People are talking about word of mouth marketing. This powerful under-the- radar- tactic has been used by smart marketers for years to influence people to purchase products and services.
Word of mouth spreads quickly and efficiently. The future of marketing is viral. Traditional advertising is losing its effectiveness at an alarming rate. We are all bombarded with hundreds of solicitations each and every day. Although they may have a subliminal effect, we rarely take conscious notice of the product that is featured in these ads. In New York City, for example, out of home advertising (billboards, bus posters, subway ads and advertisements on telephone kiosks) is everywhere. It has literally become scenery that fades into the background of our busy lives. In an age where satellite radio enjoys popularity because it has no commercials and TiVo makes television commercials about as relevant as Al Gore, what is an aggressive marketer to do?
The answer: Get people talking. If you can get to the friends and relatives of your target, you can get to them. Once a product is introduced and the early adopters (innovators and opinion leaders) have taken it under their wing, word of mouth can really accelerate its acceptance by the majority of the targeted population. (Here is a link to an earlier article on the process.)
Measurement of word of mouth marketing is an issue that regularly surfaces. Blogwrite for CEOs recently discussed the topic. WOMMA – The Word of Mouth Marketing Association – offers some guidance on measurement and management of this fast-growing technique. The internet and e-mail helps formalize measurement and many people are working to use technology to harness buzz. Buzzoodle is an interesting new tool that was developed specifically for this purpose. Ron McDaniel and his team at Liquid Learning created Buzzoodle to tap into informal networks. As interest in word of mouth marketing continues to grow, so will the sophistication of the measurement.
As I discuss the growth of word-of-mouth marketing with traditional marketers they repeatedly ask one question; “How powerful is word of mouth?”
A partner and I just wrapped up a small project for a local museum here in New York. This particular venue targets mothers with two or more children. One of our key findings was that word of mouth spreads rapidly among this group through two conduits: Conversation in the schoolyard and E-mail.
Moms talk to one another during “the drop off” (when the kids arrive at school or camp) and they talk while they wait to pick up their children in the afternoon. We also found that after the drop off, mom heads to Starbucks to grab a cup of coffee and then she goes home (or to work) and checks her e-mail.
We wanted moms to visit this museum and give their honest opinions to friends. To help them evaluate the venue, we started a program that made a handful of moms “museum ambassadors”. A group of 15 moms received a VIP tour of the museum and a significant amount of printed information on its history.
One week later they were asked to bring their family back for a normal visit. Following that trip, we conducted in-depth interviews with the moms to understand the family’s reaction to the museum experience. Finally, we sent each mom coupons for a 10% discount. The coupons contained a tracking number. The moms were told that they could give these coupons to friends / family. This was our way of saying “thank you” for participating in the study.
Visitor traffic in this particular museum is currently up over 70% since we started the “mom study”. How do we know that it was our program that influenced this jump in traffic? Three weeks after sending the moms the coupons, 50% were returned through the admissions desk of the museum. By the sixth week, we had received 80% of the coupons back.
Interestingly enough, many moms keep referring people even though the coupons have run out. The staff hears anecdotal evidence almost every day.
Keep checking back here for more on word of mouth. The power and efficiency it offers marketers make it too compelling to ignore.