BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

The commercial conversation ...

I'd seen this one recommended various places on the web, as well as being continually featured in the newsletter (the author runs that group, which is not to be confused with WOMMA, which he used to head), and decided to request a copy from the good folks at Greenleaf Press. Just in case you didn't recognize his name, Andy Sernovitz pulled in some “big guns” for the Foreword and Afterword of Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking, with Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki providing those sections, respectively.

This book is both practical and theoretical, setting up frameworks for thinking about WoM, and then providing tools to put it into action. It's a bit of a “firehose”, with material coming fast at the reader, but not necessarily in depth. There's a lot of “this is what it is, and this is how you do it”. Physically, the book is noteworthy, from the rounded-off outer corners, to the “taped up paper bag” look of the outside, and the taped, paperclipped, and coffee-stained conceits on the internal design, which add up to a rather distinctive reading experience.

I've been trying to figure out a good way to summarize the information here, but its structure makes this difficult, so I think I'm going to highlight some particulars, and leave it up to you to get a copy and fill in the details:
The Four Rules of Word of Mouth Marketing
Rule #1: Be Interesting
Rule #2: Make It Easy
Rule #3: Make People Happy
Rule #4: Earn Trust and Respect

The Three Reasons People Talk About You
Reason #1: You – They Like You and Your Stuff
Reason #2: Me – Talking Makes Me Feel Good
Reason #3: Us – We Feel Connected to the Group
In this latter section there's an interesting addendum on “how to stop Word of Mouth”, with three no-no's: “Prizes and Rewards” (I recently had to “go to the mat” with a client to fight against inflating a “fun facts” quiz into a full-fledged “knowledge” contest in their niche), “Overexposure”, and “Forgetting Why People Talk About You” (the case study they used was Krispy Kreme when their donuts were everywhere at retail, and no longer just hot and gooey off the line).
The Five Ts of Word of Mouth Marketing
1. Talkers – Find People Who Will Talk About You
2. Topics – Give People a Reason to Talk
3. Tools – Help the Message Spread Faster and Father
4. Taking Part – Join the Conversation
5. Tracking – Measure and Understand What People Are Saying
There's also a bit about ethics here as well … obviously, “word of mouth” can be interpreted (in its non-marketing version) as gossip, which can be quite nasty. There is a two-page ethics checklist, and this set of rules:
The Rules of Honest Word of Mouth Marketing
1. Word of mouth isn't stealth.
2. Fake word of mouth doesn't work.
3. Oppose all deception.
4. Follow the Honesty ROI.
- Honesty of Relationship.
- Honesty of Opinion.
- Honesty of Identity.
Sernovitz makes a very good case that WoM is the best marketing, but because in the days before Twitter, Facebook, etc., it was very hard to measure this, plus:
... word of mouth usually doesn't cost anything. If we don't have a budget for it and we don't have staff assigned to it, we usually forget to add it to our reports about sources of new customers. On top of that, it screws with our spreadsheets, because you can't write a formula to figure the return on a zero-cost word of mouth campaign. So most of us skip it.
In the introductory material there's a section recommending how the reader should approach the book, including taking time to “think about the philosophy” in the “Deep Stuff” section, which presents:
Six Big Ideas
1. Consumers Are in Control – Get Used to It
2. Marketing Is What You Do, NOT What You Say
3. The Permanent Record
4. Honesty Is the Essence of Word of Mouth
5. The Math of Customer Satisfaction
6. Word of Mouth Marketing Makes More Money
That, along with a 13-point Manifesto, takes us up to the half-way point, where defining WoM gives way to sketching out how to do it. This is rather dense with lists, sample forms, worksheets, and nuggets of wisdom relating back to all the preceding “theory”. While not exactly being a graduate school course on the subject, it does walk the reader through a plan of action, which should be implementable in most companies and organizations. There are key points that stand out, such as “Start asking, “Would anyone tell a friend about this?” in every meeting, in every department. If you don't get a resounding “Yes!” then you need to add something.” and “You need the pass-in-the-hall test.” where the topic should be formatted as simply as “You should try X, it's Y.”

Additionally, Word of Mouth Marketing looks at B2B WoM, dealing with negative WoM, and how to track the WoM you're generating. The book closes with a list of 16 “sure thing” WoM techniques, and an 8-point “action plan” (there are also downloadable versions of all these on the book's companion web site). This edition (they don't really mention that this is a “second edition” except in the course of a “note to the reader”, talking about what's new in it) just came out this year, so it is likely to be available via your local book vendor, but the big on-line guys have it at about a third off of its (very reasonable) cover price. Obviously, this is not a book for “all and sundry”, but if you do have an interest in marketing, and new communications platforms, this is a great introduction/manual for the topic.

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Tags: book review
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