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Could you encourage your customers to write for you?

Here’s a nice initiative which I’ve just been told about. A marketing manager at an engineering company was convinced of the merits of getting as much original content as possible on her company’s website. Very enlightened, and I couldn’t agree with her more strongly. It’s incredible how much money is still being wasted on ultra-short-term, old-school advertising, when it could be invested as a bedrock for marketing results for years to come. However, her own time was limited, and getting a decent technical writer or PR company to produce an article was going to set her back £500 or more, which meant that the number of articles which could be written was limited. Another problem was simply coming up with ideas for what to write about.

Then she came up with the solution of asking her company’s customers to write about how they were using their products. But how could they be encouraged to do that? One idea was to offer each customer £100 or more for every submission. If it had generated plenty of content, it would have been an excellent investment. However, the feeling was that people would be reluctant to respond to that, not knowing if such an arrangement would be acceptable to their employer. I’m sure this was a correct assumption.

The way around this was excellent. Instead of offering customers something directly, the company has offered to make a charitable donation for every article received. It’s a strange thing about the human condition that we’re often prepared to go the extra mile for someone deserving. People are suspicious of being offered a reward directly, but ask them to do something to generate the same reward for their forthcoming charity fun run, or their son’s football team’s shirt appeal, and they’ll make the effort. And I understand that. If I was fund raising, and someone offered me £100 to write a few paragraphs (and to get my boss’s agreement), I’d probably leap at the opportunity.

I haven’t had the opportunity to really investigate the nuts and bolts of the initiative (I’m sure the accounts department must have got involved) but it sounds like a great idea.

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