Word of mouth isn't just talk - it's listening, too

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on July 19, 2007

Marketers are increasingly using every available channel to encourage word-of-mouth in their efforts to get consumers talking about their products and services, according to Diamond Consultants. But while they are building the 'buzz' they may be missing out on actually learning from their most passionate customers.

Diamond warns that the simple act of listening to the voice of the customer is often lacking when companies launch word-of-mouth (WoM) marketing campaigns. This is a significant loss because analysing the feedback from those campaigns can provide valuable insights that affect the design of future products, services, and communication campaigns.

WoM gets technical
Word-of-mouth marketing, in the form of buzz building, viral marketing, grass roots campaigns, and brand blogging, among others, happens when a company enables the process of an individual initiating a communication about a brand, product, or service with another individual or group.

According to Diamond partner Paul D'Alessandro, technology is a great accelerator and amplifier of word-of-mouth communication: "In the past, a dissatisfied customer might influence a few friends and family members. Today a single person with an influential blog can potentially bring a product or brand to its knees in a matter of days or even hours."

Points to consider
In its new white paper on the subject, Diamond says that in constructing an effective two-way word-of-mouth strategy, companies need to consider the overlaps between the disciplines of marketing and technology.

"Word-of-mouth campaigns should be opening new two-way channels of communication," explained D'Alessandro. "But the marketing department can't do that alone. It takes the combined power of a company's marketing and technology teams to influence what's being said about their brands and products and to learn more about customer preferences."

Finding the right teams
It is, of course, impossible for the marketing team to read and evaluate everything written in message boards, blogs, forums and user review sites. But technology can be used to measure, synthesize and extract intelligence from online consumer conversations. Advanced text mining and analytics tools can automate the scanning process and help marketers make sense of all the online chatter. Even now, the Word-of-Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) is working on standardising WoM measurement terminology.

Word-of-mouth marketing campaigns can measurably improve product trials, generate sales and engender customer loyalty, the company reports, but starting such an initiative with the creative process is often a mistake. "Creating an effective word-of-mouth campaign is not a linear process," said D'Alessandro. "You've got to approach it from two directions, both business and technology. Collaboration between the two disciplines will yield the most impactful results."

Setting objectives
Word-of-mouth campaigns can be proactive (awareness-building, or capturing consumer reactions to a product introduction) or reactive (responding to misinformation or pre-empting negative publicity). In either case, the campaign should include means of measuring campaign success.

Targets and methods should be considered in terms of both the product lifecycle and the customer lifecycle. For example, giving away too much information about a new product during the development phase might create a risk of imitation by competitors. And if customers who are disappointed with the product experience start sharing their negative views, marketers should have a strategy ready for countering such detractors.

Questions to ask
D'Alessandro suggests that marketers considering word-of-mouth campaigns should start by asking six basic questions:

  1. Can I track not only the conversations about my brand and products but also the relationships between conversations, their individual growth rates and the underlying drivers of consumer-generated conversations?
  2. Is my ROI from traditional advertising decreasing, and how are other companies fighting that trend?
  3. How can I use word-of-mouth in the marketing mix to promote the brand's position and reinforce our value proposition?
  4. How can I share the voice of the consumer with the right parts of the organisation's product development lifecycle?
  5. Do I understand the role of technology in enabling and measuring word-of-mouth impact?
  6. Do I have an appropriate approach to identify, launch and manage word-of-mouth campaigns to best effect?

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