Chapter 8. Step Four: Engage Communities in Conversation (To Generate Word of Mouse)

Up to this point, you've observed the field and created a customer map, recruited community members, and evaluated online conduit strategies. Now it's time to plan to engage your community (or communities) in conversation. Approach this as if you were writing a marketing plan with the target audience of customers and potential customers in mind. Your conduit strategies will guide many of the activities you plan. Of course a web site (or more than one) will be part of your plan and of course it must have great content—"great," that is, as defined by your target audience.

How do you engage a community in conversation? Before I talk about the nuts and bolts, I want to show you a company that understands its target audience and has a variety of conversation starters in its toolkit.

Bubbly Conversation

Jones Soda Co., based in Seattle, Washington, has been building a community conversation for years. First, a little background. If you haven't seen Jones Soda at your local Starbucks or Panera Bread, you may not know that the company differentiates itself by cooking up some very quirky flavors. For the holidays, it has offered limited-edition flavors such as Turkey and Gravy soda, Christmas Ham soda, and Latke soda. Year-round flavors include Strawberry Manilow, Blue Bubblegum, and Your Momegranate.

Just looking at the soda is enough to start a conversation because the photos and sayings on each bottle have ...

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