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Word-of-mouth Marketing Will Change Your Business

By: Tina Hedges and Sarah Chung
Posted: September 3, 2009, from the September 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

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And before going any further, ask this question: Will people care and should they? If the answer is “no,” don’t go any further. It is imperative to be “brand real;” keep the conversation authentic, meaningful and sincere. Beware of the dangers of off-line brand alienation or online “astroturfing” (an unscrupulous or false campaign), and don’t succumb to manipulation while trying to achieve a desired response. You may want to get results, but you must be concerned with getting results the right way.

After successfully moving through these steps, the actual campaign can be created—including sending invitations, activating the information forums and flipping the campaign switch. A helpful step between includes pre-testing and fine-tuning the messages. Once the production and distribution of the campaign is up and running, do not forget to monitor the swapping of stories, passions and ideas with a formal evaluation—as these insights will lead to the understanding of the full impact of the results.

Remember The Rules

The rabbit hole many marketers fall into is rushing into a WOM campaign without a clear strategy or vision, but the dangerous flipside to WOM should make brands tread carefully. In the absence of an authentic, well-constructed brand message, consumers will unleash their own impressions, right or wrong, to fill the void, and today’s speed of light communication platforms enable those homemade brand messages to travel far and fast. Once the genie is out of the bottle, it is virtually impossible to contain its power—good or bad.

Brands must fiercely protect the brand assets and remain loyal to the core brand identity in order to gain the respect of the masses. “There are several misconceptions regarding WOM, the most important being the amount of resources required to mount a massive, targeted campaign and the speed of creative development required to retain the attention and loyalty of the network,” says Steven Mazur, managing director, Pisarkiewicz Mazur & Co Inc, a company that produces integrated branding programs. So remember, it’s no longer just about selling product, brand owners are recruiting and equipping fans, building an infrastructure to manage this army of advocates and, hopefully, empowering them with useful tools—not willy-nilly disseminating weapons of mass (brand) destruction.

Sarah Chung is the CEO of Periscope Solutions, a provider of advisory services for small businesses in the areas of strategy, marketing and operations. Periscope delivers research products and consulting services designed to inform and inspire the creation of great products, services and companies.;