I recently read “Grapevine,” a book about word-of-mouth marketing written by the guys who founded BzzAgent. It’s a pretty solid book, although I still think Sernovitz’s is a bit more practical for most companies.
Here are some of the more important marketing ideas/concepts that I took away from “Grapevine.” Keep these in mind for your company:
- The most influential people in a WOM campaign are the people who take interest in the product but don’t feel so personally attached to it that they can’t share. The “light loyals” (not the heavy and passionate users) are the most influential because they’re motivated by an interest in helping your brand. The heavy users have been emotionally invested in your brand for too long. It’s harder for them to rekindle the enthusiasm they felt when they first discovered you.
- Attempts to create buzz are fruitless without transparency. Over time, the consumer becomes more adept at spotting shills, and the press finds more news value in the negative results of a buzz campaign.
- A single, everyday person’s review of a product — at no cost — can be far more influential than a multi-million dollar advertising campaign.
- The way a company responds to negative WOM can actually create positive WOM. If consumers feel they can connect with a company, are being heard, treated well, and the outcome is fair, they are far less likely to spread bad WOM.
- Offer free samples of a new product to your customers in exchange for a written report of any conversations they might have about it in the next few weeks. Early adopters love this. Do not force them to talk about it; just ask that they write about the conversation’s context when the product came up. You’ll be surprised with the results.
- There is only one way to measure WOM: compare sales of a product in two similar markets — one with a WOM campaign, and one without it. (BzzAgent did this and found sales to be 66% higher in cities with the WOM component.)
- Let your diehards get involved — it increases loyalty. For example, do a survey asking what you should name your next product, and give them your two favorite choices to pick from.
- Value comes from long-term engagement with customers because you’re gradually baking the customer into the brand. And when your customers feel as though they’re part of your brand’s DNA, you’ll have opened up a ceaseless stream of WOM.