When an organization has a new product or service available, the goal is to obtain widespread adoption of that product or service, right? So how does a company go about doing that? Ask any public relations or advertising practitioner: Research and strategy.
As a customer of various organizations, think about how and why you decide to use a service, donate to a charity, or purchase a product. Do you blindly adopt or support anything and everything you see? Or do you put thought into it?
Although we all make impulse buys from time to time, chances are, most of your decisions are calculated (even if the calculation is very brief, it still happens). Therefore, the strategy behind an organization’s product or service must also be calculated to obtain the most effective results possible.
There is a process involved with almost every successful product or service adoption campaign in existence. A good public relations strategy is to always use a good theory. One basic but highly effective theory in this case is Diffusion Theory, which is neatly packaged below in five succinct steps.
1) Awareness: Before initiating any research, the organization needs to know who its target demographic is. Armed with the organization’s demographic data, the PR strategist can create awareness of the new product or service. Potential adopters need to know there is something new available before they can adopt it.
2) Interest: Once people are aware of the product or service, they’ll want to know more about it. An organization should be ready to disseminate easily understood information about the product/service: What it is, how it functions, why it’s useful or necessary, and so on. As always, this step should be kept simple. An organization doesn’t want to loose potential customers due to poor explanations!
3) Trial: People need the option to try a product or service on a trial-basis to determine whether it’s something they want to use long-term. The trial stage is crucial, because first impressions matter. For example, Ive heard of the Kindle from various sources (conversations with friends, TV commercials). I become more interested because I realize it’s a new, green technology. I’d like to try a Kindle out, but I’m still not sure if I need or even want one. Luckily, Amazon.com is offering a 30-day, money-back guarantee trial for just this reason. Excellent!
4) Evaluation: The fourth step is where most people will either accept or reject the product or service. Possible questions the person may ask him or herself when deciding: Is it useful? Will it make my life easier? Is it even affordable? Is it offered from a reputable, trustworthy company? An organization should try to ensure the answer is always YES to all of these questions, in order to attract (and retain) as many new customers or clients as possible. If a person decides to adopt the new product or service, the organization has successfully changed that persons’ behavioral pattern. Either the person is adopting a product or service for the first time, or they’re choosing to drop what the competition is offering, in favor of another organization. If the person chooses not to adopt the product or service, the organization will have failed to change that person’s behavior (for various reasons).
5) Adoption: If the first four steps are successfully implemented, a person will hopefully choose to adopt the new product or service. Widespread adoption may take a little while, but if people like what the organization is offering, they will spread the news. People typically share positive feedback with 9-12 friends, but be warned: People who have a bad experience with an organization’s product or service may tell as many as 20 people* about it – and not in a good way. With the explosion of social media use, word of mouth about products and services travels super fast these days. It’s essential to keep new and existing customers as happy as possible, so those fast-traveling words stay positive!
One last thought: Not every public relations or advertising campaign should use ONLY social media. Remember, for some demographics, using social media platforms to attract new customers can be about as useful as a submarine with windshield wipers. Keep some traditional options in mind when strategizing. If in doubt, remember that it always comes down to that initial research: Use the public relations or advertising strategies that best fit your organization’s goals. Chances are, the results will be a success.
* Figures taken from The Social Media Bible by Lon Safko, 2010.