What’s in it for me?


In an age when consumers are supplanting traditional media as perhaps our most important marketing channel, many companies are making the wrong decisions on how to reward those same consumers for their support.

Spike from Brains on Fire recently highlighted a campaign by Oakley, the sunglasses maker, in which Oakley asked its loyal customers to give up the names and contact information for their friends, so that Oakley could send them sales brochures. In exchange, Oakley would send everyone a decal. A decal.

Peerflix recently launched an initiative to compel its users to refer the DVD-exchange service to friends. They even offer an easy way to download your entire database of contacts from your email clients, LinkedIn, and more. The reward? Your friend gets a free DVD for signing up. What do you get for opening up your address book? Nada.

Never mind the fact that these companies (and many more) are asking us to betray the privacy of our friends, and give another company permission to market to them on their behalf. That in and of itself is a step not to be taken lightly.

The bigger point is that fewer and fewer companies, in even the most tactical “refer-a-friend” offers, are failing to create clear and compelling value propositions for the referring customer.

Sure, most companies have their rabid evangelists – those who will spread the brand gospel at a moment’s notice, oftentimes on their own without being compelled to do so, and purely because they want to. They love your product so much they can’t wait to tell others about it.

But for most of us, the key to unlocking the true potential of pass-along marketing is compelling our average customers to tell their friends about us. With those customers, we can’t count on their passion for our products. We need to appeal to their vanity, their ego, and even their greed.

Because nearly every one of those customers, when they see our “tell your friends about us” campaigns, are asking a single question – “What’s in it for me?”

If we don’t adequately address and answer that question up front, our “tell-a-friend” campaigns are dead out of the gate.