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Energizing The Groundswell: Nurturing Relationships With Your Customers

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Social media has transformed marketing from the traditional notion of “the campaign” to an automated, individualized and cross-channel interaction that works for companies and customers alike. The new dimension now draws global marketers to center the marketing efforts through building relationships with their stakeholders.  To make the relationship work out successfully, in addition to listening and talking in the groundswell, businesses energize the audience with actionable strategies.

An energized customer is a powerful asset to businesses because he or she markets the brands on behalf of companies for free.  BusinessPeople Marching with Bullhornses that run in a slow growth economy, in particular, found the contribution of vital importance. Most importantly, the crowd treasures word-of-mouth recommendations and this is why word of mouth is a powerful amplifier for brand marketing. Seeing the opportunity, companies use three techniques to turn these customers into evangelists of their products and services:

  • Tap into customers’ enthusiasm with ratings and reviews. Retail companies like Amazon are using feedback from customers as the main channel to market its products and services to existing and potential buyers.
  • Create a community to energize your customers. Toyota has launched an online community called Club Toyota in Canada for the car owners to share common problems and let members to educate each other for any related issue.
  • Participate in and energize online communities of your brand enthusiasts.  Apple makes use of the Apple Community to capture market attention and to bring in new ideas for products and services development.

Despite of all the benefits, energizing contains certain risk. As companies are dealing with actual customers, the situation is dynamic and may change at any time. To help companies deal with the challenges, groundswell guru Charlene Li and Jeff Bernoff have outlined 5 steps for energizers:

  1. Figure out if you want to energize the groundswell. Energizing only works well in a situation where customers share strong emotional ties with the products or services of the company.
  2. Check the social technographics profile of your customers. For companies whose sales target is seniors, energizing doesn’t seem feasible because the majority of them don’t have experience in social media.
  3. Ask yourself, “what is my customer’s problem?”  Companies have to frame the problems of customers neither too narrow nor too board in order to generate discussions.
  4. Pick a strategy that fits your customers’ social technographics profile and problems. Companies need to consider which energizing technique, ratings and reviews or communities, will make sense for their core supporters.
  5. Don’t start unless you can stick around for the long haul. Energizing the groundswell takes time and continuous efforts. Unless companies can make a long-term commitment, this should not be an agenda for their marketing plans.


Only if companies walk through these steps do they can advance their marketing programs to new levels and cultivate relationships with the customers in the rapid changing world.


Li,C. & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by
social technologies. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business Review Press


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