Ask Informatics: What is Peer to Peer (P2P) Marketing?

Dec 9, 2021 | Ecommerce

Peer-to-peer (P2P) is arguably the most credible form of marketing. Here's a primer on this re-emerging area of marketing and how your brand can capitalize on it.

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The phase "peer-to-peer marketing," or P2P, is popping up more in marketing conversations and trend blogs these days, but what exactly does it mean?

There’s a good chance your business has already benefitted from peer-to-peer marketing. That's because P2P is really just about one customer recommending a product or service to another.

P2P is the most natural, authentic and organic form of marketing out there. Think of Yelp! reviews, online forums or someone who answers a curious stranger when asked, “Where did you get that?" It's spontaneous and unfiltered; the best P2P marketing is unprompted and given freely by your brand advocates.

A lot of P2P marketing takes place completely beyond your knowledge, like conversations in an office breakroom. But this cost-effective tactic can also be leveraged as part of your digital marketing strategy.

People discussing P2P marketing

Why is P2P marketing important?

While contracting with social media influencers is still an effective way to reach new customers and gain credibility in your field, nothing beats the opinion of someone you know personally endorsing your brand or product.

Marketers often point to the 2015 Nielsen Study, which found that 92% of consumers say they trust recommendations from family, friends, and co-workers—but we're sure you don't need a stat to know how important first-person reviews are.

When a peer suggests a product, we feel the recommendation is more tailored and considers our individual preferences. The average American is exposed to more than 4,000 ads a day, so this personalized recommendation is increasingly valuable as we try to tune out the noise.

How can I start with P2P marketing?

Collecting reviews and testimonials is one of the most basic forms of P2P marketing. The result, there for all the world to see, is known as social proof.

But you can’t forget the “social” part. Positive feedback from product surveys, or Yelp! and Google reviews, needs to be shared on your website and your social media channels. 

If you’ve been marketing without a P2P strategy, you probably haven’t been using social media to its full capacity. People are tired of being marketed to, but they crave meaningful interaction. 

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Instead of using your channels to constantly post promotional content, you can comment on your customers’ posts, both on your page and theirs. You can encourage them to speak authentically about your company, and then share those comments yourself.

It's important to remember though, this is not influencer marketing, where businesses compensate an individual to share a positive brand message. A P2P digital marketing strategy encourages customers to share an authentic message in their own words.

These shared messages fall under the banner of “User-Generated Content,” or UGC. This is where the customer decides how to tell the story, and what to tell, not you. While you lose control, you still have a great deal of power in encouraging the creation of the content, and every post has the power to create more word-of-mouth ripples.

How can you encourage peer recommendations?

Encouragement can take the form of providing content that makes it easy for them to start a conversation—pictures of your latest product, video of a service in action, product specs, or even something as simple as a hashtag.

We often reach out to our local clients here in Cedar Rapids with a nudge to forward their updated website or a high-performing blog post to their networks, along with a few words about the Informatics experience. Here are a few more ideas to spur your review strategy.

Men discuss peer to peer marketing

If your marketing team wants to encourage more P2P marketing, there are two big things that need to happen:

1. Ensure the customer experience is great

Admittedly, this is a big one. Your brand should ensure that every step of the customer journey is positive, from the purchase to the product or service experience.

Here are some basic guidelines for building and maintaining a great customer experience:

  • Your website is easy to navigate and purchase through
  • Your customer service team is friendly and helpful
  • The product or service meets or exceeds the quality promised

When these three pieces come together, the customer is much more likely to recommend your brand to a peer.

2. Offer incentives for recommendations

One other way to encourage UGC and other P2P tactics is through incentivization. Some of the best examples of P2P incentives are “refer-a-friend” programs, in which both the existing customer and potential customer will benefit.

For instance, Discover offers a $100 bonus to existing customers who recruit someone to sign up for a credit card. Once signing up, the new customer also receives a $100 for signing up through the program.

Refer-a-friend programs don’t necessarily need to require monetary benefits, either. The popular online game Fortnite has a version where players can earn in-game rewards together, like exclusive outfits and accessories.

These types of incentives are great investments, as they give current users the motivation to participate in P2P exchanges, and create credible, authentic salespeople.

What are the challenges of peer-to-peer marketing ?

Receiving negative feedback in a public forum is one of the greatest challenges in P2P marketing. It can be scary to feel like you’ve lost control of your brand message. However, you can also transform negative feedback into an opportunity to highlight your customer service by acknowledging the feedback and making an effort to recover the customer.

Negative feedback can also be an opportunity to reevaluate your products and services. After all, the best way to get authentic positive reviews is to provide something that people want to rave about.

Maintaining authenticity is a challenge for P2P marketing campaigns that start slipping into the world of influencer marketing. Yes, the line between incentivization (discounts, referral bonuses) and outright pay-for-play can sometimes feel blurry. But a successful peer-to-peer marketing campaign keeps the power of the review in the user’s hands.

Return-on-investment can be difficult to calculate for P2P campaigns. We always advocate for making data-based business decisions, but it can be difficult to quantify the result of a conversation a California-based business owner has about a tech company in Iowa when the owner is at a conference in Florida.

Still some tools exist for tracking P2P results, like using referral codes to track results of User-Generated Content and social media efforts. Peer-to-peer marketing also has the benefit of being relatively cost-effective, since you aren’t creating the content.

Because of the relatively low cost, and the potential for a growing reach that fuels itself, peer-to-peer marketing should be incorporated into your digital marketing strategy today. Reach out to our digital marketing experts for help building an effective P2P marketing plan.

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