There's a rush to launch a corporate blog these days. There's also a rush to dive into viral marketing. Companies both large and small are working on communicating with their customers through these interesting new marketing tactics. The problem is many of them go after these things with good intentions, but fail to follow through. It's bad enough when a company's blog fails because they simply can't come up with anything interesting to write about. It's worse when a company completely ignores the blogging and viral marketing opportunities that fall right into their laps.

Picture this.

You run a small sandwich chain that offers 51 sandwiches. You find out from one of your locations that a blogger is coming in pretty regularly and working his way through all 51 offerings. This customer is blogging reviews of every sandwich he eats and his blog is stirring up quite a bit of conversation about your company.

Sounds like every marketer's dream, right?

Even better, the location the blogger is visiting decides to print up stamps promoting this customer's blog and more people are catching on to the campaign. Word starts to spread and pretty soon, you find yourself with a Jared-esque customer evangelist you've signed on to a national campaign.

Now imagine your corporate blogging response to this is to make a post about a meeting between this blogger and your CEO and then....nothing.

Yeah, it actually happened. I wrote about Chris Thomas's goal of tasting and reviewing all 51 Which Wich sandwiches back in June when the campaign was first catching on locally.

Mack Collier reports this week that upon catching wind of Chris's journey through 51 sandwiches, the company flew Jeff Sinelli, it's founder out to have lunch with Chris. He also noted Sinelli posted in the comments of his Daily Fix post to share that Which Wich will be stamping Chris's URL onto sandwich bags at all of their location.

That's a great move, but as Mack points out, Which Wich hasn't even linked to Chris's blog from their own corporate blog. In fact, they haven't even edited out the default "Edit Me" blog roll links that come on a template.

As far as I see it there are quite a few things Which Wich is dropping the ball on in regards to it's web site and marketing. As a viral marketing evangelist, it pains me to see so many opportunities being missed. Here's hoping the team there hires Mack to do some consulting on their site, or at least reads through the various marketing blogs offering them loads of free advice.

Three Things I'd Do if I Were on the Which Wich Team

1.) Convince Chris to do video reviews of each sandwich. While Chris does post a picture and full description of what he's eating and reviewing, a 45-60 second video of him zooming in and describing the contents before taking a monster first bite really drives home the yum factor. The side benefit of cross-posting these videos to sites like YouTube and Google Video goes without saying.

2.) Launch a full-scale viral campaign on the back of the "Club 51" t-shirt. Chris posted about this shirt a couple weeks back. It's got the "wich 51 club" logo on the front and a full list of all 51 Which Wich sandwiches on the back. Seeing this, I'm thinking how great it would be to have a campaign that issues customers a "which 51 club" card. The cards would need to be stamped or punched as customers ate their way through all 51 sandwiches. Completed cards could then be traded in for a coveted "which 51 club" shirt. I'd add to this by making sure there were no direct sales of the shirt either. I'd keep it so the only way to get one is to EARN it and I'd give the shirts to those folks for free. I'd also post a gallery of "which 51 club" members on the official company blog and offer them up some type of special ongoing discount (free drink or side with sandwich purchase on every visit, etc...) for eating their way in. After all, it takes a lot of time, money and dedication to eat 51 different sandwiches from the same chain. Customers that pull it off should be handsomely rewarded.

3.) Overhaul the web site and blog. Mack has pointed out the problems with the Which Wich blog, but I ran into quite a few problems on their corporate web site as well. It's all in Flash (a huge problem for search engines) and the site malfunctioned on about every other click I made.

For example, I on the menu page, I clicked "chicken" and I got a pop up for the "ham & pork" category. When I tried to launch the music box to check out the great music Which Wich is known for, I got kicked over to the customer contact form.

It doesn't matter how many users you drive to your site. If the site doesn't do what they want it to (or worse, what you've said it will) they're going to go away as unhappy customers. (Oddly enough, once I got to the customer feedback page, I could suddenly turn the music on and off.)

When you have the type of product people want to talk about, you need to do everything you can to empower them. Which Wich has a great start in beginning a dialogue with Chris and in stamping all sandwich bags with his web site, but there's so much more potential to this campaign if they'll simply look for it.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.

July 27, 2007

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

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