Word of mouth marketing fundamentals in less than 10 minutes


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When the author of the the seminal book on word of mouth marketing says another book on WOM is full of notes, highlights and dog-eared pages, one tends to take notice. That would be the reaction Andy Sernovitz had to Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable, Word of Mouth Movements.

It’s a quick read, based substantially on client work that the Brains on Fire team has done in recent years. But the fundamentals they lay out are universal, and can apply to all of our businesses, cultures and customers.

I highly recommend adding this book to your marketing library (I’m sure your copy will become as well-used as mine). Below are several highlights I pulled from the book, which together form an veritable handbook of word of mouth truths, best practices and inspiration for our efforts this year and beyond.

So first, do yourself a favor and buy the book. But here’s a taste of what’s in store:

Brains on Fire Highlights:

People don’t trust your company; people trust people. People they know. People whose opinions and recommendations they seek out and have faith in.

It’s really hard to make a campaign into a movement.

According to Copernicus Marketing Consulting and Research, the average ROI of TV advertising campaigns is 1-4 percent.

A movement is sustainable.

When you ignite someone’s passion, you quickly find out that you must keep the conversation focused on them and their passion to fan those flames.

While campaign words are rooted in conflict, movement words are rooted in drawing people together.

While the purpose of advertising is driving awareness, word of mouth is where credibility comes into play.

No movement that we’ve ever helped ignite has gone according to plan.

Your employees and customers are so much closer to that product or service than you are.

Your company isn’t what you say it is or want it to be; it’s the stories that people tell about it.

All the rules of friendship should apply to your relationship with your biggest fans.

The quickest path to growth is to shower the people—the customers—you love with love.

When we bring marketing into a relationship, we damage it. Nobody wants to be “marketed to.”

“The role of traditional branding is to influence behavior. The difference with movements is to inspire behavior.”

People don’t want to be influenced. But people long to be inspired. And inspiring them to action is a win-win.

Talking about yourself won’t make others talk about you.

“Buzz does not create evangelists; evangelists create buzz.”

Your company is the stories people tell about it.

People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves because everyone wants to be bigger than they are.

Passion is the key to a sustainable movement, not to mention the best competitive advantage.

You can’t have passion without purpose. The two are intertwined.

Passion needs to be a mirror—something that’s equal inside and outside a company. And if it’s lopsided, you need to find out why.

Deep beliefs breed passion, and when passion oozes throughout a culture, you’re going to attract people who will speak up on its behalf.

Are you the head of a company or the head of a cause? Or both?

You can participate without being engaged. Engagement is the step beyond participation.

It’s not about you talking about your product. It’s about people celebrating how your product fits into their lives and how you enable them to use it.

Instead of doing all the talking, let your customer and their customers do all the talking. It’s a far more important job to sit back and listen and gain some insight on what you don’t know.

The sooner you humble yourself and realize that you’re not an expert at everything your customers do, the better off you are.

When you throw open the curtains and reveal your company’s faults and needs to an outsider, they begin to become vested and get involved.

Trends will happen when they are ready to happen, not because you seeded them with people you deem to be the authority.

Influence can be made, but passion can’t.

It is more important to be passionate and curious than to be merely smart.

Passion, and not influence, should be the main driver behind the people companies choose to be internal or external ambassadors.

Companies should embrace conversations that have a more sustainable long-term effect.

Instead of looking for those influential folks in a category, we look for those regular, everyday people who just happen to have a deep passion about that category.

When you take the time to recognize someone and empower them with the tools they need to pass on the word, they will be much more loyal to you than the mommy blogger who is basically renting out her influence to the highest bidder and will be talking about something else in a matter of days.

Success comes when you give power to those who have the potential to influence others.

Go where the party is already happening. Don’t create your own party and expect people to show up.

Companies are made up of people, and people are fallible. The ones who admit this win.

Without the compelling story and the compelling storyteller, you’re going to get lost in the mass.

Transparency is a cornerstone of any successful movement.

A brand ambassador is a loyal and loud advocate who spreads goodwill in the name of that company, product, or service. It is a dedicated mission that is personal and fulfilling for that person. They are not there for PR or to push product, but to spread the love.

As you gather and mobilize your evangelists, let them help you find the hubs of passion that already exist.

Great brands and organizations are co-owned by the fans who blog, moderate, recommend, and protect.

Customers and employees become advocates when they can connect their passion to the company and shape its message into their own.

Shared ownership must be an intrinsic part of the movement from the very beginning.

Feeling valued is a direct conduit of them buying in and caring about what you’re doing, since it’s based on their direct input.

True participation in people’s lives through courageous insight opens up opportunities for deeper connections.

Do you want your ideas and creative concepts to see the light of day? Then don’t start with the customer “in mind,” but actually with the customer.

Joining a movement is a chance to take control of your identity rather than falling victim to someone else’s labeling.

Movements need a set of words or a document around which people can rally. But they need to be very specific and speak directly to the cause.

90 percent of word-of-mouth interactions happen off-line.

As great as all the Twitters and Facebooks and MySpaces and blogs and message boards and digital doodads are, they will never, ever replace the power of shaking someone’s hand, looking them in the eye, getting kindred spirits in the room (or better yet, at your brand’s Mecca), and laughing together, getting a drink, sitting at the dinner table—whatever.

Yes, online is important. But off-line—that’s where the real stories are created. It’s where they live and breathe, because that’s where we live and breathe.

Figure out how that online strategy can drive off-line conversations, off-line gatherings, and off-line relationships with employees and fans.

A real relationship is about personal investment and sacrifice.

How many companies that you have a relationship with will really be there for you when you need them?

Technology will always change. But the fundamental reasons people use it never do.

Listen actively, like you’re sitting across the table from your advocates, looking them in the eye, nodding your head, and taking notes.

When you make someone feel like a rock star, you, the brand, are becoming their fan. Remember that.

Don’t find people to lift you up; you lift them up first. Be famous for the people who love you, for the way you love them.

When you really engage and participate in your customers’ lives, you can begin to understand what makes them tick.

It’s not about how they fit into your marketing plan but rather about how you fit into their lives.

What you might consider unimportant and mundane—items that get lost in your day-to-day responsibilities—may mean a lot to one of your brand’s advocates.

When you empower with something as important as trust, then people feel you have faith in them and want to do the right thing for you.

The American Revolution was ignited by word of month and it wasn’t on the Internet.

Staying close to your most demanding customers compels performance and innovation.

Employees are more engaged if they are closer to customers. It’s always a signal of corporate health and profitability.

How close is your company to your customers? What percentage of your employees have regular customer contact and conversation?

Every marketer needs to start by making a better product.

The true test of a movement’s success is to create something so powerful—so meaningful—that your advocates don’t want to live without it.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Matt Heinz
Prolific author and nationally recognized, award-winning blogger, Matt Heinz is President and Founder of Heinz Marketing with 20 years of marketing, business development and sales experience from a variety of organizations and industries. He is a dynamic speaker, memorable not only for his keen insight and humor, but his actionable and motivating takeaways.Matt’s career focuses on consistently delivering measurable results with greater sales, revenue growth, product success and customer loyalty.


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