Thursday, June 12, 2008

Word of Mouth Marketing--Part I

I'm going to have to strike a difficult balance here. I want to give you enough specifics from Andy Sernovitz's Word of Mouth Marketing to get us all thinking. But I'm not gonna give away all his secrets. And he has plenty. As I mentioned yesterday, his steps for womm got my mind working right away. (Which is amazing, because right now my peabrain is quite on overload with a deadline approaching.) Bottom line, I think you ought to buy this book--if you don't win one of the three free copies here (commenter's name randomly drawn).

WOMM was written for any kind of company or service or product. Including us struggling folks in the publishing biz. The book is divided into two parts, the first presenting the author's philosophy of the subject--"The Essential Concepts." In a comment to yesterday's post, Becky said: "... with a book like this circulating, many will duplicate the successes and adapt the principles. Seems there needs to be a twist that sets one apart from all the others doing what someone else has already done."

My take on WOMM: that "twist" is intrinsic to its philosophy. At the heart of word of mouth marketing is a good topic to talk about. Sernovitz defines womm as "giving people a reason to talk about your stuff, and making it easier for that conversation to take place." Your stuff, of course, is what you do. It needs to be a good product to begin with. In my case, my stuff is the suspense novels I write. Making it easier for that conversation to take place arises out of who you are as a company or product maker. It's your unique personality at work to create conversation. Since my stuff and my personality form a different combination from other people's, my best ideas for womm will not look like everyone else's. Many of the same vehicles of communication may be the same, but the message will not.

"Long-term, sustainable word of mouth comes when a business becomes truly immersed in the word of mouth philosophy," says Sernovitz. "Your brand becomes fundamentally talkworthy as you reach inside your company and change how you think about business and your relationship with your customers." As we create products we need to think in terms of also creating a "buzzworthy experience" for those who use our products.

It's important not to confuse the brand with the message. Your brand--rather simply stated, but it's not our topic here--is your unique product and how it's viewed by customers. The message is the topic of conversation you provide customers. Getting back to Sernovitz's definition of womm, his book, then, provides step-by-step specifics to help you determine what your message will be and how it can be helped along.

For example, Sernovitz mentions Steve Jobs, who returned to Apple in 1996 to revive the company. "Did he talk about great software? Stable operation systems? No. Jobs's great marketing insight was ... pink and purple computers." The products were good, the brand was building. But what people talked about were the cool colors. Or think of Saturn. The cars are supposed to be pretty good stuff. But what people talk about is the buying experience. No wrangling, no hassle. In the car biz, that's talkworthy. How about Gateway computers--what's message-worthy there? Those crazy cow boxes.

One of my favorites (not mentioned in the book) is That insanely cynical company takes motivational sayings and turns them on their sticky sweet heads. They throw these statements of despair on calendars and posters and T-shirts. The products themselves are worth talking about. But the company's "customer disservice" is the main topic of conversation. All emails from that company, in keeping with the despair spirit, are designed to remind the customer how very unimportant he is, even as his order is being filled. When I want a good laugh, I go to And I tell a lot of people about it. (I just did it again.)

As you can see, your message needs to be unique, different, unexpected, humorous--something that makes people want to tell someone else about it.

Sernovitz notes, too, that womm should always be honest. No lying, no manipulation. Integrity is essential.

Also--you gotta be willing to take some risks. Some word of mouth messages may really take off. Others may not. Some may do okay. You've got to be willing to put it out there and see what happens. The good news is, womm is way cheaper than formal advertising. Sometimes it doesn't cost at all.

Tomorrow: Sernovitz's Five Ts of word of mouth marketing.

Read Part II


Pam Halter said...

There's that word again: BRAND

I guess it comes down to, what are we known for and do people like it enough to talk about it?

Makes sense when you think about it.

Lynette Eason said... know that when I come across something great, I want to tell everyone. I can see how this would be effective. Looks like an interesting book.

Thanks for sharing, Brandilyn.


Cara Putman said...

I love to connect people with things I think they'll like. Definitely a connector from the Tipping Point perspective.

Rose McCauley said...

WOMM sounds like a great book. Since I'm unpubbed in fiction the only marketing I do right now is keeping my name out there on my blog, but hopefully I'll need this info in the future! rose

Rhonda McKnight said...

I'm trying to think about my twist. Could be a platform? For example, if the book's subplot includes a social issue and the author uses this "social issue" in press releases or to get radio airtime, is that the twist. And should there be more than one twist? I'm thinking maybe...yes?


Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Well, on the outside chance that more comments equal more opportunities to win a book, I'm dropping another one in today.

Thanks for the twisty answer in your post, Brandilyn. Of course, now I'm more curious than ever to read all about WOMM.


Nicole said...

I'm back in for the drawing.

Karen Witemeyer said...

As authors we all want people to talk about our storys, our characters, our humor, or whatever it is that makes our writing stand out, but in these examples, the message didn't seem to be directly related to the product. So how do we do this?

Uniquie giveaways? Quirky cover art? Dying our hair green?

Julie Carobini said...

I keep reworking my 'brand' but not too far from where it originally stood, sort of an evolving process as I discover who my readers really are (as opposed to who I think they are).
Clear as mud? I really need this

Carol Burge said...

Informative post. Thanks for sharing!

Jay Ehret said...

Hi Ladies, let me be the first man to add a comment to Brandilyn's excellent review.

WOM is not just about marketing, it is about being remarkable. You have to give people something to talk about. That can be an elusive trick. But you have to try to be interesting and inspiring.