That’s right. We are not all the same. Shocking, isn’t it?
So, what do we do about this fundamental inequality inherent in any population? Well, we use it to the advantage of our clients, of course. One of the best ways of doing so is finding people who are more influential than others and encouraging them to be part of a word-of-mouth marketing campaign. In fact, word-of-mouth marketing, at bottom, is really no more than identifying the most influential people in your population and convincing them to say complimentary things about your client.
So, who are these influential people who matter more than others? About a decade ago the Roper research organization set out to answer this question in a very precise way. Before we get to their precise answers, let’s look at their general findings, which are that influential people…
- Have an activist approach to life. That is, they don’t just watch things happen or let things happen to them – the make things happen in the community, the workplace, even their leisure time.
- Have a broad network of connections. Influentials don’t necessarily have many more close friends than the average person, but they do have considerably more acquaintances – and these “weak connections” are actually more helpful to word-of-mouth than strong ones, because they are better, quicker pipelines for spreading information. They also know people in lots of different networks, rather than a lot of people in one network. Most Influentials are connected to seven different groups, versus only three for the typical executive or professional.
- Have restless minds. They are easily bored. They love learning and solving problems.
Sound like anybody you know? According to Roper, the chances are that 1 in 10 of the people you know are “Influentials.” And they matter a lot more than the other 9, at least, they do if your job is to convince the other 9 to do something, like buy a product or vote for a candidate.
Now, as to specifics, Roper’s research says that an Influential is someone who has done at least three of the activities on the list below in the past year.
- Attended a public meeting. (75% of Influentials have done this in the past year, which is +58 percentage points from the national average)
- Wrote or called a politician at the state, local or national level. (68%, +56)
- Served on a committee of a local organization. (50%, +43)
- Were officers in a club or organization. (48%, +41)
- Attended a political rally, speech or organized protest. (45%, +38)
- Wrote a letter to the editor or called a live broadcast to express their opinions. (40%, +34)
- Were active members of a group trying to influence public policy or government. (35%, +30)
- Made a speech. (31%, +27)
- Worked for a political party. (25%, +22)
- Wrote an article for a magazine or newspaper. (21%, +18)
- Held or ran for office. (6%, +5)
Now, all of these activities have to do with social or political activities. Aren’t there influential people who aren’t into this kind of stuff? According to Roper, no. But that’s not all Influentials care about. Roper found that “Influentials stood out from the mainstream not only for being forward-thinking on social and political issues: they were forward-thinking, brought an activist approach, were engaged in ideas, were attuned to new developments and exercised influence virtually across the board.” (This quote and all stats in this blog are from The Influentials by Ed Keller and Jon Berry, who were CEO and vice president, respectively of RoperASW, the organization that conducted all of this research.)
More fun facts about Influentials:
- They volunteer at about double the rate of the average Joe, and triple the rate of people in higher income households. This latter fact is key: Marketers have traditionally believed that executives, professionals and other high earners were where most influentials were found. Nope. Although Influentials tend to earn more than others, because they work harder and enjoy their work, income alone is not a determinant.
- They are fulfilled by their work. About 75% of Influentials say they consider their work a career, compared to only 56% of workers overall. They are also 22% more likely to bring work home. And money plays a relatively small role. To 70% of Influentials, the “good life” means having an interesting job, which 17 points above the percentage of average Americans who say the same thing. And having a lot of money is important to only 46% of Influentials, which is 11 points below the percentage of what most people say.
- Even their leisure time is active. They are much less likely to use their leisure time for passive pursuits, like watching sports on TV, or watching TV in general. What they most like to do on their time off is read books – 49% of them do this, versus only 27% of the general public. They are also much more likely than most people to do volunteer work on their time off, or travel, or exercise, or play sports, or spend time on hobbies – basically, anything but vegging out in front of the TV.
So, let’s say you identify a group of people who are obviously influential. What do you do with them? Two things:
- Listen. Create an advisory board of influentials and solicit their opinion on your product or service.
- Reveal information to them before anyone else. When you come out with a new product or service, show it to your advisory board of influentials first.
Do these two things and your Influentials will burn up the grapevine with your news.