Fact or fantasy? We'd say it's either.

Of course, everyone should retain a professional marketing adviser! But, for those who for one
reason or another go it alone, take care. Sincere concerns arise when we hear that a business is
relying on "word of mouth marketing - because that usually indicates a total lack of marketing
initiative rather than a savvy, pro-active program based on traditional or new social media

For many small to mid sized businesses, the simple WOM "plan" is to provide top quality
products or services and just be so-darn-nice that their customers, and associated friends and
relatives can't stop talking about their experiences. That enthusiasm is expected to draw  in a
larger circle of contacts who have a similar great experience. Hopefully, that cycle would then
repeat and expand organically forever.

But, true WOM marketing relies more on effort than luck. Today, WOM marketing refers to an
active, organized social or new media campaign, not a reliance on chance or the good will of your
satisfied customers. Seemingly, each week brings a new social app and web site that are tools for
turbo charging word of mouth promotion. Keeping up with all of them is unlikely. Learning which
ones to use is essential to an effective WOM marketing effort.

"Viral" is the contemporary, overused term for the ultimate WOM dynamic - the rapid social
media recommunication of information (often a message or video) that grows ever more popular
due in large part to its growing popularity. Such viral materials are rightfully viewed with awe and
envy by small (and large) business onlookers who see them as a cost free process to gain visibility
and distinction in the market.  But, most successful social media programs are far from cost or
effort free and require planning, preparation and execution leading up to a successful viral event.


Perhaps "viral" is the gold standard for word of mouth marketing. But, on a smaller scale, there
are inexpensive steps for any company to take advantage of old fashioned as well as social media
/opinion / review networks. The fundamental step is to simply use the on line tools available. Be
visible. Be sure to have a complete, accurate and attractive presence on Google+, Yelp*, Urban
Spoon, City Search or any of the many other search and review sites. The second step is to openly
ask your customers and clients to post a review on one of those sites. This step is very similar to
the "Like" request for Facebook - only, in this case you're re asking for more detailed feedback from
your customers..

The next level of WOM marketing works by becoming a topic of conversation - creating secondary
buzz and awareness within a particular social or market network. If successful, everyone will have
heard of your organization but may not be sure how. This process certainly has a viral aspect to it
and requires a bit more effort and technique. Several experts in WOM marketing have drafted lists
of the most important elements of successful Topic of Conversation campaigns. Here's ours:

1. Target influencers. Find those individuals who can sway opinion in your market - formally or
informally. They may be active bloggers on a topic related to your business. Or, they may be
designers, educators, professional athletes, socialites, politicians and/or neighbors. Find the most
appropriate and effective way to learn of their opinions and join their communication network. If
you can't meet them Tweet them. Use email, Twitter, write, call, attend their events or those of
their organization.

2. Establish a consistent presence.
Find the right channels for your marketing campaign; whether
traditional advertising, social media or both. Then stick with them. Buying a single advertisement
probably won't do much good. Neither will making infrequent postings to Facebook, your blog or
other social media spots. Continuous reinforcement of your message is essential. There are too
many social media sites for most companies to handle. Research and experiment with a few until
you find the right ones, then stick with them.

3. Be a thought leader.
Create and publish information to demonstrate innovation and your
expertise. Make your message consistent in all contacts with your market. Publish content to
provide value to your customers and differentiate your business. That differentiation may be
directly related to your product or service or indirectly appealing to your network because it
supports a popular or socially valuable cause.

4. Most Importantly:
Walk the walk. Know that the WOM processes can work for you or against
you. In the past, one dissatisfied customer may tell two or three others. Today that one bad
experience could multiply over social media into a vastly larger number.

Be certain your products and services reflect values described in your messages. Don't create an
illusion beyond what you can produce in reality. A key feature of WOM marketing is a lack of
control over the message. Remember, those who relay information about your business could pass
along good or bad impressions directly to their friends or via review web sites. Your customers'
experiences matter a lot. Make sure the WOM comments about your company are good.

Bottom Line: DO something. Word of mouth marking is an activity. Hoping is not.


Posted by Peter on 9/4/2013 2:40:29 PM