People love to spread the word about things they love (and hate).
It’s like a gift of ‘information’ they get to give people. They get to be a ‘hook up’ of good things. They get help someone.
It’s important to create excuses for people to talk about what YOU do and mechanisms that facilitate that turning into business.
A lot of them.
Some times people stress themselves out by thinking that they need to come up with this one perfect word of mouth strategy that’s going to create an avalanche of customers. While that is sometimes possible – it’s also important to think about a lot of little things all working together.
The easiest way to do this is to ask yourself when and where conversations about your business are likely to take place and then to figure out a way to make sure your materials are there when the conversations come up.
“So ask yourself – do you want to send messages out to people, and that’s it? It’ll cost you a lot of money, and you may have very little to show for it. A better solution is getting buzz – devoting every ounce of effort toward getting people to talk about your brand and the media writing about your brand. The goal of a buzzmarketer with every dollar spent is: Spark further word of mouth.” – Mark Hughes, Buzz Marketing
If those conversations aren’t happening – then you might need to create spaces and places where they can. The point is – you need to give them reasons, spaces, opportunities, mechanisms and materials that make conversations about your business more likely. Identify existing opportunities and places they’re most likely to happen and create new ones.
“All word of mouth starts with creating a message that will be spread. It doesn’t need to be fancy. A special sale, remarkably good service, a cool new feature, a unique flavour, a funny name, or a nice package may be all it takes. The specifics of the message don’t matter. Good topics are portable, clear ideas that one person can repeat successfully.” – Word of Mouth Marketing – Andy Sernovitz
NOTE: Make it easy and effortless to spread the word and tell others about what you do (e.g. Facebook will send an invitation to anyone you’ve ever emailed before with a couple clicks of a button. Easy.). If someone has to open up their database, find the numbers of ten friends, call them and explain your service – they won’t.
o a simple, well thought out story: there is no better mechanism than a well constructed story that makes people feel good to hear and tell it. Think about the story of Bill Gates starting Microsoft in his garage. The story of David and Goliath. People love to tell good stories and love to hear them. What is the story of your business or offer? Spend the time on this. Every other mechanism you can use will be based on this and used to get people to say this story. Why does this work so well? Because people love to tell stories. Why? We get rewarded for it. We get attention. We get to be ‘in the know’. We look good when we have a good story to tell.
Says Mark Hughes in his book ‘Buzz Marketing’:
“You’ve got to give ‘em something to talk about – because it makes them interesting, and it gives them currency. Hey Mr. Motorola, Miss Minolta, it’s not about you…it’s about them! If you don’t create a story that gives them currency…word of mouth will not spread. Why? Because most of us love to be the centre of attention; we love to have something interesting, amusing, or novel to talk about, something others will find entertaining, fun to hear…and will remember us for having brightened their day a little. The crux of buzzmarketing is that it doesn’t grab buzz currency…it gives buzz currency. If the story is good enough, it only takes one time to have an impact, while traditional advertising requires multiple attempts to have a prayer of impact.
The Five Most Frequently Written Stories
Similar in many ways to giving consumers something to talk about – you’ve got to give the media something to write about. The media’s appetite for what’s newsworthy is slightly different from the consumer’s.
Year after year, the five most frequently written news stories are the following:
• The David-and-Goliath story
• The unusual or outrageous story
• The controversy story
• The celebrity story
• What’s already hot in the media.”
Is there some affecting, human drama and inspiring story behind your product? Is there some charismatic leader who can embody it? People find it easier to talk about people than to talk about ‘companies’.
o free events: creating free events for people in your target market (whether they’re parties, workshops, lectures or potlucks) is one of the easiest and simplest ways for people to meet you.
“You don’t need a convention to make this work for you. Just think about the easiest way to get your talkers together. If you have a store, host a cocktail party, live music, or a book reading. It doesn’t matter what the reason is; just create an excuse to invite everyone over. For years I’ve traveled around the country hosting a series of networking dinners called the “Feast for Smart Marketers”. There is not much too it-I book a Chinese banquet hall and invite everyone I know in town. No speaker, no panel discussion. Just 200 people and lots of great food. Pretty much all of my customers and lots of great word of mouth come from these simple dinners.” – Word of Mouth Marketing – Andy Sernovitz
o stay in touch marketing: make sure that you’re in touch with your clients often with relevant and valuable information. If they buy from you once and then you never call them or email or write them again – they’re very unlikely to think of you – even if a dear friend is needing what you sell. Stay top of mind by staying in touch.
o focus on your top clients: the truth is that 80% of your referrals likely come from 20% of your clients. Give them extra care and attention.
o support existing hubs: if there’s groups or networks where your clients gather – support them. They’re doing the heavy lifting of gathering for you.
o create new interactive hubs: if the people in your target market have no spaces to hang out and talk with each other – you can create one. A lot of work – but powerful.
o exclusive gifts they can pass on: It’s very powerful if you give your clients a valuable gift to pass onto their friends that they know their friends would find valuable. It makes them look like a hero for spreading the word. If they know that the only way their friends will hear about your cool business is by them telling you it creates a powerful inner impulse for them to talk about you. They start to think to themselves . . .
“If I don’t tell my friends about this deal – they’ll never know.” It feels like a moral obligation on their part if they are the only possible way their friends will find out about them. Plus – it gives people this sense of being ‘on the inside’. “Stores can offer a product or add-on that isn’t apparent to regular shoppers. Maybe special gift wrapping, a unique flavour, or a delivery service. Let the word spread that you have this available for people who ask.” – Word of Mouth Marketing – Andy Sernovitz
o make your product more visible: Apple made their Mac’s really colourful – that got people talking. If your product is invisible – people will often forget about it. Can you alter it to make it more visible?
o do something outrageous: there’s a reason publicity stunts work. If you make some crazy offer people will talk. Remember, as Andy Sernovitz says, “Advertising is the price of being boring.”
o samples to give to friends: If you were hosting an evening to showcase your chocolates – wouldn’t you want to send everyone home with a box or two of your chocolates (one for them and one for their friends)?
“Provide the tools that help your messages move farther and faster. An easy to forward email and tell a friend button on the order page of your website are two incredibly powerful (but simple) online examples. Don’t let someone leave your store without something to give to a friend, like a menu or a coupon. Kiehl’s cosmetic stores are famous for their free samples. It’s always impossible to leave without a pocket full of goodies. And they always give you more than one, so you have something to share with a friend. If someone’s got a desire to talk about you, do everything possible to help them along. Magazine’s figured this out a long time ago. Although it looks insane, there is a reason why every magazine has a flurry of subscription postcards falling all over your house. People share magazines, and those cards are the tools that help pass along the subscription offer.” – Word of Mouth Marketing – Andy Sernovitz
o be in the center of a hungry crowd for a limited time: A client of mine sells dog bones from a Hudderite colony in Northern Alberta. Dogs go crazy for them. She spent four days at a dog trade show and by the end the word had gotten around and she had a huge line up. If you have a product that people love and consume quickly, or where the results are immediately apparent – then get yourself into an environment where word can spread.
“Why does it matter? Because the early growth of a brand is critically dependent on word of mouth. And if you plant you marketing seeds in an environment that fosters word of mouth (e.g. a bar environment), you’re ahead of the game. If you want people to talk about your brand, get as close as possible to a community that talks a lot of in an environment that talks a lot.” – Buzz Marketing, Mark Hughes
o ramp up your promotion and use suspense: if you want to get people talking there’s not much that’s better than a little bit of mystery and suspense. Tease them. Tell them something big is coming – but don’t tell them what. Then tell them what it is – but don’t give any details. Then give one or two amazing details – but don’t tell them how to order it. Then tell them how to order it – but only make a limited number available. You don’t have to release it all at once.
o group packages that encourage them to bring friends or buy for friends (e.g. an improv theatre company I work with invited people to come on slow nights and bring as many friends as they wanted to for free for a show once, Author, Seth Godin – “When I insisted that people buy my last book in twelve-packs (12 for the price of 3) instead of one book at a time, I was making it obvious to my readers that they should share the other eleven copies with their colleagues. Making a product or service or idea that’s easy to share makes it more likely that people will share it.”
o package relevant and valuable information and offer it for free in a way that’s easy to pass on (e.g. PDF’s, online audio, online video, books, checklists etc.) “Some people worry that giving away too much information might undercut the value of their products. It never happens. The stuff you share proves your expertise and attracts customers. It makes them want to talk about you and to you.” – Word of Mouth Marketing – Andy Sernovitz. Take at look at these quick online videos that are powerful examples of pink spoon marketing that help to reduce risk, tell a story and facilitate the buying process:
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