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Are you always the best source for your marketing message...?

I've already talked about the need to join your community as a marketer. Joining your community means that you can better communicate with them, which means that you begin to understand them, and perhaps more importantly, they begin to understand you. This is a reality of marketing in 2006, you must embrace your community and trust them enough to share control of your marketing message.
But there's another marketing reality in 2006: Communities are leaky.
The Cluetrain Manifesto talks about how centuries ago, craftsmen such as blacksmiths would talk to their customers face to face. The blacksmith was also the marketer, and he spoke in the language of his craft.
But in today's hyper-connected reality, there are 20 'blacksmiths' for every town. All producing very similar products at very similar prices. So many times, a simple endorsement from a fellow member of your community is all it takes to sway your business toward a particular 'blacksmith', and away from another.
With so many options and choices available, today's customer will often join and leave communities with the shifting of the breeze. If one product isn't meeting your wants and needs, dump them and go with one of their 20 direct competitors. If the next offering still doesn't satisfy you, keep looking till you find what you need. Lather, rinse, repeat.
But in practically every community, there are a few customers that are almost as passionate about your product and company as you are. These customer evangelists are anchors in their community. While many customers will enter and leave their community, the evangelists stay. And not only will they stay, they will encourage other community members to stay as well. While communities are indeed leaky, evangelists are a stablizing force that can solidify a group as a place where satisfied customers of a product/brand meet, and grow.
Given this knowledge, why wouldn't you do everything you could empower these customer evangelists to market for you, in their communities?
I'm reading, and enjoying, the book Life After the 30-Second Spot, by Joseph Jaffe. A few weeks ago, I had an email exchange with Jaffe, and he asked me if I had a copy of the book, I told him I didn't, and a week or so later, an autographed copy of Life After the 30-Second Spot was in my mailbox. A few emails were exchanged, and as a result, Jaffe gave me the tool I needed to be an empowered marketer for Life After the 30-Second Spot.
This is the new marketing reality: The days of marketing TO your community are over. Your only choice now is to embrace the community as your marketing partner and market WITH them.
Is giving up total control of your marketing message a scary proposition? Of course, but rather than focusing on what you lose upfront, consider what you will ultimately gain: A community of empowered marketers that are ready and willing to sing your praises to anyone that will listen.
All you need to do is give them a microphone...

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image of Mack Collier

Mack Collier is a social-media strategist based in Alabama. He helps companies build programs and initiatives that let them better connect with their customers and advocates. His podcast, The Fan-Damn-Tastic Marketing Show, discusses ways that brands can turn customers into fans. His first book, Think Like a Rock Star: How to Create Social Media and Marketing Strategies That Turn Customers Into Fans, was published in April 2013 by McGraw-Hill.

Twitter: @MackCollier

LinkedIn: Mack Collier