P2P marketing is the concept of using your peers to spread brand awareness and win customers for your product or service. But it’s not always easy to decide who your peers are, nor is it easy to know if the ones you’ve aligned with are the right ones for your goals.

In the following article, we hope to unpack this newish buzzword and important trend in the digital marketing world. And just in time, too, since it’s likely the future of how we’ll be selling things and growing our businesses!

Before we get into the strategy — that “win friends and influence people” part — it’s important to distinguish what a peer is. Learning what one isn’t is a good starting point.

Who Is Not Your Peer?

Think back to grade school, junior high, and high school. All those boring lectures about not giving in to “peer pressure.” What did your teachers mean by the word “peer”? 

In all likelihood, they meant your fellow classmates. People your own age in the same classes with the same interests, etc. Well, peer-to-peer marketing isn’t much different. 

You’re essentially trying to grow your business through relationships with people already doing what you’re doing. So that means we can rule out your wife, your friends and family, and any jerk on social media who just enjoys trolling as your peer. 

Who Is Your Peer? 

Glad you asked! In the marketing world, a “peer” can be a competitor, someone in an ancillary business within your industry, or deeply knowledgeable consumers who have amassed a reputation within the industry. 

Getting any of these people on your side is a win. But how do you do that? 

In the next section, we’ll be taking a hypothetical idea and seeing it through to fruition. Let’s continue!

How the Peer to Peer Business Model Can Work for You

Let’s say you want to become a freelance video producer. That is, you’d like to take your talents behind the camera and create moving visuals for corporations or small businesses that might help them promote their brand. 

How in the world could P2P marketing work in such a scenario? For our part, we’d start with our own talent levels. Where are our strengths within the video production environment? 

Perhaps you’re good at videos in the 1-2-minute range. This would make you more than capable of producing commercials for television and Internet broadcasts. But who are the people that are going to hire you? 

The Outcome

Small businesses may be too small to afford it, and large corporations can afford to hire production houses with reams of experience. Chances are, they’ll never even look at your stuff. 

Don’t fret. There is a way in, and you might even say it’s through an unlikely source. Take one of those firms that are keeping you from being employed because they already have the big jobs locked down. 

If you get them on your side, a number of positive things could happen for your business. You could become a subcontractor for the company. Or, they might give you a referral to a smaller business they didn’t have the time to help. 

Either way, you’re working, building a portfolio, and getting paid. All because one peer saw your work and liked it enough to endorse you. (Here are some more video marketing tips, by the way.) 

Now that you see P2P marketing in action, let’s talk about your specific strategy for implementing it. These rules will apply to virtually every business idea you can think of, whether it’s a product or a service. As you’re reading, think specifically of the first step you can take to begin applying it. 

1. Discover Where You Belong

No peer recommendation example will be able to clarify how P2P marketing can work for you until you’ve taken the time to figure out who you are. But what steps can you take to figure out where you belong within the industry you’ve chosen? 

First, think in hierarchies. You don’t work in the industry. You work in the niche. 

A niche is a space within an overarching industry like arts and entertainment, manufacturing, or technology. Those terms can describe a multitude of things. So, what is the one within the multitude that best describes you? 

To figure this out, learn who your competitors are. Pay attention to what they’re doing on their blogs, as well as the products and services they’re offering. This helps move you away from the sky-view of your industry that can feel a bit confusing. 

Once you’ve found a niche, it becomes easier to drill further down. Find any existing problems you can within your niche that haven’t been solved. Or, locate solutions that aren’t as efficient as they could be.

Doing this will open doors for endorsement possibilities from your peers. And endorsements lead to revenue and sustainability.

2. Brainstorm a List of Influencers

You’ve done the homework it takes to figure out where you fit in within a given industry. Now it’s time to go big or go home. And by that, we mean aiming high for the people you get to notice you. 

Start with the stars in mind and see how close you end up to them when people start to notice. It can be extremely difficult getting to people like Mark Cuban or Kevin O’Leary. 

But someone with inroads to these individuals could certainly be watching when you least expect it. Chances are you wouldn’t have found them if you weren’t aiming for a bigger target. So don’t set your sights too low when trying to find and attract an influencer to your offerings. 

3. Focus on Their Relevance to Your Base

We all have people we’d love to meet. But that doesn’t mean they’re right for what we’re trying to accomplish with our P2P marketing efforts. For example, an aspiring stand-up comedian may love the comedy of Jerry Seinfeld but if he “works blue” (i.e., uses off-color humor), he might be better suited to finding an influencer like Joe Rogan or Bill Burr. 

We tend to recommend products, services, and even personalities that are most in line with our own. And if social media has taught us anything, it’s that interests connect us in far more ways than we realize

So finding the right peer in the marketing sense is about a lot more than finding people we really like and appreciate. It’s about finding peers who align with our philosophies and practices. Because those are the people who already have our intended audience.

4. Pitch a Partnership

Partnerships take a lot of work. You’re usually not going to swoop in with an idea that makes an influencer fall instantly in love with it. At least, they’re not going to love it enough to stake even a small part of their reputation on you.

They need something more than that. They need to see that you can deliver. You can show them that you do in a number of ways. 

  • Developing a large social media or blog following
  • Generating sales for a bootstrapped product or service
  • Growing a substantial opt-in email list
  • Attracting significant publicity from multiple outlets, or from one very prestigious one
  • Offering an innovation that would help their own followers or customers without directly competing

All of these factors are more likely to open an influencer’s ears to the possibility of a partnership. What are some ways that what you’re currently doing can accomplish that? If you’ve done your homework thus far, you should at least be able to generate some ideas for testing. 

5. Make Direct Contact with the Influencers of Your Choice

To this point, it’s all been about theory and developing your idea, product, or service. Now it’s time to put it into action. You do that by finding out how you can reach the peers in your market.

Reaching them requires more than sending a generic-sounding email to an “info@domain.com” email address. Those are slush pile addresses meant for people who aren’t smart enough to find legitimate contact information. 

The more prestigious an influencer is, the more difficult it’ll be to track down. That said, there are tools out there that can help simplify the process. It may take several tries, but it’s certainly worth the attempt. 

If you can get your pitch in front of an influencer, you’re already ahead of most of your competition. So give it every effort, and make sure you’ve polished your pitch to perfection.

6. Do Not Embarrass Yourself

Pitching means putting yourself out there. If you get that opportunity, whether in person or through email/phone, don’t assume the hard part is over. You have to show this person or company you’re legitimately passionate about working together. 

Accomplish this through in-depth research. Know the major challenges they’re facing, both industry-wide and internally. Talk intimately about those issues in a way that communicates they would be in good hands lending their endorsement, time, energy, and resources.

It’s all about not embarrassing yourself. And there’s nothing more embarrassing than looking clueless or aloof during your big shot.

If that sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is and it should be. No goal worth achieving is going to be anything less. 

7. Make Followers Feel Special

Throughout the process of P2P marketing, don’t forget about the people who are taking notice of you on their own. These could be social media followers, paid subscribers, customers. 

For whatever reason, they’re already potential brand evangelists for you. Treat them as such. Do this by making them feel special in some way. 

This could include creating an exclusive forum to discuss issues, challenges, likes, dislikes, and new ideas. You can also do this through Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social networking groups and Slack Channels. 

Giving your followers a chance to interact on a deeper level with your product or service will generate more enthusiasm for what you’re offering. And that can pay dividends as you continue.

8. Gamify Engagement

But don’t stop there. So far, we’ve talked about making the entire group feel special. Within that group, however, you need a way of highlighting the people who are going above and beyond for you. 

This might include creating some type of rewards program. Two companies that have had a tremendous amount of success with this approach is Reddit and its Karma System and Microsoft, which made its Xbox video game console popular with the Achievements feature.

Reddit and Microsoft understood by turning engagement into a game, or “gamifying” it, they could drive even more success through P2P marketing. The results: Reddit has more than 330 million active monthly users and Xbox generates $2.36 billion annually for its parent company.

9. Do Not Run from Criticism

People will criticize you if you do anything public-facing. It’s unavoidable. But some of your biggest detractors can become some of your best supporters if you know how to respond. 

Don’t ever run from a fight. Just be willing to engage with it on your terms without violating your principles and always taking the perceived high road. Of course, we say “perceived high road” because we don’t want you to think we’re saying to be everyone’s doormat. 

Alamo Drafthouse Theaters has a now legendary bit of advertising where they pretty much humiliated an angry customer by playing her voice-mail she left after getting tossed out of one of their theaters for talking on her cellphone. Seem a little rude? 

Perhaps. But it wasn’t as rude as the customer in the eyes of Alamo Drafthouse’s target audience, who appreciate distraction-free cinema. They ate up the campaign when it rolled out online, and it has hundreds of millions of views since it first appeared in 2011

Because the company stood on its principles and didn’t run from a fight, they became more well-known nationally. And their customers loved and recommended them for it.

10. Use Customers As Peers

Sometimes your customers can turn you onto marketing ideas that lead to big press, goodwill, and millions of dollars. This occurred when social media users alerted JJ Abrams to a dying cancer patient who wanted nothing more than to see Star Trek Into Darkness before taking his last breath. 

Through a massive social media effort, the individual got onto Abrams’ radar and he flew to the man’s location for a private showing. The wish-fulfillment got the film tons of positive unpaid press.

P2P Marketing Is the Future of Converting Prospects to Customers

If you’ve yet to embrace P2P marketing, it’s time to change course. Quit worrying about the numbers and start worrying about the quality of your recommendations and how those recommendations influence others. 

Good luck as you set off down this new path for success. And if you need help building a marketing strategy that gets clear results, contact us today.

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