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 despair.com. 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 despair.com. 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