one that reminded me of something fun that we did at a previous agency. We were coming across what we called “kindred spirits” on a consistent basis. Sure, some were current/potential clients, some were people we’d like to keep in mind for recruiting needs, and some were just people that loved our work, philosophy, and brand.

We knew we needed to do something to feed that need that all of us have to want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

In other words, we wanted them to feel like they were one of us. So we actually bought the URL youareoneofus.com (there’s no link, because it’s not active any more) and did something about it.

The amazing creative team developed an “underground” logo that we simply put on one side of a business card. The other side had the url and a password. Then we’d put it in an envelope — with nothing else — and drop it in the mail. (Sometimes we’d have the cards on us at events and give them to just a few people we felt were the “same tribe.”)

Once they arrived at the website, they would log in and be presented with a small selection of limited edition t-shirts. These had simple designs on them that — guess what — DID NOT have the company name or logo on them. They were simply meant to be something “cool” that others would ask, “What is that and where did you get it?”

Before we’d package it up, we’d have a group of folks sign the inside of the packaging, seal it, and send it on its way.

There were other sections of the small site that showed small glimpses of life at the agency, too, like images of what we carried in our work bags, etc.

The results were amazing.

People gushed on social sites, posted pictures, and sent us hand-written letters. All because we made a simple thing like giving away t-shirts… feel special. I had forgotten about this small gesture of surprising and delighting the fans of a boutique service company from a while back, but the principals (and the tactics) still apply.

Just because you don’t sell widgets that are in the hands of your customers on a daily basis doesn’t mean you can’t ignite ambassadors.

Ambassadors are messengers of goodwill and all they need is something bigger to believe in. Remember: it doesn’t have to be big gestures, just special ones.

PS: The kids over at Grow Interactive have an awesome take on this same concept. Check it out.

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About Spike Jones

Spike Jones is a results-proven communications professional, specializing in digital and offline word of mouth marketing. With more than 15 years of experience, the career path goes something like this: Baylor University; a decade at Brains on Fire; SVP of the Customer Experience team at Fleishman-Hillard; Group Director, Engagement at WCG; and now SVP, Managing Director SW Region at Edelman Digital. Spike is also a co-author of the book Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable, Word of Mouth Movements.

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