In Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers,” he argues for an interesting theory about how consumers find new products. He posits the existence of what he terms “mavens”: avid consumers of products ho make it their mission to discover brands and products, evaluate them, and pass their knowledge along to others. Gladwell’s concept isn’t Earth shattering – in some ways it’s little more than an adaptation of word of mouth marketing (WOMM) or an analog version of the influencer marketing so commonplace today – but it has some interesting consequences for businesses that can be used to further a brand’s reach and appeal.

Building a Trap

The key insight that comes from the idea of mavens is the fact that businesses need to go about hunting them. To take full advantage of the power of word of mouth marketing – and trust us, it’s powerful – you should build maven traps into all of your conversion funnels. So how do you go about this? Let’s look at a few examples.

Questions? Comments?

One of Gladwell’s key examples is the “questions and comments” phone number included on so many consumer products. Does anyone, Gladwell asks, really have questions or comments about laundry detergent? The answer is yes – and that has significant implications for your business.

The only people willing to call a questions and comments hotline for laundry detergent are critical consumers of laundry detergent – mavens. Your job is to catch them and convince them that your product is the best, so they can spread it through their network. Hotlines and email addresses are a great way to do this, and branded websites offer the ultimate maven trap. Social media can also be a high-touch method for this, as it allows reengagement and could even be used to offer specials to mavens, which they could then pass along to their network in a form of DIY influencer marketing.

More Traps

In addition to the simpler methods, there are other ways to build and expand maven traps. User forums serve the double purpose of building a community of users and identifying mavens, and while they’re not suitable for all businesses, they can be highly effective when there’s a fit. Blogs are another way of doing this – tracking engagement on posts can help you understand who’s interacting with your brand and how regularly. Email marketing can also be adopted for this purpose – anyone on your subscriber list who replies to one of your branded emails is likely to be a maven.

Treat with Care

The key to all of this, though, isn’t just how you discover mavens, but what what you do once you discover them. It’s critical to treat any potential maven with peerless customer service, answer their questions expertly, and field their concerns supportively. Leaving a good impression could be worth 5, 10, even a hundred more customers for your business – and leaving a bad one may have serious consequences.

So, tell us: have you had luck trapping any mavens? What has worked well for you, and what hasn’t? And most importantly, how are you hanging on to mavens once you’ve caught them?

Our thanks to Royalty Free for the photo.

CEO and Co-founder of Neon Roots Ben Lee is the co-founder and CEO of Neon Roots, a digital development agency with a mission to destroy the development model and rebuild it from the ground up. After a brief correspondence with Fidel Castro at age nine, Ben decided to start doing things his own way, going from busboy to club manager at a world-class nightclub before he turned 18. Since then, Ben has founded or taken a leading role in 5 businesses in everything from software development to food and entertainment.