Quick question: When was the last time a friend or family member forwarded you a TikTok video? An Instagram Reel? A Facebook video? Or any social media post?
If you’re like most people, the answer is “within the last 24 hours.”
Believe it or not, there’s actually an important marketing lesson you can learn from all of those forwarded posts.
No…I’m not talking about learning the next viral TikTok dance – or even your neighbor’s secret recipe for cheesy chicken and rice.
Instead, what I’m referring to is the power of endorsement.
You see, your friends and family are forwarding those posts with you because they feel confident that you’ll like them for one reason or another.
And that’s a very powerful thing.
Let me give you the greatest example of this from my three decades in direct marketing.
Back in the early 1990s I was lucky enough to be a part of the marketing team that worked on a breakthrough direct mail promotion. It was a fear-based promotion for an investment newsletter – Strategic Investment – that was truly unique.
My boss, the late Wally Wiesch, had a breakthrough idea: to turn the sales letter into a small paperback book – The Plague of the Black Debt – that would mail in a 6 x 9 envelope.
The idea – one that had been successful in the nonprofit space previously – was that a paperback book would have a high perceived value. People would not view it as a sales letter; instead they’d read it as though they would any other book.
It turned out to be a hugely successful promotion…and with it, we were able to grow the newsletter from 25,000 subscribers to around 110,000 subscribers in about one year’s time.
But here’s where the power of endorsement came into play for this marketing breakthrough.
(And guess what…it sort of happened by accident.)
I was the person responsible at the time for getting those books printed and handling all of the elements of each mailing.
And when dealing with the printer, I learned that in order for the books to be cost-effective, they would need to be a certain number of pages. (I think it may have been 128 pages but don’t hold me to that.)
Anyway, we didn’t have that much copy – and we were short on time to make our first print run.
The printer initially suggested that we just include blank pages at the end of the book to make it work…but we also talked about including an order form in the book itself.
Now, we were already including a separate order form inside the 6 x 9 package – one that was pre-printed with the prospect’s name and address.
But we wanted to include an order form – that would need to be ripped out of the book and filled out by hand – inside the book itself…just in case it got passed around.
When presented with the idea of adding 6 or 7 blank pages at the end of the book, we instead decided to just turn all of those extra pages into additional order forms. And we put a different code on each one of those pages.
What happened once the mailings began was truly remarkable.
We were finding that people were ordering the newsletter…and then passing the book on to a friend or relative. And then they would rip out an order form from the back of the book and order themselves.
In some cases, the book was passed on multiple times – with multiple orders generated!
It was truly astonishing…and it gave each promotion a longer “tail” than we had ever seen previously.
Now why was this happening?
We had created a unique marketing piece – one that had tremendous perceived value – and people were sharing it with their friends and family members because they felt the message was so important.
That’s very much like what happens when a social media post is shared, right?
When information is shared with us – and it comes from someone we trust – we immediately pay more attention to that information. It gets a “higher priority” in our brains…and we are more likely to consider whatever it is that is being presented.
I think of that powerful lesson often. It was incredible to see that some of our books were generating multiple orders. We heard from new subscribers who told us, “my friend passed this on to me…am I allowed to order?”
We even had subscribers ask us if they could buy dozens of books so they could share them with their friends.
Think about that: prospects were asking us if they could buy our sales letters so they could distribute them to their friends.
That was the power of a great format – the “bookalog” format.
And when that power was combined with the power of endorsement, it was a recipe for one of the most successful promotions in the history of our industry.
So how can that type of power be harnessed today? We see it all the time with “viral” marketing videos that are shared in huge numbers.
How can you tap into that sort of power? Challenge yourself to come up with a message that is so compelling – and has such perceived value – that people are rushing to share it with their inner circles.
If you’re able to tap into that power of endorsement, you’ll likely have a breakthrough marketing campaign on your hands.