Buzz Do Remarkable Things
December 15, 2006
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
you are genuinely not interesting, you have to do advertising,”
says Andy Sernovitz. “That’s the price of being boring.
People don’t want to talk to you. You have to pay them to
talk to you.”
I’ve heard advertising compared to prostitution before but
never in such a clever, compelling way.
Sernovitz is right. Word-of-mouth is the best marketing, and he’s
leading the way in providing a structure to transform word-of-mouth
into a marketing practice that can be utilized as effectively
as search advertising or network TV.
Sernovitz is the author of the just published book Word of
Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking.
He’s also founder of the two-year-old Word of Mouth Marketing
Association (WOMMA), which holds its annual conference this month
in Washington, D.C.
When Sernovitz launched WOMMA in Chicago in 2004, I thought word-of-mouth
marketing was a passing fad. Building buzz by word-of-mouth is
a nice idea, but it is totally hit or miss. You have to be lucky
to get people talking. Could word-of-mouth campaigns catch on
and be thought of like print advertising, direct mail or radio?
I underestimated Sernovitz who’s smart, articulate and entrepreneurial.
“There is definitely some luck involved,” admits Sernovitz,
“but that’s the old kind of word-of-mouth. When you
add the second ‘m’ and call it word-of-mouth marketing,
things get much more interesting.” Sernovitz’s point:
There are some things marketers can do to earn good conversation.
Those things are the focus of his book.
How do you get people talking about your products and services?
“You need to do something remarkable,” is Sernovitz’s
right. We marketers have grown so risk averse we’ve forgotten
word-of-mouth is the best marketing. You have to do remarkable
My conversion to word-of-mouth marketing came when a brown cardboard
box arrived at my home. Inside was a bag of great-tasting Dale
and Thomas popcorn. Also enclosed was a brochure for the Englewood,
N.J.-based gourmet popcorn company and a copy of Sernovitz’s
new book along with a note from Andy asking me to spread the word.
I ate the popcorn. It tasted great. Then I looked at the cover
of Andy’s book. The forward is by author Seth Godin and
the afterword is by Apple evangelist and venture capitalist Guy
Kawasaki. Say what you like about Godin and Kawasaki—and
I like and respect them both—but Sernovitz definitely got
the right bookends. Remarkable, I thought. I have to call Andy
and write a column.
Sernovitz is a natural raconteur, but I was still skeptical. Then
he told me about the five T’s. “I’ve looked
at hundreds of word-of-mouth marketing campaigns for literally
hundreds of products,” says Sernovitz. “It always
comes back to the five T’s.
Those five T’s to successfully applying word-of-mouth marketing
are: talkers, topics, tools, taking part and tracking. If you
adopt them, you can create brilliant word-of-mouth campaigns.
Here’s how each breaks out:
— Find the people who are talking. Identify them and learn
who they are. They could be your customers, bloggers, tech junkies.
For every product or service it might be different. Understand
what is going to get them talking about you.
Topic — A topic is a reason for people
to talk about your brand. A topic is not a marketing message.
It is not a mission statement. It is something short and remarkable
that people can easily repeat. It is why people should talk
about your brand. Apple CEO Steve Jobs is masterful at creating
topics with his pink and purple PCs. They get people talking.
Tools — Consider using tools that make
conversations happen. A topic on a static Web site is interesting,
but messages on blogs, message boards or e-mails can easily
scale and travel. “You can put a topic on a Web page and
it’s just a Web page. You put the same exact thing on
a blog, and it is linkable, restorable, portable and built to
travel. Suddenly lots of people are involved with the conversation,”
Taking part — For word-of-mouth marketing
to work, marketers need to participate in the conversation.
When blogger Jeff Jarvis described his woes with Dell service
and support and coined the term “Dell Hell,” the
company was slow to take part. “This is the one that makes
marketers incredibly uncomfortable,” says Sernovitz who
calls Salesforce.com the top performer in this area. “They
have message boards, communities and a blog; it is all about
these never-ending conversations,” he adds.
Tracking — “Word-of-mouth is very
measurable,” says Sernovitz. “With blogs, suddenly
millions of people started writing down everything they were
thinking. We have this massive wealth of information. It gives
us the ability to understand what people are saying and why
they are saying it. This is very good data.” He says Hershey,
Intuit, GM and even Dell are now tracking.
on my conversation with Sernovitz, I realized his five T’s
are remarkable and word-of-mouth marketing will grow in importance.
That’s good for all of us.
“Five years from now companies are going to treat people
better. Products are going to be better because companies are
going to be more respectful.” Why? Because new technology
and word-of-mouth marketing is changing the marketplace.
years ago you could advertise a bad product into good sales,”
says Sernovitz. “Now if you put out a bad product—especially
a bad tech product—within days, it is going to be on blogs
and Amazon reviews. It is going to be on every tech message board.”
In the future,
no amount of advertising will compensate for a bad product or
bad service. Tech-enabled word-of-mouth will push the truth to
the top immediately.
Krauss is a president of Market Strategy Group based in Chicago,
and can be reached at Michael.Krauss@Mkt-strat.com