November 08, 2012

Using Contactually to Engage Your Sphere of Influence


Part of the fun of working at an early stage startup like Contactually is experiencing incredible growth and interacting with the people who help us recruit new users. These experiences have caused us to repeatedly assert two things:

* We truly love our users and think that they are our best advocates.

* The best way to grow your business is by establishing strong relationships with the people that love you and your product, and getting them to talk about you to the people that love them.

If you aren't yet convinced, think about this. A Nielsen research study found that 92% of consumers across the globe trust recommendations from their family and friends more than they do any other form of advertising. While this may not surprise you, this is up from 74% in 2007 -- an increase of 18 percent!

Keeping this in mind, we set out to find ways to use our own proven product, as well as a few other tools, that would best engage what we call our Sphere of Influencers. After all, what better way to build and strengthen a relationship than using Contactually to follow up with that contact -- in this case, our Influencer?

1. Finding Our Influencers

To find our influencers, we first surveyed our Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ accounts to see which of our users had recently interacted with our brand in some way. We paid extra attention to people who had helped share our content or talked about us positively more than once.

We then turned to Intercom, a tool that we use to collect data about our users and then segment them for targeted communication. Using Intercom, we compiled a list of our active users that had a substantial Twitter following (at least 3,000 followers). Their activity on Contactually indicated that these Influencers love our product and have results that prove its success. Additionally, their strong social media presence assured that these people would help us assert our relevance and authority in our space by sharing our content.

Filtering for active Twitter users on Intercom. Next step: sort by number of Twitter followers.

2. Getting Them On Board

Our Influencers deserve the utmost respect from us, as they're providing something invaluable to our company. We initially turned to the telephone and video conferencing to nurture and encourage them, as we felt this was a more personal and meaningful way to get in touch.

We proposed a system that would benefit both them and our brand. As a way of thanking them, we pledged to provide sneak peaks of upcoming news and announcements as well as early access to great content. We'll also engage them offline by sending them fun, tangible goodies and Contactually swag, like the sunglasses that we're planning on ordering once we hit an internal goal. We're really close (but don't expect us to integrate with UPS or anyone else out of the cloud anytime soon)!

3. Engage, Engage, Engage

Once our Influencers committed to our cause, we switched to what we know best: relationship management with email. In Contactually, we created Buckets of Influencers by category: social media, real estate, and CRM, to name a few. Once we added the Influencers with whom we had a relationship, we took advantage of Contactually's team functionalities by sharing our individual Bucket with our team to ensure that no relationship slipped through the crack. We also linked them to a central Team Bucket called Influencers in order to give our whole team access to the entire Influencer network.

By adjusting the Bucket's settings to remind us to follow up with the contacts in that Bucket every 30 days, these relationships will never go cold.

Then, we turned to the services of one of our integration partners. Contactually's integration with MailChimp allows you to link your Buckets to lists in MailChimp, a great program for email marketing and managing your email lists. Their reports let us know when our Influencers receive and open our email, as well as if they clicked on any links inside. Their Tweet Trends feature allows us to see our Influencers' Twitter activity, and the Google Analytics integration gives us some insight as to how our campaign influenced our website's traffic. Of course, Contactually also records all mail sent using MailChimp in our recent communications history for each contact. Our system also marks it as a follow-up if our system has already prompted you to do so. Pretty neat!

Does your brand have a network of Influencers? What best practices do you employ when seeking to best engage them? Let us know in the comments section below.