Hooked by Andy Sernovitz
READ: Mar 13, 2014
Word of Mouth Marketing lays out the fundamentals of word of mouth marketing and offers a clear, step-by-step guide to developing concrete word of mouth marketing strategies. While I wouldn't say that this book contains anything groundbreaking, what it does do is provide practical, usable examples and clarity around coming up with your own word of mouth strategies.
This book distills word of mouth marketing down to simple, linear steps. A successful word of mouth marketing program targets people who talk to your prospective customers, gives them something to talk about, and helps them find people to talk about it with.
The most fundamental strategy is to ask yourself "is this buzzworthy?" for everything you do. Will your product blow people's minds and make them want to go tell people about it? Will your customer service make someone's day? Is your packaging so cool people will want to post photos on Instagram? Do you give your customers free samples or invitations to share and talk about with their friends?
This is a quick but worthy read, especially if you're looking to add word of mouth to your marketing arsenal.
Word of mouth marketing = 1) giving people a reason to talk about your stuff, 2) making it easier for that conversation to take place
organic WoM = WoM that springs naturally from the positive qualities of your company (e.g. a spectacular product, great customer service)
amplified WOM = WoM that is started by an intentional campaign to get people talking (e.g. a sale)
WoM is often not considered a formal marketing technique, and thus businesses do a bad job of measuring it (eg. how many customer acquisitions are from someone knowing someone else who uses or recommends it). In reality, most of us have been doing WOM marketing without calling it that—special sales, loyalty programs, wacky promotions, viral emails, blogs, free samples, referral programs. All of these techniques share a common objective—starting conversations. Proactively looking at these tactics within the context of marketing clarifies the objective. WoM should come first before other mainstream marketing techniques because it's the cheapest, most effective, and most customer friendly.
WoM Marketing Manifesto
- Make people happy.
- Be interesting or invisible.
- Great service starts great conversations.
- Marketing is what you do, not what you say.
- People are already talking, your only option is to join the conversation.
- Be original—if it's not worth talking about, it's not worth doing.
- Negative word of mouth is an opportunity to listen and learn.
WoM Marketing Cheatsheet
- Look on the web for people talking about you or related topics.
- Join those conversations. Start today.
- Create a blog.
- Make a new rule: Ask "Is this buzzworthy?" for everything you do.
- Come up with one buzz worthy topic. Keep it simple.
- Put something by your front door that will remind people to talk to a friend.
- Let your talkers sign up for a private newsletter.
- Pick one easy way to track word of mouth.
- Put a special offer in an easily forward able email.
- Add a small gift and word of mouth tool to every package you sell.
- Partner with a charity.
- Do something expected.
Reasons people talk about you
- They like you and your stuff—be creative with how you present your products, services and company
- They want to look smart, help others, and feel important— make them feel like insiders, let them show off, give them samples and messages to share with others, and things that make them feel important (e.g.. special status / perks)
- They want to belong to a group
Sidenote: Don't pay or offer customers incentives for spreading the word about your stuff—it makes sharing impure. Offer dual-reward incentives instead, which keeps the motives pure.
You have to earn word of mouth
You are not what your ads say or what your brand statement is. You are the sum total of what people do and feel when interacting with your stuff. When you are thinking about marketing a new product, what you should really be thinking about is what people will say after they use it—about its functionality, its quality, and how you treated them. Make good products, teat people well, earn their positive recommendation.
A Simple Strategy: Be Remarkable
Look at a customer and ask yourself:
- When she walks out the door, what have I given her to talk about?
- How will he remember to tell his friends?
- Could I have made it easier for him to talk to more people about me?
- Was anything about his experience remarkable?
There are hundreds of ways to get people talking, but you only need one good one to change your business forever. You need to try as many little things as you can until you find the ones that people start talking about. A silly something, a special moment, service with a smile, a free donut, a road tour.
NeXT: make the packaging and presentation remarkable (something they'd instagram), add some branded free samples for them to give to their friends, send a free shirt or more free samples to talker/loyal customers
Talkers: Find the people who like to talk about you
You need to find the right people to carry your message, just as an advertiser needs to find the right TV programs.
Identify the right talkers, create a communication channel to reach them regularly, and give them the topics to talk about while keeping them happy and motivated.
Discovering the talkers for your stuff sometimes takes a little ingenuity. eg. The Prostate Net created a WOM program called the "Barbershop Network" where they reached out to barbers and taught them how to talk to their clients about the issue.
First-time customers are often the biggest talkers. eg. When you go to a new restaurant for the first time, you tell everyone. Whereas the place you've been going to for five years you might not mention. Your most active, powerful advocates may be the ones who have done business with you for the first time. What remarkable experience can you give them to get them talking?
Types of talkers: Happy Customers (the trick is to identify the extreme enthusiasts), Online Talkers (anyone talking or reviewing your product is seeking attention—reach out to them), Logo Lovers (give out goodies or sell logo gear and track who's buying—they are very active talkers), Eager Employees, Listeners (someone who cares enough to subscribe is hungry to know the latest news), Fans & Hobbyists (eg. Ferrari has more fans than customers... fans are easy to find—they almost always have websites), Professionals (professionals talk for a living, eg. a doctor, Oprah Winfrey)
Good talkers are passionate, credible or have credibility to their peers, have connections (the more the better) and have opportunities to talk—look for people who have many interactions with other people, both online and offline.
Profile Your Target Talkers
Segmentation is important for leveraging talkers. For each group, put together a talker profile:
- Who are the talkers?
- What are their basic characteristics
- What are they already talking about?
- To whom are they talking?
- How do you contact them?
This reminds me of Genevieve's guerrilla marketing tactic where she'd stand in grocery store parking lots to evangelize her service to moms.
If you've done a good job of identifying your talkers, then they should be enthusiastic to hear from you. The right people will be eager to get the latest scoop.
Feed your talkers
Feed your talkers with information that is fun and makes them feel like insiders (and want to show it off to their friends). Talkers like:
- detailed data - get geeky. talkers are hungry for details, technical data and product manuals.
- progress reports - talk about new products in development
- company news - talkers want to be family members
Say "thank you"
Thank talkers personally and publicly with genuine recondition and gratitude. this cements an emotional connection.
You can never say thank you enough, and every thank you is a reason for them to talk more (eg. retweets, cool thank you notes, a tweet that says "thanks __, we're sending you __ [cool pic]")
Microsoft MVP program -- Microsoft identified talkers online and offline then surprised them with a letter announcing they'd been selected, along with a keepsake and access to exclusive events, news, conversations with the team, etc.
Strategies for leveraging talkers:
Make recognition part of the product (eg. stack overflow), ambassador programs, customer advisory boards, events that rally the faithful (customers who are devoted to your stuff love getting together with other people who are just as devoted).
Topics: Give people something to talk about
Anything that catches attention is a topic. Anything that catches attention and then gets talked about is a fantastic topic.
Good topics can be a surprise freebie, awesome packaging, a moment of great customer service (eg. Amazon/Zappos), an unusual advertisement.
A WOM topic is not your marketing angle or brand statement. It's a simple message that sparks interest and conversations.
good topics = simple, organic, portable, unexpected
Essentially a simplified version of SUCCESs from Made to Stick
Organic topics based on exceptional qualities of your product are the most sustainable topics. Word of mouth is as much about product features as it is about marketing — create products that people fall in love with and are compelled to share with their friends.
- Would anyone tell a friend?
- What would they say? This is your WOM topic.
- Who would they tell? Does the topic start many conversations?
- How could they tell more people? Make its say to tell five people instead of one.
Once you have a good topic, stick with it. If you change your message, people will notice. Once topics go stale naturally, find a new topic.
Topic ideas: - awesome packaging - be funny and sincere - extraordinary customer service - sales - do something silly - partnering with a charity - wacky stunts - free content - great products - a unique shopping experience
Tools: Make it Easier for the Message to Spread
- ask people to spread the word—be cute, kind, and sincere; most people won't talk until you ask them to. The challenge is triggering the talking action.
- "two for one" deals where the customer has to ask around and look for a 2nd person
- build word of mouth into the product... make your product inherently viral (grubwithus, polaroid)- -
- look for network effects (eg. Skype requires your friends to get Skype to have a conversation)
- build features that are made to be shared (eg. charts and infographics)
- giveaways like pens, lip balm, hot sauce
- for shipped products, stuff the package with word of mouth tools like free samples, coupons, laptop stickers
- "honeymoon kit" - remember that brand new customers can be your most prolific talkers. capture the new-customer enthusiasm during the honeymoon period by giving them everything they need to start talking (ornate envelopes with coupons to share, guess passes)
- by giving a customer 5 coupons instead of 1, you turn the customer into a talker
- send targeted free samples to online influencers that are likely to talk
- give sneak previews to talkers (eg. bloggers)
- start blogging early so you have time to build relationships and credibility before you need it. that way when you are ready to interact with blogs, you are already seen as a member of the community instead of a crass marketing looking for shameless publicity
- exclusivity (eg. VIP, invite only, limited invites like gmail make the invites seem much more valuable and therefore lead to conversation)
- actively collect customer testimoni).
- B2B WOM programs are more systematic, eg. a customer referral program with a team dedicated to introducing current customers to new ones.
- Customers are more willing to help because they have a closer relationship/partnership/dependency with your company
Salespeople are often closely involved, coordinating the process of connecting existing customers to prospects
Ask for testimonials (ask for them everywhere. display them everywhere)
Ask customers to be references
Use case studies (and make it really shareable!)
Publish research (and make it really shareable!)
Live meetings - get your rants together any way you can. every time they meet each other and meet your team, it increases enthusiasm and gets people talking. it doesn't have to be a formal conference or big meeting.
Conferences and Tradeshows - make your talk memorable (give out bags of chocolate)
WOM is especially essential for big-ticket items. Nobody spends $100,000 without checking out a company's WOM reputation.
Taking Part: Participate in the Conversation
Thank people who say nice things, fix problems and make people happy, or just join in and be an ordinary contributor (eg. Twitter/forums).
Marketing and customer service go together.
Always disclose aggressively: "I work for ___, and this is my personal opinion". Honesty gives you more credibility.
Make people happy
People want you to participate honestly and personally—not as a corporate spokesperson
An unhappy customer tells five people. A formerly unhappy customer who is made happy tells ten people. This means finding a way to make unhappy people happy is worth ten times more free word of mouth marketing than making them happy in the first place. The shock of getting an acknowledgement that their concerns matter immediately converts extractors into powerful talkers.
You don't need to win every argument against negative work of mouth. Just show you're working hard to make things better. respond calmly and offer to help in a simple and reasonable tone. be human. write for the record (you're not responding to the critic as much as to future readers that will form opinions based on your response). Or do something wonderful (send flowers, handwritten letter, a gift).
Tracking: Listen to the word of mouth and learn from it
Learn from what people are saying; word of mouth is more than marketing—it's market research.
- Find out who the talkers are
- Learn which topics are working
- See if your tools are making a difference
- Join in the conversation
NET PROMOTER SCORE - would you recommend this product to a friend?
Identify which customers are coming from word of mouth, determine ROI