Is Your Business Harnessing the Power of Peer Influence?

Marketing isn't what it used to be. According to a consumer survey by McKinsey & Company, consumers are no longer making their buying decisions in the same way that they once did. The traditional model of the consumer becoming aware of many brands and developing some level of familiarity with one or more of them before finally choosing one and building a sense of loyalty to that product is no longer accurate.

Today’s busy consumers now do their own extensive research into the many products available before making a purchase — and the majority of consumers rely primarily on the opinions of people they know personally when it’s time to make a purchasing decision. When a consumer has already purchased a product or service, his or her friends are 3.3 times more likely to make the same purchase. And if that consumer is what marketers call a “peer influencer,” his or her friends are 5.3 times more likely to make the same purchase.

What Is a Peer Influencer?

A peer influencer is someone who has the power to influence members of his or her inner social circle to make purchasing decisions. While some marketers have defined influence in terms of a consumer’s Twitter following or the number of “likes” he or she receives on Facebook posts, your social media following has little to do with your influence.

In fact, people are most likely to turn to those they know and trust for help making purchasing decisions. When it comes to making decisions about which brands and products to buy, 92 percent of people trust the recommendations of their friends and family over any other form of advertisement or marketing. Everyone has a close-knit network of friends and loved ones they know well and trust. That means everyone can be, or can be reached by, a peer influencer.

But some people have more influence over their peers than others — they’re more likely to recommend your business to other members of your network. How can you determine which of your customers hold the most sway over the buying decisions of their friends, relatives, co-workers and neighbors?

Harnessing the Power of Peer Influence for Your Business

Since most people today rely on the recommendations of trusted friends and loved ones when it comes to purchasing decisions, an easy way to determine which customers are key peer influencers is with a simple survey. Many businesses ask new customers who referred them. The names you get the most often are your key influencers — the ones whose friends are 5.3 times more likely to buy your products and services.

You can reward your key influencers with special gifts or discounts. Promotional products are a good way to express your appreciation for such a valuable customer. Some businesses even send key influencers cold hard cash to thank them for referring their friends, relatives and neighbors.

Direct recommendations are one of the most effective ways to attract new customers. But you can increase your brand awareness through the clever use of promotional products, too. Promotional pens, T-shirts, tote bags and other products expose your business name to the eyes of every person who sees that customer using that product. Promotional pens are an especially good choice because they’re so useful and versatile, but also because they often get passed around, and can end up expanding awareness of your brand and products in ways you never thought possible. Everyone needs a pen, and you never know where your promotional pen might turn up.

Another great way to make the most of your influencers is to get their feedback and actively enlist their help in ramping up your marketing strategy. Give your influencers what they need to build their own networks and increase their own social capital among those they influence. Ask them what promotions, products and advertising strategies would be most effective among their peer groups. Thanks to the advent of the Internet and social media, you have an unprecedented opportunity to connect with your most influential customers and solicit their feedback.

This feedback is easily among the most valuable information your business could possibly obtain. Using this feedback, you can give your customers the products and services they want and the promotions they crave. You can market it all using strategies that are all but guaranteed to make your business appear as appealing as possible.

Today’s customers are no longer relying on traditional advertising and professional reviews to make their purchasing decisions. The savvy consumers of today are making their buying decisions based largely on their own research — and, increasingly, they’re relying on the recommendations of family and friends to make their buying decisions. As a business owner, you need to make the most of your customers’ influence over their friends and relatives, so you can maximize your profits while expanding your customer base. 

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