Word of Mouth is Nuclear Marketing, not Viral Marketing.
Word of mouth can spread at explosive rates,
not the usual “viral” rates that most
people think in terms of.
Yes, sometimes, the word spreads slowly at a very
small “infection” rate, spread by many
contacts, until it reaches a “tipping point” (see
the explanation in the endnotes of The Tipping
Point). This is the viral model, and it can
infect an entire population pretty fast. If every
person only infects one person, there is no growth.
But if one person infects an average of 1.01 persons,
the whole world will get infected pretty fast, as
long as there is a lot of contact.
That’s the model that most word-of-mouth marketers
are stuck on.
But it’s the wrong model most of the time.
When an idea spreads initially so slowly, it’s
usually because it’s not exciting, extraordinary,
unusual, remarkable — WOMworthy. People don’t
talk about such things very much. You don’t
get spread. The idea fizzles out.
The real model is not the geometric progression
that Gladwell talks about, but the explosive model
of the nuclear “chain reaction.”
You can’t begin to understand the explosive spread
of word of mouth until you get it. This may help.
As you follow along, first remember
the Power of WOM:
- You are exposed to thousands of
commercial messages a week and only act on one
- You are likely to act on about one in 3 recommendations
from friends, colleagues and trusted advisors.
WOM is hundreds to thousands of
times as powerful as conventional messages from
advertising and salespeople.
WOM spreads at a rate that is almost unimaginable,
but let’s try:
Let’s say that 25 people tell 25 other
people about a new product.
1. That’s ONE cycle of 625 people — that’s
the Neighborhood. Now,
everyone in the neighborhood tells 25 more people.
2: 15,625 — that’s
he average Town. My town
of Nanuet, NY is about that size. So now, the whole town knows.
They each email or call 25 other new people.
3. That’s 390,625 people,
the size of a medium-sized city like
Minneapolis or Oakland. Now the whole city knows.
(Also, that’s half of all the doctors in
the country. So, it only takes three cycles to
reach all of
the doctors who write substantial amounts of prescriptions!)
Now, the whole city emails their 25 friends in
4: Now we have 9,765,625, the
size of a Megalopolis like
New York. Now, everyone emails 25 more people.
5: That reaches 244,140,625 people, roughly the
adult population of the United States.
6: That’s 6,103,515,625, the
population of the entire WORLD
So, to market to all doctors, or to an entire city,
you only need three cycles
of 25 people telling 25 people! In the pharmaceutical
industry, all you would need is 25 clinical investigators
telling 25 super-specialists, telling 25 specialists
or generalists, and you’ve got it covered,
with multiple hits from trusted colleagues instead
of distrusted salespeople. That’s why I wrote
the letter to Pharmaceutical CEOs that’s getting sent
around and why that letter will make a major impact.
To reach everyone in the US, all you need is five
cycles. Actually, 3 or 4 cycles are all you really
need to reach everyone who is worth reaching, multiple
times. Realize that these aren’t the usual “hits” from
advertising. These are meaningful conversations among
trusted friends, who have no reason to lie to each
Now, I realize that in real life there are many
duplicates, creating the impression that “everyone
is talking about it,” — which they are —’ making
action even more likely.
So, rather than a mathematical table, think in terms
of the Silverman Six Easy Steps to Reach
25 X 25…
Neighborhood’ > Town > City > Megalopolis > Country > World.
For the mathematically inclined:
- 25 2 = 625 ——————– Neighborhood
- 253 = 15,625——————Small
town — Pearl River, NY
- 25 4 = 390,625—————Medium
City — Minneapolis
- 255 = 9,765,625————-Megalopolis
- 256 = 244,140,625———-US Population
- 257 = 6,103,515,625——- World
This is pretty astounding, and worth passing on: So, can I get 25 of you to pass this on to 25 people? 😉
Word-of-mouth marketing, Marketing, WOMM
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