Posted December 18, 2007 1:24 pm by with 15 comments

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“There is only one thing worse than being talked about, that is not being talked about”
-Oscar Wilde

Yesterday I heard Andy Sernovitz speak about word of mouth marketing – one of the most imaginative ways to attract customers. Just like we want to be friends with and around people we like, we buy from companies we like.

How do you practice Word of Mouth Marketing? Give people a reason to talk about you and make it easy for them to talk about you. After all, good marketing is starting and continuing a conversation.

How many blogs does Google maintain about their products? Over 90! They keep pinging us with messages about updates, features, innovative ways to use their products, new products, and partnerships. The media and bloggers keep writing about them, even small things that would otherwise be boring – like that one more city has been added to Street View.

Many times the companies I provide blogging services for want to stop at some point. When things are going well they wonder why they are spending the money. That’s like saying to someone, our relationship is going so well I don’t think we need to continue talking. If you stop talking you effectively end the relationship. Andy referred to your company blog as “your private pipeline to your best fans.”

Here are some other points to help your Word of Mouth Marketing efforts:

Boring Costs More
My favorite message is that you pay more if you’re boring. You pay for advertising; you pay people to write about you. If you’re interesting and/or unique people will sell your product for you. They will talk if you make it easier for them to share information about you (blogs and email are made to share).

I read some more advice about this from the 37 Signals blog (via Seth Godin): “Provide something of value. The first step is recognizing that marketing is asking for someone else’s time and attention. You need to provide something worthy…when you educate or entertain other people, they’ll pay attention. If you bore them, they won’t.

How to Come up with Good Ideas – Ask
I asked Andy after the presentation how you get the best ideas on Word of Mouth Marketing and he said – just ask. That means asking your customers: on blogs, suggestion boards, by email, on forums, etc. Ask what you can do to help them feel appreciated.

Accuquote asked their life insurance customers what they could do to keep them happy. Customers responded saying they wanted a phone call once a year to review their coverage. They felt like they were forgotten about and that they were paying for something that seemed like a black hole. The company assumed people wouldn’t want to be contacted but they did. When the company responded they got another bonus – people often wanted to upgrade their policies. That’s what they learned by asking.

Assign a Web Ambassador
To keep the conversation going you need to join in and participate. He suggested assigning someone in your company to be an ambassador. Have them search the web and respond to questions, introduce themselves, thank people for their comments, and address issues.

Bloggers especially love to write about a company and get a response from them (I still remember my Fat Wallet post and their immediate response and care. I followed up my criticism with a post about the goodwill Fatwallet created with me by responding). Since blogs show the most recent posts first the positive post will show up higher in the search engines and on the blog itself.

Hope to get your feedback on how you have benefited from Word of Mouth Marketing in your business. What are you talking about lately? What companies stand out to you?

  • Hey Janet!

    This is so true. I recently heard back from the rackspace team and VERY quickly on something I posted on the blog. It was funny to think those guys found my writing and responded in kind.

    Hope all is well!

  • Janet,

    Andy is right. At AccuQuote, we’ve used our customers as a sounding board many times to help improve our service and to give us direction when it comes to bringing on new strategic partners or -product offerings. The phrase we use often in our office now is, “It doesn’t matter what we want, it matters what our customers want.”

  • Great summary Janet – it’s so simple to simply ask your customers what they want, yet we tend to spend a lot of “strategy meetings” trying to figure it out ourselves.

  • Janet Meiners

    @Wil, good to run into you here. Note: Wil is a great speaker himself (and a killer SEO).

    @Sean, I never thought insurance was that interesting until I found your blog today. I looked for the exact post about this – the one with hundreds of comments. Perhaps you could supply the link?

    @Andy Beal, that was certainly a “duh” moment! I’ve found that the more community you’ve built, the easier it is to get feedback. Maybe that’s what social networks are more ideal for (since selling doesn’t go over that well). Also, when people know and like you they want to contribute.

    Thanks for your comments (trying to practice what I preach better by joining in).


  • “The first step to being a real leader is to figure out exactly who you are and be that all the time.” — Cathie Black

    If you’re true to yourself and you engage others in a way that is genuine and sincere, you allow yourself to develop a unique relationship with that person. It’s the uniqueness of that relationship that creates walking billboards for the brand that is you. People will relate to you and will speak the world about you when you least expect it!

    If you’re not being talked about, you’re either trying too hard (there’s insincerity in your voice) or you haven’t found your voice yet.

  • Happy Holidays Janet!

    (just another gratuitous way of creating buzz and word of mouth marketing by the follow up of our site mention!)

  • Hey there Janet!

    Great to meet you in lovely SLC – thanks for the great writeup.



  • This is a great post! I am going to share it with some of my colleagues.

  • As long as it is grounded with facts and accuracy, word of mouth marketing works great. I think Apple is an expert of word of marketing for its phenomenal iPod product.

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  • hi !!!!
    amazing article man!! marketing of any product is not possible without speaking and that too if we can’t express our selves about the product. use mouth to mouth marketing where ever it necessary rather than using it every where.

  • Hi,
    amazing article man!! marketing of any product is not possible without speaking and that too if we can’t express our selves about the product. use mouth to mouth marketing where ever it is necessary rather than using it every where.

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