Andy Sernovitz is changing how I think.
I got an advance copy of the revised edition of Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking. (I got it free. I acknowledge that up front.)
Andy talks about talking, about getting people talking about your product, your company, your ministry, your brand, your blog. Much of what he says seems obvious, until you step back and say, “It makes sense, but why aren’t we doing that.” Andy helps you think about how to do it.
His definition of word of mouth marketing is simple:
Giving people a reason to talk about your stuff and making it easier for that conversation to take place.
People talk all the time. People talk about businesses, about people, about institutions, about problems. What Andy is suggesting is that we can help people want to talk about us. For businesses, this is huge. It’s also huge for nonprofits, churches, and even individuals.
At the heart of his book are the 5Ts of word-of-mouth marketing: talkers, topics, tools, taking part, and tracking. Let me explain them by using a completely self-serving example.
Young people in love: a word of mouth case study
Our son Andrew and I entered a blogging contest. You write a post. It goes up at thetalentbuzz.com. After two weeks, the post with the most unique visitors wins a $1000 gift card. If we win the gift card, Andrew gets $1000 for an engagement ring (really).
We wrote a post together, talking about some quality college seniors, the kind you would want to attract to your organization, who are moving away from the social networks that some of us are moving toward. (Here’s the post: How will you find them?) The argument is that “we” encourage companies to get on Facebook and Twitter, and at least some college kids are moving away from those platforms.
This is the perfect project for talking about word-of-mouth. The more people that we can get to visit our post, the more likely we are to win. The more people we get talking about the ideas in the post, the more everyone wins.
You start by identifying your talkers. Andrew is working on his networks. I’m coming to you. What are his? He’s been involved at one discussion site for more than 7 years. He’s got credibility there. Who are mine? The people who have been learning about my family and my thinking for the past 3 years of blogging here.
Everyone, every organization, every congregation, every blog, every company has talkers, people who care. Sometimes there aren’t many, but usually there are some. Find them. Figure out who they are. Figure out what they are interested in. Customers, fans, grandparents, friends, colleagues, suppliers–depending on your setting, these are talkers.
My talkers include some of you. Some of you are interested in me. Some of you are interested in social media. Some of you are interested in church. This particular project will most connect with the “social media” and “me” talkers. I think.
The next thing you do is to give your talkers topics, something to talk about. I could, for example, talk about the contest (“Clink on this link and help us win”). I could, on the other hand, appeal to romance (“Click on this link and help Andrew win the card and buy his girlfriend an engagement ring”).
But how are those topics related to you, to my talkers? What is your interest in helping us win, whatever the romantic appeal?
If I understand Andy, some of you already talk about how I look at things. What I would need to do is give you something new about how I look at things.
I’ve been giving people information about Andrew for a long time. Last summer, for example, the readers of smallbizsurvival.com met him when I talked about his small business experience. (They are coming). I’ve spent the last year at gnmparents.com writing about what I’ve learned about parenting, starting with a several weeks series about Andrew. (This one talks about Andrew and Allie and soccer.)
Thus, you already know about Andrew. The new topic is “this kid I’ve heard about isn’t pursuing communication the same way his dad is, and this kid is part of the future.”
Once you have a topic, give your talkers tools to make it easy for them to talk about you. For example, if you are a not-for-profit, forget making business cards for yourself. Make them for your volunteers.
Following Andy’s advice, I’m going for simple.
1. I’m asking for your help.
2. I’ll be putting this in an email to some friends, making it easy to forward.
3. And I’ll figure out how to create a “tell-a-friend” link of some sort.
Ironically, I’ll also use Twitter. The point of our post is that Andrew’s friends are not using Twitter. However, a number of mine are.
T#4: Taking Part
Once a conversation starts, word-of-mouth marketing demands that you get involved. It’s a conversation, not a speech. I’ve got to be active in any comments that are happening at thetalentbuzz.com, for example. This includes responding to criticisms that this campaign is all about buzz and not about substance.
I also need to keep writing about other things. I need to stay connected.
Finally, keeping track of the conversation is important. Where are people talking about this project? Is it showing up in other blogs, tweets, or forums? I’ll come back to this in a few days.
So there you go. A post that reviews a book, tries to generate traffic for a blog post contest, teaches about a marketing concept, tries to start a generational conversation, and maintains some transparency. I’ll let you decide how I did. In the meantime, don’t forget to visit the post Andrew and I wrote (How will you find them).