February 18, 2008
Yesterday i started off this series of articles with getting the terminology of Buzz & Word-of-Mouth Marketing Correct, and seeing what the power of Buzz marketing can do for your business. Today we are going to look at some word-of-mouth success stories, and how you can put them to use for your own business. You also need to watch out for negative buzz, and how to avoid it. So without further a due. Let’s get started.
Examining word-of-mouth marketing success stories
You can find plenty of real-world examples showing how successful word-of-mouth promotion can be. You probably have even experienced it as a consumer. In order to launch your own word-of-mouth campaign, you can glean some valuable tips by first looking at the success stories of others.
Emanuel Rosen describes a broad spectrum of these successes in his book The Anatomy of Buzz. Rosen describes how buzz was completely and absolutely responsible for consumer awareness of a software product he was involved with (called Endnote, a program to help academics footnote their sources more easily, to meet different guidelines without having to re-type each source). He was able to track consumer awareness to buzz (something he considers synonymous with word of mouth) because the company hadn’t done any marketing or advertising or publicity when people started to call and ask about it. In fact, the product wasn’t even available when the company received its first order! But the company had done a sneak preview locally, and word spread about it nationally. That first order came in from 3,000 miles away.
Word of mouth has been responsible for the success of other high-tech products as well. But it’s not only the geeks in the world of computer technology who buzz about a product; it happens in the larger world, too. When was the first time you considered getting an MP3 player or a PDA? For most people, these gadgets became enticing only after hearing a friend or coworker rave about his new toy.
How many people make travel and vacation plans based on what people they know recommend or buy cars because of buzz about a particular style? How many times have you gone to the movies based on what your friends are talking about or recommend — often, even when you had no interest in a particular movie until people we know start buzzing about it? For example, remember The Crying Game? The Sixth Sense? And The Blair Witch Project? All of those movies benefited from buzz and word-of-mouth marketing.
Books are another typical product that benefit from great word of mouth. In fact, book publicists typically send a copy of a new book to a targeted list of “big mouths” whom they know will talk up a book that they enjoyed. To book publishers, being a big mouth isn’t a bad thing at all. Those people know a lot of people, they talk to many people regularly, they’re free with their opinions, and people listen to what they say and what they recommend. Big mouths spread the word about a new book, and they can help it get noticed and sell — which is increasingly tough to do given the enormous number of new books that are published every year.
You may be surprised at the success stories of many titles you’re familiar with. I remember how buzz contributed to the success of one such book: Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. And Malcolm Gladwell, in his book The Tipping Point, writes about another book that caused a sensation: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells. Interestingly, word of mouth was responsible for the enormous success of each book, but the buzz on the two books happened in very different ways: One was top-down, and the other was bottom-up.
In the case of Cold Mountain, the buzz was driven from the top-down. The book started to sell as soon as it was published, but it became a bestseller because the publisher wrote personal letters to key booksellers and sent copies to people he thought would be key readers (and therefore had big mouths).
In the case of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, the book didn’t sell particularly well at first. It got a few good reviews and sold a modestly successful number of copies in the original hardcover edition. When the book came out in paperback, though, the author noticed that groups of women would come to bookstores to have her sign their copies, and they were buying several copies of the book for their friends. What had happened was that readers had identified with the theme of the book and were reading it in bookclubs and other communities, and those communities started to buzz. That word-of-mouth groundswell caused the book to sell 2.5 million copies.
Beware of negative buzz!
Warning: A product can also be affected adversely by negative buzz. Remember the problem with Intel’s Pentium chip, back in the early 1990s? Someone found a small error in the chip, and news about it spread furiously fast on the Internet — so fast that Intel couldn’t contain it and didn’t remedy it fast enough. That negative buzz cost the company $475 million in write-offs — but it offered a great lesson in what to do and what not to do when someone discovers a weakness in your product or service.
Tip: Keep in mind the old adage that a happy customer may recommend your product or service or store to someone else, but an unhappy customer will definitely complain about you to at least three people. The power and speed of the Internet have increased that nightmare scenario exponentially. Do your best to keep your customers happy — no matter what.
In tomorrows post, i will throwing some ideas around on how to generate buzz for your business or website, hiring the right people to promote your product or service, and taking advantage of celebrity endorsements.
Author: Andy MacDonald, CEO of Swift Media UK, a website design & search marketing company. For daily tips on Blogging, Marketing, SEO & Making Money Online, Checkout our SEO & Marketing Tips for Webmasters blog or Subscribe by RSS.