Trusted Sources of Information

In a growing Web 2.0 world, consumer-generate content is becoming a staple for successful sites and sales. This is a big advantage for word of mouth marketing (WOMM) and those of us interested in using it. But as a novice in this area, you may not be sure what mediums to start with. eMarketer posted an article today with studies indicating people’s most trusted sources and where influencers flock.

As I say in most of my posts, identifying the niche for your product is most important place to begin. The niche(s) determines the subject of your messages and where you go to advertise your product. This perspective still applies with word of mouth marketing.

Information in the following charts can help us understand where consumers trend. We can use the information to choose where to begin our word of mouth campaign or even our general advertising.

We all know family and friends typically give us our most trusted information. The following graph presents consumer-trusted sources by popularity. When thinking about your WOM or advertising campaign, your goal is to get people on board with the following type of classifications or experiences.

People spread the word about a product with varying intensities. The most intense word-of-mouth communicators or “influencers” are the most attractive. One major component of WOMM sometimes crosses with publicity by attracting key persons to review your product and talk about it in articles or on their blogs. The chart bellow from eMarketer, based on a 2006 study, identifies key places influencers go to get their information. The first column, adult influencers, represents key influencers who shape consumer attitudes.

If you want to attract key people to your product, locations in the chart above is where you should start either advertising or request them to review your product.

For those of us who don’t think our product is excellent or that flaws in the product will be learned quickly, I suggest not advertising in some of the locations above. If your product is sub-par, people in these places will be the first to find that out and potentially spread the information on how much your product fails. That statement may seem unethical, but most of us at some point represent products we don’t have in confidence. Yet, we still want to do our best to make it sell as best as possible. Word of mouth marketing doesn’t work positively for weak products. The word will get out about its ineffectiveness (or people will simply not say anything about it). But, it’s possible to slow down the discovery and get strong initial buy-in using other traditional forms of marketing.

Viral Marketing Techniques

As I mentioned in a previous post, word of mouth marketing (WOMM) is a recent craze for marketers. Viral marketing is one form of WOMM. It specifically uses social networks to increase brand awareness by creating content people naturally want to spread. Wikipedia defines this in more detail and lists a few techniques. As a person wanting to expand your marketing initiatives or simply learn about viral marketing, you may be wondering what the best performing kinds of viral marketing techniques are.

Effective Social Avenues
Based on an article from eMarketer, the following chart lists techniques and marketers’ effectiveness rating per customer focus.

Best Viral Marketing Approaches

Finding Your Customer
Knowing your customer and what social sites they visit on the web is an important element to an effective viral marketing campaign. If your company serves a niche, it’s easier to identify the right blogs or informational sites and receive strong results by simply searching the web and talking to industry professionals. If you serve an interest that is broader or in a market that’s relatively saturated, you’ll have a harder time breaking through the clutter. Getting reviews, interviews, or holding your own webinars announced through industry networks may help grow your exposure and ability to get people talking about what you provide.
Focus on Speak-Worthy Content, First
It takes time, but be patient. The most important element to remember in all this is to focus on creating content that is worth passing around. Without it, any viral campaign you embark on will fail. Content that improves one’s life or career or content that is entertaining speaks best. For some industries, creating this content is easy by the very nature of the products or services. But for others, it’s tough. If you can’t think of appropriate content, don’t waste time on this approach. Choose another. Without relative and speak-worthy content, even if you place it on the perfect social site for your industry, it will die or fizzle away. Start with appropriate, honest, and entertaining content. Then find the best places to post it.
Find the Innovators
Expect the curve to be long—as in months. Sometimes, it’s shorter. Sometimes longer. But the most attractive part of this approach is that you get people to be marketers for you. Find the kind of customers called innovators. They are the very first people to come on board. They’ll be a very small segment, but they will be the ones most willing to speak about your product or service. They are also the most forgiving as you develop your product and message. The entire customer adoption curve can be seen in the image below from Value Based Management.

Going from left to right, each kind of customer is less willing to come on board and is influenced by the people to the left of them. As you engage your viral campaign, you may see your message change as the message passes through each segment. You want it to.
Recommended Material
The information I give here is the very tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more to convey if we had the time. I wish you luck as you delve into these activities. It’s fun, exciting, and inspiring to watch people begin to see how usable and awesome your product is. Massaging this process as it travels from one customer adoption to the next is explained more in Seth Goden’s easy read, Idea Virus. Basic tips on how to build an email viral campaign can be found in an article by EmailLabs, a company focusing on viral research, technology, and consulting.

The Rise of Word of Mouth Marketing

If you’ve been following any online marketing trends, word of mouth marketing (WOMM) is a recent craze. eMarketer sent out a newsletter today noting information about the rise of WOMM. Based on information from a BIGresearch study, the article points out that 91% of people in the U.S. sought advice on products or services between November and December 2006—the biggest buying season of the year (chart #080344 below). Ninety-four percent (94%) of us gave advice to others (chart #08033 below).

91% of People Seek Advice About Products and Services 94% of People Give Advice on Products or Services
The article also points out the types of marketing most people prefer to receive based on a DoubleClick study last January (see chart #080163). The top five are:
  1. Recommendations from friends (58%)
  2. Opted-in email newsletters (33%)
  3. TV ads (32%)
  4. Catalogs via mail (30%)
  5. Magazine ads (30%)

See the full article by eMarketer (available until July 4).

What is Word of Mouth Marketing

I’m about to post information about an eMarketer eblast. Before I do so, I wanted to give a quick overview of what Word of Mouth Marketing is. Wikipedia also has excellent information on this topic.

In the past month or so, I’ve heard TV and radio news programs report on this new trend. Both talked negatively about WOMM. But I think they were looking at the abusers of WOMM instead of those who are using it respectfully and accurately. The basic gist of WOMM is to encourage individuals to give an honest recommendation about your product to others. The realization is that people put more weight on the words from a friend or a person who has already experienced the product.

Abusers of this approach basically hire freelance sales reps to “sell” the product to people they know. Payment is usually received as free product or coupons. The companies strongly suggest what the customer needs to say about the product and the sales goal they need to achieve before a “gift” will be sent. When a company determines what a customer will say, it certainly is not word of mouth. When there are achievement goals to attain a “reward”, it is not word of mouth. I don’t have a problem with the approach. But I do have a problem with calling it word of mouth marketing.

To properly entice a person to talk about your product, it’s okay to offer things to increase excitement or to let them know you are thankful they chose to spend their money with you. Usually notification of those gifts happen at the purchase or receipt of your product. What makes WOMM different from incentive programs, such as frequent flyer clubs, are the type of gifts you give. The goal is to enable the person to spread the word about your product with the gift. I suggest checking with the customer to see if they are interested in spreading the word. That can be done simply by providing a means to do so or asking if they want the item you offer to further the discussion. Things given as a “thank you” of course do not need to be opted into. Your return rate on those would obvious be proportionately smaller, but overall activity should be larger.

Other ways of encouraging WOM is to simply provide a vehicle to discuss your product. This can be via an “email a friend” link (although I’m personally not a fan), emailable sample chapters if you’re a book publisher, customer comments on your site, product giveaways for the buyer to give away, or even bumper stickers.

The most important part to remember in all of this is that you need a product that’s worth talking about. Creative marketing can only go so far. If you have a bad product, it’ll come out in WOMM. That was one of my concerns with my websites or products. What if people don’t like them. I’m then empowering people to talk negatively about my product. But even if you don’t attempt to further discussion of your product, people will talk about it anyway. In fact, they already are. The advantage of being more engaged in the discussion is that you’ll find out sooner if the product won’t perform. You’ll then be in a better place to allocate your resources in directions you know will succeed.

For more information, I’d recommend a book by Greg Steilstra titled Pyro Marketing. I haven’t read the entire book, but I’ve met with Greg to get its gist and discuss some of my concerns with the WOM approach. He explains things well in the book. His fire metaphor makes understanding the WOMM concept clearer.

There is also an organization, named the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), that is committed to furthering and educating people about WOMM. They also conduct training sessions, webinars, and provide an email newsletter if you want to become a stronger advocate for WOMM.