New research by Dr. Jon Bohlmann, associate professor of marketing at North Carolina State University College of Management, and his colleagues found that targeted marketing to opinion leaders makes it more likely that consumers will buy into innovative products and ideas.
“How consumers are connected to each other is essential to understanding the spread of new products,” Bohlmann said, “because social communication is the key to diffusing innovation.”
“But,” he adds, “we found that it is not only about getting people on board, but getting people on board who are influential in their social network. Not just having a lot of connections, but having strong connections. Depending on the kind of innovation we’re talking about, these influential people could be community leaders, members of trade groups, et cetera.”
Bohlmann explains that this finding could be important given the current economic climate. “People are being more judicious in spending their marketing money, and we found that spending money to reach out to a large audience would be better spent focusing on well-connected, influential members of a social network – such as opinion leaders on blogs, industry leaders, and so on,” Bohlmann says. “Instead of an ad campaign, I’ll seek out the opinion leaders in the network I’m marketing to.”
For example, Bohlmann says, some nationally influential physicians may prescribe an innovative drug. This might influence some regionally prominent physicians to follow suit. Soon you have a domino effect, with local physicians willing to prescribe the new drug.
The complete study will be available September 2010.