Twitter just provided yet another confirmation of the power of word of mouth, and a useful tip for you if you get into the kind of trouble that I did.
This could get you out of serious trouble someday:
The Wednesday before the Hurricane Irene was to hit NYC, all models showed that it would pass over JFK airport Sunday Morning. I had a flight due to leave at 9AM on Sunday! So, I called Delta and explained that in view of the almost certainty of the hurricane hitting, I’d like to change my flight to two days earlier, and I’d like to do that now, so that I could save myself and Delta from at least one more call before they got swamped with hurricane rebookings. Spoke to a “Doug Dole” a supervisor at their reservation center, after the request was rejected by a regular agent. He informed me that NYC was not on the list from which they could issue re-bookings. Only Charlotte was listed (at that time only about an hour away from the hurricane’s impact.) I politely pointed out that that was cutting it a bit close and that I’d appreciate his accommodating me, given the inevitable crunch. He informed me that the hurricane was due to veer off and not hit NYC. He said that a change would involve a $150 re-booking fee and a $450 fare increase, since it would be a cancellation and re-booking on short notice. I called back to another supervisor, who said that she would waive the re-booking fee, but not the fare increase.
What would you have done?
As you probably guessed from the Twitter reference above, I got to work with several posts on Twitter, openly ridiculing Delta’s weather forecasting (which I guessed was being done by Ouija Board). I pointed out that their weather update was from 6 o’clock the previous day — an eternity when a hurricane is approaching. I quoted “Doug Dole,” their Utah supervisor, as forecasting that the hurricane was not going to hit NYC.
As I was composing a satirical post, about a half hour from my first Tweet, talking about how they were getting their updates via carrier pigeon, I got a reply from Delta. Their DeltaAssist people publicly tweeted that I should Direct Message my confirmation number and the flight I’d like to transfer to.
I sent them the requested info, and they quickly re-booked me with no additional charges. They also changed the weather updates, and about an hour later put the whole East Coast, including JFK, onto the list of cities approved for hurricane re-bookings.
They sent me a public tweet saying that they were happy to be of service in rescheduling my flight. I tweeted a cordial thank you for being so responsive and a wish that their telephone people could have been the same.
- Don’t write private complaint letters. Use Twitter and the other public complaint and rating services to publicly flag companies that are not treating customers right. These will differ according to the circumstances.
- Although I can’t prove it, my experience is that humor, ridicule and particularly satire works better than angry rants. See my Word of Mouth book for examples. Come from trying to help them do better, rather than from anger.
- WOMM is not only about how you can increase it in your business. It is about how to wield the enormous power of WOM.
- It’s also about doing what Delta obviously does: it has a team that monitors the social media sites and has the power to cut off a very negative backlash before it got started. Believe me, I know how to use word of mouth. If they had let this go unresolved, I could have created a major, very damaging campaign, boycott, or other negative consequences that could have cost them millions of dollars, as I sat here instead of LA because of a cancelled flight. Treat people right. Monitor their complaints, if for no other reason than you don’t know who you are dealing with. There are better reasons to treat people right, but for people who only look at numbers, this will do.
- Why can’t companies like Delta do what it takes — like greater discretion, more aggressive forecasts, etc. — to handle situations like this? Why do we need to resort to public humiliation to get treated like valued customers? I know what they would say, and so do you, so I’ll spare you. However, the fact is that they DID treat me right, so they could have done so in my first phone call. BTW, JetBlue and Virgin were honoring re-booking requests at that time without a problem.
- So, Delta missed a chance with an influential blogger to make me feel good about them, instead of confirming all the talk about them being unresponsive. The fact that they eventually did the right thing doesn’t change my opinion, since they did it under the threat of further public humiliation. JetBlue and Virgin got kicked up another notch, even though I wasn’t even booked on them! Despite the good outcome, I will not be booking on Delta in the future if I can help it. By the way, in the current issue of its in-flight magazine, their president is calling for government subsidies for the airlines. He needs subsidies, given the way he seems to run his airline. Maybe I’m wrong, but I haven’t heard SouthWest, JetBlue and Virgin asking for government subsidies.
- And, the most important lesson of all: Treat customers like your friends because in some ways they are even better than your friends. They are the ones, not your friends, that bought your house, put your kids through college and pay your salary. There is no downside to giving supervisors discretion to break rigid rules. So, a few people might scam them out of a re-booking fee. A few skittish passengers might re-book in the face of an uncertain storm that is making them anxious. So what?
Let’s all look at how we are treating customers — even those who might be making borderline unreasonable requests. But especially those who are sitting under hurricane projection models that are clustered more tightly than ever remembered by experienced meteorologists. Delta, if you have to have an obsessive, rigid rule, why not make it OK to switch flights the moment NOAA predicts that there is a greater than 50% chance of a hurricane hitting? Is that too much to ask? In your in-flight magazine, you are actively soliciting suggestions. Let’s see how you respond to this. Awaiting their comments below.
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First, I have to make a disclaimer. I am not advocating the following, I am reporting on it because it is interesting and illustrates several important properties of word of mouth.
Let’s call it hoax marketing:
Here’s the way it works:Read More Post a comment (0)
Here’s a much more manageable table of contents of Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing: Marketing in a World Where People Only Listen to their Friends, 2nd Ed. April of 2011 is the target publication date. But you don’t have to wait. My deal with my publisher is that I can use modern word-of-mouth marketing techniques and post the contents of the book online. If you want to carry it around and make marginal notes, you’ll have to buy the paper book or e-book when it comes out.
The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing, 2th Edition
Prologue: The Calf-Path
1. Why This Book—and Word-of-Mouth Marketing Today—Is Different
2. Changing Your—and Your Company’s—Way of Looking at Things
3. The Systematic Approach to Word of Mouth
4. Dominating Your Market by Easifying the Customer Decision Cycle
5. How to Use Word of Mouth to Easify the Decision Process
6. The Decision Process
7. The Nine Levels of Word of Mouth
8. Five M’s to Live By
9. Researching Word of Mouth
10. Creating the Content
11. Delivering the Message
12. Electronic Word of Mouth
13. Six Steps to Harnessing Word of Mouth
14. Viral Marketing…Maybe
15. Constructing the Ultimate Word-of-Mouth Campaign
16. Which Methods Work Best for What?: Word-of-Mouth Checklist
17. Your Word-of-Mouth Toolkit
18. Managing—and Leveraging—Negative Word of Mouth
19. Word-of-Mouth Marketing for Specific Audiences and Circumstances
20. Tips, Techniques, and Suggestions That Will Make It Easier
21. Word-of-Mouth Measurement
22. How to Fight Word-of-Mouth Fraud and Other Shady WOM Practices
The new media are not just incremental improvements. They are fundamentally new ways of doing things. They are supplanting the old media because something basic is changing. So, High Definition TV is only a quality improvement until it becomes so realistic that it changes people’s behavior. For instance, people actually stay home and invite friends over to watch a current movie via Blue-Ray DVD because it’s actually a better experience for them than going out to the movies: better video, ability to stop, better food, cheaper popcorn, ability to talk, etc.
Notice that almost every one of these increases both overload and word of mouth in some way. Some are actually WOM media, some stimulate WOM, and others force it.
It’s hard to believe that the following media emerged that weren’t even mentioned in the first edition this book because they didn’t exist or hadn’t caught on yet:
This isn’t a complete list, it’s in no particular order yet, and the categories are fluid and overlapping. It’s just to give you a flavor of how much we’ve been hit with in the last 10 years.
|Blogs||The whole world of Twitter, WordPress, Technorati, Blogger, TypePad, etc.|
|Rating & Review sites||Zagat, Yelp, Opentable, Tripadvisor, , C-net, hotels.com,, etc.|
|Social Networking||Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Myspace|
|Social Bookmarking||(Digg, Diigo, Stumbleupon, Reddit)|
|Mass Collaboration||Open Source Movement, Google Wave, Google Docs, Various Microsoft Collaboration Tools|
|Wikis||WikiPedia, WikiHow, WikiNews…|
|Remote meetings||GoToMeeting, Adobe Connect, etc.|
|Webinars, Remote Courses, etc.||University of Phoenix (current enrollment: 240,000+), 1000’s of private courses, etc.|
|Texting, Video chat||ICQ, iChat, Jabber, Buzz, etc.|
|RSS feeds, Newsreaders, News aggregators, Mega News Sites||“Reverse Browsing”: Google Reader, Netnewswire, Feedblitz, Feedburner, etc.|
|Customer-generated Media (CGM):||YouTube, Flickr, …|
|Recommendation Engines||Netflix, Jinni, IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Last.fm|
|MP3 players||iPods, Podcasting|
|500+ Cable, Fiber Optic and Dish Channels||CableVision, Fios, Dish Network|
|Downloaded TV Episodes||iTunes downloads, etc.|
|Web TV viewing||Hulu, Network web sites|
|Flat Screen TV, HDTV, 3-D TV and Movies||IMAX, home screens|
|Universal Remote Controls||Important means of skipping commercials, switching to other content. Lets people pause and engage in WOM.|
|Bigger than Movies and Music combined!|
|Microsoft X Box, Wii, Playstation|
|TiVo, Apple TV, Roku, Slingbox|
|Smart Phones||iPhones, Android Phones, etc.|
|Web 2.0||All customer-provided content sites|
|Shareware, donationware, etc.||Variably priced, payment optional, etc.|
|Filesharing Protocols and sites||Napster, LimeWire, Pirate Bay, BitTorrent, Magnet Links, etc.|
|Portable, High-Capacity Drives||USB Flash Drives, High Capacity portable drives|
|Music/Movie/Video Downloading services||iTunes Store, Apple TV, NetFlix,|
|E-Books & Readers||Kindle, iBook, Sony Reader, Zook, etc.|
|Digital Cameras, Video||Complete conversion to digital from film, pocket cameras with video.|
|Digital Photos and Video||Picassa, Flickr, Lightroom, iPhoto|
|Web Apps||Google, Google Apps, Microsoft Office Web Apps etc.|
|Mass Collaboration, Hive Mind|
|WOM agencies||Unknown in 2000, too numerous to mention now.|
|Advocacy Networks||BzzAgent, Tremor|
|Auction Sites||EBay (in its comparative infancy in 2000)|
|eCommerce, Electronic Payment Systems||PayPal, Google Checkout, millions of web sites|
|Very Fast Broadband and Broadband Wireless|
|App phones||IPhone, Android, etc.
With hundreds of thousands of apps, many designed to locate products, ratings, comparative prices, etc.
|VOIP||Skype, Vonnage, etc.|
|Ubiquitous Network Access||3G, 4G, WiFi, WiMax, VPNs|
|Cloud Computing: unlimited storage & processing on demand.||Amazon EC2, Google, etc.|
|Word of mouth agencies
…to name only broad categories. Some of these categories have hundreds to thousands of instances: Thousands of eBay merchants, thousands of rating sites, travel sites, mash-ups, etc.
Remember when we all had AOL accounts, brick-like cell phones, dial-up modems and used Yahoo as our search engine? That was right around 1997.
Gone — or almost gone — are faxes and faxback, hotlines, pagers, classified advertising, newspaper stock listings; physical dictionaries, encyclopedias, thesauruses; physical recording media such as floppy disks, records/cassettes/CDs/DVDs (almost), PDAs, photographic film, simple bulletin boards/forums, dial-up modems, Physical Maps, Traveler’s checks, telegrams, travel agents, pay phones.
Soon to be obsolete, or nearly so: Newspapers and magazines (in the paper forms we know them), paper books & bookstores, conventional libraries, handwritten prescriptions, land lines, paper money, major broadcast TV networks and cords connecting anything.
Notice that the new arrivals are almost all things that increase our interactivity and connectedness, and, thereby, our overload. They also increase our ability — actually necessity — to engage in word of mouth.
So, the Secrets you can learn from this are:
Involvement and collaboration is what it’s all about now.
The new media have brought a whole new level of overload.
I’m in the final stretch of the 2nd Edition of Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing. I’ll be publishing drafts of sections and chapters here. The final is due on July 31. Those of you who would like a preview can find it as it appears here — just subscribe to this blog via newsletter or newsreader.
This is very difficult for me to do. I’ve been taught all my life to polish, then publish. Part of me is screaming that I have to polish for the next two months, get it as good as I can, then submit it, let the editors improve it, approve the edits, then wait until the Fall when the final masterpiece comes out, neatly bound and beautifully designed. That’s what I did the first time. My publisher, AMACOM, wouldn’t let me publish on a web site any significant parts of the book before, during or after publication. It was understandable then, before the Word-of-Mouth Revolution, before the soft coup that put the customer in charge. Really in charge, in ways outlined in the book. Who knew, then, that giving away free PDF files of a book would increase sales? OK, Seth Godin did, but no one else believed that it could happen again. And again. And again
So, when AMACOM wanted a 2nd Edition, I asked my agent, Wendy Keller to set up a meeting with Hank Kennedy, President of AMACOM, and my editor, Ellen Kadin. I told Wendy that I wasn’t interested in revising the book unless I could market it using Word-of-Mouth Marketing, not just the traditional marketing I was understandably forced into with first book, having no leverage as a first-time author. I’d rather change it completely and self-publish. Wendy was highly skeptical about our chances of getting a traditional publisher to give permission to do it the way I proposed. I had my doubts, but had nothing to lose, since in this case I was the customer and the customer is in charge. I now had alternatives. Anyway, I prepared my case and we assembled in Hank’s office.
I wish I had a recording of that most extraordinary meeting. To the best of my recollection, here’s what happened:
I got about 30 seconds into my pitch when Hank interrupted. He said, “OK, when can we have it?”
Taken aback, I blurted out, “Is that a ‘Yes’?” He nodded. Even more dumbfounded, I said, “You mean you’re not even going to give me a fight? You’re going to deprive me of the pleasure of at least an intense discussion?”
I don’t remember his exact words, but he pointed out that he wasn’t exactly living in a cave, unaware of what is going on in publishing, media and the rest of the world. He pointed out the obvious, that he was president of a major publisher of business books, books that he actually reads and is proud of. He knew that the world had changed. That it was obvious him that what I was proposing was the ONLY way to bring this book out and that it would be hypocritical to do it any other way. I was so amazed that I don’t remember anything else that happened.
I didn’t put as much up on the web site as I had hoped. It was easier to write privately than to expose first drafts to criticism. While I kept telling clients to “put it out there,” I was still reluctant to do it myself. I came to realize how my clients feel when they don’t even want to get together informal groups of customers to serve as an advisory group. It’s really scary to invite criticism. Our creations are precious little children that we want to protect from the harsh realities of the outside world. But they are also works in progress that are shaped and improved by the outside world much more often than they are trampled. I think I’m over it. I think that somewhere between the people who tweet every passing thought that occurs to them in the shower and waiting until things are “perfect” lies a vast middle ground that we can all be happy with, or at least tolerate, and maybe even come to love. I’m still uncomfortable. Old habits die hard.
There is a lot in life that is simple but not easy.
Welcome to the New Marketing.
The next post will have the actual table of contents.
Draft Table of Contents
Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing
Comments, questions, suggestions will be greatly appreciated.
What’s missing, for you?
What made you say, “I can’t wait.”?
The Calf-Path Poem
Why this book is different
This is the first and only systematic word-of-mouth marketing system
It gives the guiding principles, not a 1000 page catalogue of all the new media
What’s new in the 2nd Edition
In between the 1st and 2nd Editions, we had the revolution I predicted, but way faster
The Copernican Revolution in Marketing
Why your product can no longer be the center of the Universe
You no longer have a choice about WOMM.
While marketers were reading the newspaper and watching TV, The Customer Has Hijacked Marketing.
You couldn’t have seen it coming. Not to the degree and extent it has.
You can’t control it.
You have to join it.
Why the “old media,” intrusive, exposure models are failing
Why 77% of TiVo owners skip ads.
Newspapers losing readership.
Traditional Media falling apart
Business as UNusual. Why the New Media Explosion won’t let you do business as usual.
How new media is fundamentally different.
Requires relinquishing control
The new attitudes of the Net Generation
You can no longer control information.
The New, New Marketing
The profound differences in the marketplace, even in the last five years
New attitudes, new communication methods, new ways of relating and continuing rejection of the old marketing methods
Net Promoter Score
WOM terminology — a whole new way of talking and thinking.
You need to change your — and your company’s — way of looking at things
WOM is not a set of tricks and techniques to be added to traditional marketing
It’s a whole new mindset because marketing is a different game, with different rules, in a different arena, and completely different players and fans.
If you don’t know anything about marketing, you probably have an advantage
It’s no longer about controlling information and directly persuading
It is about acknowledging that the customer has control, and showing the easier path.
You can guide, but you can’t manipulate anymore
The Systematic Approach to WOM
In the world of overload, the simplifier is king
Your customers do not need information.
Give them what they really need
They have too much, and they get more, courtesy of the search engines, e-mail, blogs, etc.
They are overloaded, just like you.
You don’t need lists of word-of-mouth techniques.
You need what they need: ease and simplicity
They need clarification, simplification, “ezification,” “funification”
You do it by listing all the decisions, then finding and eliminating the bottlenecks
Word of mouth is your primary tool because…
I’m going to show you how to cut through the hundreds of word-of-mouth techniques to arrive at a simple approach
Dominating Your Market by Ezifying the Customer Decision Cycle
Why Decision Speed Determines Product Success
Why Speed Equals Multiplied Sales
The Secret to Shortening the Customer’s Decision Cycle
Make every decision in the decision process easy, simple, fun and fast.
How to use Word of Mouth to Ezify the Decision Process
You have to understand it to sort out the 100s of tools
Everyone now agrees that word of mouth is the most powerful force in the marketplace
But almost no one understands just how powerful it really is
Why word of mouth is the ultimate method for making decisions easy, simple, fun and fast
The Decision Process
How Word of Mouth Works in Different Parts of the Adoption Cycle
The Decision Matrix™
Why WOM is 1000x more powerful than all of traditional marketing combined, and travels much faster
What it really is
The Hidden Advantage: Experience Delivery
Other Reasons Why Word of Mouth Is a Powerful Persuader
1000-5000X more powerful than conventional marketing. Really. And, I’ll prove it.
Intrinsic vs. extrinsic WOM
What Malcom Gladwell and every other author missed.
The Nine Levels of Word of Mouth
The Minus Levels
The Plus Levels
Word of Mouth in the Real World
The Five Ms:
Design your story — What is WOMworthy, remarkable, extraordinary about your product, brand. In a story. Why?
It’s more important to be different than better. Lessons from Patch Adams
Why will people talk about it?
Why is it unusual?
What’s unusual about its history, how you do business, your philosophy, principles, your founder’s vision?
What’s the story about how you treat people?
Why should people trust you?
Design your incentives:
Why will people tell the above story?
What’s contagious about it?
Why will it make people look good in telling it?
How will their friends benefit from the story?
Manage your influencers
Identify your influencers and invite their involvement: The experts, product advocates, evangelists, etc.
Build/identify your community.
Give them an amazing “insiders” experience, input, knowledge.
Develop WOM channels (materials and events) that spread the word from the above.
Monitor, track, evaluate, tune, readjust.
Delivering the Message
Sources of Word of Mouth
The Power of Experts
Delivery of Word of Mouth
Why Traditional Media Lose Effectiveness
How to Accelerate Experience Gathering
Above All, You Need a “Story”
The Science of Memes
Interactive Web sites where customers supply the material (Facebook, MySpace, Craigslist, eBay, YouTube, Flickr, TripAdvisor, and so on, not to mention blogs, podcasts and amateur video).
The New Media
Blogging, Podcasts, Social networking, web aggregators (Digg, etc.), Social bookmarking, Del.icio.us, Diigo, Rating services, etc., etc., etc…
WOM by texting, picture calls, VOIP, Webinars, screencasts, YouTube and other newer methodologies
CGM (consumer generated media) e.g., blogs, chat groups, list groups. Consumer generated advertising. IPod customers commercial. George Master.
[Much more to be added here, especially what’s in it for the reader, how to approach this overwhelming area, etc.]
Harnessing Word of Mouth
The Six-Step Process
The Process in Detail
Ways to Harness Word of Mouth
How to Spread Ideas not Like the Plague but like an atom bomb
The mythology and Siren Songs of Viral Marketing
Why viral isn’t such a good idea most of the time
Viral Marketing on the Internet
Word-of-Mouth on the Internet
Non-Internet Viral Marketing
Constructing a Word-of-Mouth
The “Ultimate” Word-of-Mouth Program
How I First Harnessed Word-of-Mouth
How to construct a WOMworthy message
Word of Mouth, the “Tried and True” Way
(Almost) Everything I Know about Marketing I Learned in My Father’s Drugstore, or Irving Silverman’s Rules of Marketing
Specific Steps in Creating a Word-of-Mouth Campaign
Campaign Methods That Work Best
Which Word-of-Mouth Methods Work Best for What?
The Word-of-Mouth Toolkit
Negative Word of Mouth
How to monitor it
How to turn it to your advantage
WOMM in special circumstances
WOMM for large companies
WOMM for smaller companies
WOMM for small business
WOMM for professional practices — physicians, accountants, lawyers, consultants.
WOMM for tradespeople — plumbers, other repair persons, etc..
WOMM in Business to Business marketing
For High-Ticket Items
For Services, other intangibles such as ideas
Tips, Techniques and Suggestions
The right way to get and use testimonials
Using Seminars, Workshops, and Speeches
“Canned” Word of Mouth
Using WOMM in the Traditional Media, when appropriate
How to light the fire, fan the flames and start the Stampede
Your boss is going to be very upset about this
The difference between research and measurement
Why you can’t measure WOM with traditional control group research – the Silverman Uncertainty Principle. Don’t get caught by the hype.
Researching Word of Mouth
What Do People Talk About?
How to Research Word of Mouth
Other Research Designs
How to Analyze Word-of-Mouth Sessions
Word of mouth fraud and other shady practices
“When people realize that WOM is 1000x as powerful as all of conventional marketing combined, every sleazeball in the world will come out of the woodwork and ruin this medium.” Who said it, why, and what happened.
Warning to scammers, spammers, etc.
How to fight the fraud
Comment spamming, phony reviews, made-up testimonials, etc.
Marketing to algorithms ● Electronic and automatic WOM — no mouths or ears involved ● How to Conduct Employee Research ● Tom Peters and others on Word of Mouth
Implied WOM — Here’s a case where it’s more important than explicit WOM
The Olympic swimming competition is providing a great example of what I call “Implied Word of Mouth.”
The current flurry of Olympic gold medals and world records in swimming is being attributed in large part to the new Speedo LZR swimsuits.
— 38 world records have been broken since its introduction in February until June, before the Olympic qualifiers and Olympics, not counting all the Olympic trial and Olympic records.
In fact, as of this writing, here’s some information that Speedo has on its website:
They have an endorsement deal with Michael Phelps. That’s an obvious use of paid word of mouth.
More importantly — and often neglected by people who are thinking about word of mouth — is the implied endorsement by all of the swimmers, many of them previously non-contenders, as they win medals and smash world records.
Adding to the situation is the controversy around whether the suits constitute “technological doping.” Swimmers and Speedo are being accused of using technology — rather than athletic ability and training — to give athletes an artificial edge, much like using performance-enhancing drugs.
It is just about the ideal word of mouth situation:
- A wildly superior, unusual product.
- Easy to talk about the product as a whole.
- A technology story that is easy to describe, thereby giving a “reason to believe.”
- An overall story that is easy to tell, even in headline form. (“New Kind of Swimsuit Shatters World Records” Better for the Company: “New Kind of Swimsuit Makes Even Mediocre Swimmers Win Races.”
- Celebrity endorsements. Some paid, others spontaneous.
- Implied endorsements by everyone who is seen on the Olympics wearing one, especially medalists and world-record breakers. [Note: This is the original meaning of “viral marketing”: a product whose very use is an implied recommendation by those who use it. It was originally used for HotMail, which had at the bottom something like: “Sent by HotMail. Want a free email account? Go to Hotmail.com”)]
- Controversy, generating buzz, that reflects well on them. After all, if the suits were not effective, there would be no accusations of unfairness.
- An amazing website (Speedousa.com). It is simple, uncluttered, fun, and allows you to find anything you want on a very information-packed website with only an obvious click or two. Their explanations are simple, yet informative. There are a few problems: they have a fun “Virtual Model” section in which you can construct someone who looks like you, and then try on various kinds of swimwear (when did “bathing suits” become “swimwear”?). Unfortunately, all of the avatars are under 30. More importantly, they have so many fabrics and lines that they need a comparison chart or a decision tool where you can enter info, such as whether you are a competitive swimmer, where you will use the swimwear, etc. and it makes recommendations. Like many of the sites that help you pick a camera or a television set.
- A product that is not yet available to the public, but will be soon, thereby building desire for something you can’t have. By the way, a full swimsuit will cost around $550, with leggings costing just $350, and trunks just $290. But don’t worry, they have models that are almost as good, especially for the non-competitive swimmer. By the time you check out other models, their $100 and $50 swim trunks begin to look cheap.
- There are dozens of other little and large issues around their product lines, website, attitudes, innovative spirit, etc. that make this a marketing situation well worth studying. I’ve barely begun to look into this company, and already I’m bowled over.
Note to any companies that are tempted to say, “Yes, but we are not Speedo,” or, “Yes, but we have a mundane product,” let me respectfully remind you of several things: First of all, stop saying “Yes, but…” Then, remember that they were a swim trunk manufacturer. There is nothing more mundane than that. Then, they were the first to use Lycra® in swimwear in 1972. Then, a series of innovations in all areas of sportswear followed that. To get WOM, you have to be EXTRA-ordinary.
The REALLY important lesson here:
Okay, here is your reward for reading this far: All of the above is an example of a much more important and broader concept: Decision Simplification. Speedo has made the brand choice decision into that Holy Grail of marketing: a no-brainer. If you want to buy a swimsuit and want the very best, the decision is now simple — a decision so simple that no time or effort has to be spent on it by busy people (everybody!). If you are an affluent and aspirational buyer of sportswear, what are you going to buy yourself or your kids? Simple. The suit that Michael Phelps and every other medalist and world record holder wears.
Many people have gone from only a dim awareness of the brand to the belief that Speedo makes the best swimwear. When they go to their website, they find out that they make a broad line of sportswear and accessories.
It doesn’t make a bit of difference if Speedo doesn’t make any money on the new swimsuits. They have, after all, put a huge amount of R&D into its development. They have now out-Niked Nike, the masters of the actual and implied endorsement. They have demonstrated in the most rigorous environment that their particular clothes actually enhance performance. I’m not aware that anyone else has done that, at least so convincingly and so publicly.
This particular formula for Decision Simplicity is simple to understand, but hard to do: Make a smashingly superior, astonishing product and get everybody to use it visibly because of the edge that it gives them. They don’t actually have to say a word about it, although they will. Of course, you might have to put in some R&D that will make the bean counters go crazy.
What this means to you
If you can make a product that actually enhances the performance of something your customers do (why make it if it doesn’t?), you are making your customers into a personal champion and making them feel better about themselves. They will brag about it. They will wear your logo.
Also, get the leaders in your customers’ line of work to visibly use it. Get them involved in its development, get their continual feedback, stir up the good kind of controversy and competition, make it something whose name and logo they are proud to display. It’s worked for Speedo, Nike, Canon, Nikon, Leica, Apple and many, many other brands that you’ve never heard of because they are in obscure and technical areas. But, I could name plenty of other brands in windsurfing, magic, photography, surgery and medical devices. There is room in your area, even if you’re getting clobbered by a Nike at the moment.
Here’s another idea: Maybe you should run an “Olympics” in your category. For instance, if I made voice dictation software and it was the fastest on the market, I would run a contest for the fastest “typist” (sounds better than “dictator”) in the world. They could type or use voice dictation. Since the fastest typist in the world types about 160 words per minute, and I can easily hit that with my present voice dictation system, the champion would be widely acknowledged to be the fastest in the world, using my software. My guess is it would be over 200 words a minute, using my software. This would be a real contest that actually demonstrates the superiority of my product dramatically, instead of the stupid, artificial contests that are usually run.
How can you take advantage of implied word of mouth?
Technorati Tags: Customer Decision Experience, Marketing, Decision Simplification, WOMM, Womworthy products, word of mouth marketing, Word-of-mouth marketing
Technorati Tags: Customer Decision Experience, Decision Simplification, Marketing, WOMM, Womworthy products, word of mouth marketing, Word-of-mouth marketing
Technorati Tags: Customer Decision Experience, Decision Simplification, Marketing, WOMM, Womworthy products, word of mouth marketing, Word-of-mouth marketing
Here is an old joke, that I’m not telling for the humor. I’m telling it to make a point.
An elderly man goes into confession and says to the priest, “Father, I’m 80 years old, married, have four kids and 11 grandchildren, and last night I had an affair. I made love to two 21 year old girls. Both of them. Twice.”
The priest said: “Well, my son, when was the last time you were in confession?”
“Never Father, I’m Jewish.”
“So then, why are you telling me?”
“Are you kidding? I’m telling everybody!”
When you understand what is driving that man, you will understand more about marketing than you can possibly learn in all the marketing books put together. More about this in future blog posts, but there is breaking news that I want to “tell everybody!.”
On Tuesday, at MacWorld, a product was officially announced that I have been beta testing. This releases me to talk about some details that have been publicly revealed, although I still can’t talk about many of the other details.
MacSpeech has announced a completely new voice dictation product for the Mac. One that is so accurate that it can be used by professional writers.
For those of you who don’t know what voice dictation is, or who don’t yet appreciate its significance, let me explain. Simply, you talk and your words magically appear on the screen, like in a science fiction movie.
I have been beta testing this new product for the last three weeks. While I have been publicly critical of MacSpeech’s previous product, iListen, this product, MacSpeech Dictate, just blows me away. It has sensational accuracy with only 5 minutes of training. That means that you can dictate into any program on the Mac and have your words appear.
Now I’m a pretty fast Dvorak typist, around 120 wpm.
But, when I’m writing books, articles and speeches, that’s not fast enough, and my arms and hands get tired, even with the 1/16th lower finger movement that Dvorak typing requires (look it up). So I have written my last two books in Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which is a Windows program. At this point, with continual training and corrections, I’ve gotten it beyond 99.7% accuracy. But, I had to maintain a separate Windows machine to do it, which was a great inconvenience, and ruled out voice dictation when I traveled, when I do a lot of my writing.
Ever since it’s been possible, I’ve been running Dragon NaturallySpeaking on my Mac. I has been an acceptable solution, even though it takes considerable memory resources, disk space, and central processing power. It also requires me to run Windows, putting me at considerable risk, even though I have a firewall, anti-spyware software, antivirus software, etc. Windows also requires constant maintenance, and is unstable, so it can’t stay up for days and weeks on end like my Mac. I consider Windows to be an almost criminally unsafe product. Also, I have to continually transfer my dictation into whatever program I’m using, such as my word processor and my e-mail.
None of these drawbacks is terrible, but all of them together add up to considerable inconvenience. Like most Mac users, I can work much longer and conveniently on the Mac side of the machine. The Mac aesthetics are not just a matter of being pretty. The machine is much easier on the eyes, cutting down on fatigue, something that is almost never mentioned.
Then, I broke my arm skiing three weeks ago. I found myself totally dependent upon voice dictation, except that using the trackball to highlight text, copy and paste it was excruciating. In an extraordinary bit of coincidence, MacSpeech happened to send me a beta copy of their new program, MacSpeech Dictate, a couple of days after my accident. I was pretty skeptical, since I found their previous program unacceptable for sustained writing.
Even though some parts of it were still under development, it blew me away. (The MacSpeech people just revealed that it has licensed the Dragon NaturallySpeeking speech recognition engine, and is adapting it to the Mac. So, MacSpeech Dictate is using the Dragon voice recognition engine.) It also dictates right into my word processor, e-mail, writing program (Scrivener) and my blog post editor (Ecto). I can dictate so fast it’s almost frightening. Steven Wright jokes that he got hurt in a speed-reading accident. I feel like I’m about to get injured in a speed writing accident.
What’s so important about writing fast? Time saving is the least of it.
It makes my writing better. The processes of writing and editing should be separated. With voice dictation, I can close my eyes or look at the ceiling and just think my thoughts without distraction. When I look at the screen, there are my thoughts! I can then go back and polish. This has made a dramatic difference in the quality of my writing. Anything that gets in the way of putting thoughts onto paper is a distraction and decreases the quality. With voice dictation finally accurate enough to use on the Mac, all I have to do is think the thought and it magically appears in whatever program I want. Nothing else gets in the way.
Furthermore, my typing speed is about 2-3 times faster, since I make virtually no mistakes and can dictate much faster than I can actually type. So, I can sail through my e-mail at dazzling speed.
This entire blog post was done with MacSpeech Dictate, with well over 99% accuracy.
I want to congratulate the folks at MacSpeech. They are a living lesson in word-of-mouth marketing. I was publicly critical of their previous product. Instead of ignoring me or getting defensive, they contacted me and asked if I would like to work with their technical support in increasing my accuracy. Their technical support put in hours increasing my accuracy, but still, the fundamental design of the program and how it made corrections was just was too unwieldy for me to use. I stayed on as a beta tester mostly on the strength of their Customer Evangelist’s enthusiasm (thanks Chuck Rogers) and complete confidence that things would get better. What they couldn’t tell me was that they were coming out with an entirely new program, based on Dragon.
They were so customer oriented and enthusiastic about their product that I hung in there with them. As a result, I am now the poster boy for the expression “The biggest skeptic is the biggest convert.” I’m also going to tell thousands of people about the program via my speeches and blog, and demo it every chance I get. I can now also enthusiastically recommend the Mac, since it now has voice dictation. (I would never recommend that anyone but a very sophisticated user put Windows on a Mac.)
My arm is feeling better, but I won’t ever go back to Dragon NaturallySpeaking in Windows. Although I will leave Windows on my Mac just in case I need to run another Windows program, I really don’t think I’m ever going to see Windows defacing my Mac ever again.
WHWL? (What have we learned?)
- if you’ve got the goods, stay with your strongest critics, work with them, acknowledge that they may be right, take their suggestions. You never know who they will tell, who they know, how many thousands of people they can reach.
- Get them involved in product improvement. It’s very hard to be a net detractor for a product you have helped develop. They will, however, not be shy about criticizing you, usually constructively.
- Be straight with customers. Don’t make believe your product is better than it is. if you tell the truth, you’ll always be reality based and fix real things. If you distort, you’ll be fantasy based and start believing your own fantasies. You will break a lot more than you will fix.
- Make your customers feel like that 80 year old guy. Well, as close as you can get. These days, people only talk about the sensational.
Breaking News: MacSpeech Dictate just received Best of Show at Macworld! Congratulations!
Oh, by the way, the new Apple announcements at Macworld are pretty good too, but you can read about them elsewhere.
The New Hampshire Primary was a cautionary marketing tale. It shows us why surveys (polls) can be very misleading.
The polls missed the Clinton victory by a mile yesterday, yet they were right on target with the McCain victory. Why?
No one knows exactly what happened for sure yet, but several possibilities illustrate some of the pitfalls in marketing research.
First of all, there is the assumption that you can believe people when you ask them what they have decided to do in matters of simple choice like whether they have a preference for Coke or Pepsi, or which candidate they favor. In most cases, this is a reasonable assumption, and most of the time, polls are accurate.
Other times, what looks like a simple question is not. It turns out that in the minds of New Hampshire voters, McCain versus Romney was one of these simple questions. Though polls got it right, both on preference and amount.
On Clinton vs. Obama, not so simple, on many grounds.
Here are some of the possibilities that are yet to be investigated and quite possibly never definitively determined.
(1) What if people’s minds are not made up? Not a problem, at least as far as taking a snapshot. While that would make prediction difficult, with these people would have turned up as a large number of undecideds. This is not what happened. So, the pundits say, the people didn’t make up their minds at the last moment. But what if they were undecided, but didn’t know it? What if they thought they favored one candidate over the other, but this was a weakly held preference and they were easily swayed by last-minute remarks that they heard on the radio or from their friends, on the way to the voting booth?
So, when people hold an opinion, the strength of the opinion is just as important as the opinion itself. Sometimes opinions can be held so weakly that they might as well not be an opinion at all. But that’s not the way it’s experienced by the person. In the absence of a challenge, it’s often experienced as an opinion that is pretty firmly held. So it is of no use to ask the person in the survey, “on a scale of 1-10, how strongly do you hold that opinion?” It’s also equally nonsensical to ask people what it would take to change their minds.
So, the first possibility is that they changed their minds at the last moment, perhaps even in the voting booth, but did not know until that moment that their previous choice was weakly held.
(2) People may have in fact held a very strong beliefs, but changed their minds quickly and decisively when they saw, for instance, Hillary Clinton cry the day before the voting. This may have been too close to the voting for the polls to have picked up. But, I don’t think so because it wasn’t picked up in the exit polls either.
(3) Here is the most intriguing one for me: What if racism isn’t dead? Well, of course racism isn’t dead. It didn’t evaporate just because Obama it isn’t running as a black candidate. In that case, many people (it would only have to be about 10% to account for the data) might not want to tell a pollster that he or she was not voting for Obama, even though they thought that Obama was the best candidate. They might be feeling guilty, or they might expect disapproval, or they might just experience a vague sense of unease about Obama that makes them feel vaguely uncomfortable. Or, they may be worried about being perceived as racists even though they are not. So, when asked, they blurt out “Obama,” and maybe even mean it at the moment. But in the privacy of the voting booth, that vague sense of unease — which, I suspect, is the main way that racism is experienced among people who are just mildly racist, especially those who are ashamed of it or are unaware of it— rears its annoying little head and causes a private little finger twitch that never gets reported.
This is a well-known, and well-documented effect called the Bradley Effect, or the Wilder Effect, where blacks often poll with stronger support than they ultimately show in the polling booth. Even exit polls often say that the politically correct person won, but when the votes are counted, the politically correct is not the politically erect.
It will be interesting to see what happens in the primaries versus the caucuses. For instance, in the Iowa caucus, people had to stand up in front of their peers openly and declare their allegiance, unlike in the New Hampshire secret ballot.
So the marketing lessons here are:
- “Take a survey [poll]” isn’t always the answer.
- Simple questions are often not.
- Asking questions gets answers, but not necessarily the truth.
- People don’t always know what they believe or how strongly they believe it.
- People often have beliefs that they don’t know they have.
- People can’t even predict their own behavior.
- People often say things based upon what they think you want to hear.
- Distrust after-the-fact explanations from pundits, including me.
What I am really saying here is things are not as simple as they seem. If you have a product with any degree of controversy you are navigating a mine field when you try to assess public opinion. Even professionals don’t always know what they are doing.
Steve Chazin, a former Apple marketing and sales exec, has identified 5 of the things that make Apple such successful marketers.
This little 8 page eBook is absolutely brilliant.
I believe that there is one, underlying thing that Apple is doing, and I wonder if Steve Jobs has realized it:
All of the great, wildly successful products, services, companies, institutions of the last decade or two have all done one thing at the root. They have helped the customer make Better Decisions Faster: not only faster in buying, using, recommending the product itself, but also helping the customer use that product to make better decisions faster in their lives.
For instance, Apple makes it faster to get on the Internet; operate a computer; organize, find, store, carry & access their music, photos, etc.
Amazon has done the same for books, eBay for collecting, Google for searching & reaching the customer at the exact point of interest, Yahoo for accessing certain types of content, Prius for making a certain social statement, Toyota in general for making it easy to buy a more reliable car, etc.
An the root of all successful marketing these days, is helping the customer make Better Decisions Faster. I have always been able to find several major ways to make it faster for your customers to decide on your product, if your product is the better decision.
When you enable customers to make better decisions faster, you accumulate customers faster, your customers get to be better users faster, they feel better about the whole experience, so they spread the word faster.
In the Age of Overload, time is more than money.
Quick heads up:
I don’t know where the word of mouth is on this one. You just HAVE to see the new Harry Potter movie (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) at the IMAX. Turns out that (only at IMAX) the last part is in the most mind-blowing 3D you’ve ever seen. The rest of the movie is great, too. They managed to resist overdoing the magic special effects (can’t believe as a magician I just said that), focused on the important things: values, relationships, characters, etc.
I haven’t seen any mentions of the 3D IMAX version. Found out about it by WOM from my daughter, who dragged us to see it. I wasn’t even going to go because I didn’t enjoy the last one enough to bother. I’ve never seen a movie that was better than the book, except for “The 10 Commandments.”
Did you know that there is a hidden symbol in the FedEx logo?
It symbolizes speed and precision.
Once you see it, you can’t not see it. I won’t spoil the fun by pointing it out.
Spoiler Alert: If you don’t know about it, stop here and look for it.
Yes, it’s intentional. The designer, Lindon Leader, had some very interesting things to say about it.
What’s this doing in a marketing blog? Glad you asked.
First of all, it’s a great example of knowledge blindness. Once you see it, you can’t NOT see it.
Secondly, why make the insignificant significant? Why elevate a minor little surprise into a major distraction, like almost every web site?
I was struck by the question that the logo designer says he is always asked:
“Why choose to keep the arrow so subtle? It seems to show remarkable restraint. Weren’t you or the people at FedEx ever tempted to make it more obvious with an outline or a different color?”
It’s so obvious that I might not have asked the question, but I’m glad the interviewer did:
He replied that the arrow is one of the most mundane graphic devices. There is nothing unique or particularly strategic, from a marketing point of view, in an arrow as a brand identifier.
Then Lindon went on to say,
The power of the hidden arrow is simply that it is a “hidden bonus.” It is a positive-reverse optical kind of thing: either you see it or you don’t. Importantly, not “getting the punch line” by not seeing the arrow, does not reduce the impact of the logo’s essential communication. The power of the logo and the FedEx marketing supporting the logo is strong enough to convey clearly FedEx brand positioning [Speed & Precision]. On the other hand, if you do see the arrow, or someone points it out to you, you won’t forget it. I can’t tell you how many people have told me how much fun they have asking others “if they can spot ‘something’ in the logo.” To have filled in the arrow, or to somehow make it more “visible” would have been like Henny Youngman saying “Please take my wife” instead of “Take my wife. Please.” Punch lines that need to be explained are neither funny nor memorable. (Emphasis mine).
In other words, it’s hidden, surprising, memorable, unusual. It’s one of life’s little pick-me-ups on an otherwise boring truck, envelope or uniform. So, it causes Word of Mouth. People like to point it out, or ask others to spot it. Like I’m doing now.
(FedEx did not pay for this ad. That’s the point.)
I’ve always said that FedEx didn’t succeed, as most business books state, because of its brilliant logistics breakthrough of sending the packages to a central point (Memphis), sorting there, then sending back out. They succeeded because they were beneficially unusual and constructively quirky. In those days, secretaries sent packages. They told secretaries they would look good because they would positively, absolutely DELIVER overnight. In those days, reliable delivery was as unusual as a customer-oriented phone company is today.
(On the day I wrote this, an iPhone customer got a 300 page bill, itemizing every text message, from AT&T, delivered in a box. It made the national news. No, not a FedEx box. I looked. Wouldn’t that have been perfect?)
Either you’re supporting the customer’s decision making, or you’re creating clutter and obstructing it.
Prospects make dozens of little decisions as they move through the decision process:
- Decisions about entering the marketplace. “Browsing.”
- Decisions about learning about your products and your competitors’. Technical term: it’s called “Shopping.”
- Decisions about initial experiences with the product. Technical term: it’s called “Trying.”
- Decisions about purchase. Buying.
- Decisions about expanding usage: Using. committing.
- Decisions about the whole decision and usage experience. Raving, Evangelizing
Different customers have many different ways of doing each of these. Each has its own set of rules.
Your marketing materials and activities are rarely in exact sync with your customers. That’s why there are so many browsers and shoppers, but so few raving fans.
People are more in sync with their friends than they ever will be with your advertising and salespeople. That’s why word of mouth is so much more powerful than marketing.
The lessons learned from all this is that you need to:
- Lay out all the dozens of little steps that people need to take in order to go from browsing to evangelism.
- Spend a whole lot more time eliminating these steps or making the steps simpler, easier, faster, and more fun.
- Find every large and small block, barrier, impediment and bottleneck and eliminate them. “Disimpedimentation.”
- Focus on the whole decision experience rather than just the user experience with the product interface.
- Put a lot more time, energy and resources into streamlining and funifying the customer decision process from beginning to end. [By the way, there is no end, at least not with on-going customers.]
Conventional marketing complexifies by shoveling information at already overloaded people.
You can use this decision smoothing approach by employing word of mouth and other techniques to smooth out the bumps in your customers’ very rough decision process.
More to come. Stay tuned. I feel another book coming on.
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Word-of-Mouth Marketing Speaker and Consultant
Author, The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing
In case you missed this hilarious spoof on WOM agent marketing, published over a year ago:Read More Post a comment (0)
I found the WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association) conference in Washington last month both exhilarating and disturbing. I’ve been worrying about the current state of word-of-mouth marketing ever since.
It was quite a turn-on to see so many people enthusiastic about word-of-mouth marketing. But, after Andy Sernovitz’ inspiring opening remarks about the simplicity of word-of-mouth marketing – it’s all about the simple idea that happy customers recommend you, which grows your business – it went rapidly downhill for me with subsequent speakers and panelists. And in a very disheartening way.
They talked mostly about technique rather than strategy
What disturbed me was an almost total concentration on techniques, methods and tactics rather than purpose, goals, objectives and – above all –strategy.
Granted, I didn’t see every presentation and I understand that several speakers did mention strategy. Also, in all fairness, many of the presenters on panels had only about 12 minutes to present. Nevertheless, I would assume that when you have 12 minutes, you present the most important essence of what you are doing. Also, there is tremendous pressure at a conference to give people nuts and bolts “how to’s” so that people can feel that they came away with something practical.
Nevertheless, there is almost a Christmas-morning delirium about our new toys, together with an irresistible urge to unwrap them and start playing with them. But, let’s not take our bicycles right out into the snow yet. Let’s spend a little more time on strategy.
Why? You can have a good strategy and bad tactics and still win because you quickly adjust tactics to feedback. With the right strategy, you’re in the right place at the right time, doing the right kinds of things (which may need improvement).
Conversely, good tactics will not make a bad strategy work.
You can even have a good strategy in the wrong place at the wrong time, so that neither good strategy nor good tactics will work. Think of the Iraqi war: Free markets and representative, constitutional democracies are good strategies to build nations. Getting rid of a dictator is a good first step tactically. But in the midst of conflicting religious and ethnic fanaticism, these strategies don’t work. They lead to civil chaos. The efficient, tactical win at the beginning was well executed. But the strategies were wrong.
Back to WOMMA. Even companies like Dell and Microsoft – who I respect tremendously – talked about all kinds of tactics designed to get people talking, instead of concentrating on the fundamental changes in their products that would get people to talk in ways that would cause fundamental product evangelism, loyalty and trust.
Instead, many speakers throughout the whole conference talked about artificial, superficial ways that will get people talking about how unusual the message itself was. So there is a proliferation in word of mouth circles of fancy videos, contests, and all kinds of programs that are more designed to get people talking about the medium itself — hoping that the “buzz” will somehow rub off on the product image — rather than talking about the product.
What I was craving was somebody getting up and saying, “here’s what we’re building into our product: things that will blow people away and here’s what we are doing to motivate and enable people to talk about that.” I’m sad to say that I heard absolutely none of that.
For instance, what is Microsoft building into their new operating system Vista that would get me to install it on my computer? Or, how are they going to get me to realize that a new feature that I might ignore is extremely beneficial to me, in fact so beneficial that I will rave about it to my friends? What is Dell building into its computers that would get me to buy one instead of an Intel Mac? No, they are talking about admirable and wonderful programs that keep them in touch with and responsive to various segments and niches through blogging and many other creative programs. But these are what should come after building products that are remarkable, outstanding, extraordinary and unique.
This is like advertising was before and after its golden age. Before the golden age of advertising, people just put drawings of the product in the mass media, without any benefit statements or even descriptions. Then, advertising hit its stride and discovered its true strengths: bringing dramatizations of the unique benefits of the product to the masses. It was “salesmanship in print” in the best sense. It zeroed in on the most beneficial, unique aspects of the product and dramatized them in an entertaining way that got attention. At least, the best of it did. Then, the side show took over the circus. Most of it — to this day — gave up dramatizing the benefits and went for image instead. “Sell the sizzle, not the steak” became the rallying call for the hypemeisters. Advertising lost its way and just tries to make an intrusive impression, confusing getting attention with fundamental persuasion. Advertising is now judged by its entertainment value rather than its persuasive results. For instance, after the Super Bowl each year, there are many published polls naming the commercials voted “best” by viewers. So, you can win “best commercial” and go out of business because the commercials didn’t cause any sales, as 17 out of 18 of the Dot.com companies did in, I believe, 2002.
Advertising that calls attention to itself — instead of something related to the product — almost never works. Advertising history is filled with examples. Many of them won awards. But the products failed.
In the same way, the present word-of-mouth marketing movement, I’m afraid, may be losing its way. Marketers need to spend more time creating products that are so unusually good that people will recommend them to their friends and providing the mechanisms to do so. Instead, people are focusing on the superficial aspects of our newfound ability to get people to talk about almost anything as an end in itself, in the hope that some of it will rub off on the brand.
This will be just as self-defeating as it is presently in advertising. Pretty soon there will be so much viral video and so many pseudo-sincere (or even actually sincere) company blogs that people will just ignore them. There will be so many “agents” who were given free samples, that people will learn to probe about whether they are an agent and stop listening to their friends’ recommendations.
Update: After I wrote the above, I came across this brilliant presentation of John Moore at the Jan, 2006 Orlando WOMMA conference, talking about Creationist (the hype marketers) vs. Evolutionist (people focused on the product and customer) marketing. Just one quote:
“The Creationist WOM marketing mindset is about making the WOM activity more remarkable, while the Evolutionist WOM mindset is more about making products and experiences more remarkable.” Well worth watching:
It’s not about the buzz you create. It’s about creating product decision and usage experiences that cause raves. A buzz doesn’t sound anything like a rave.
Here’s another post that references the best slide decks of WOMMA, including thank you, my own. Many of the talks are strategic.
Update: So far, the following prediction was wrong. [See the update at the end] I still think that it will be true, when Apple finally gets around to making their Leopard announcements. It was a big disappointment to not hear anything about Mac at MacWorld Expo. Maybe instead of renaming Apple Computer to Apple (which was one of their “big” announcements at MacWorld), they should rename MacWorld Expo to iWorld or iPod Expo. Did they forget about the Mac?
I have long been writing and speaking about the Mac as the product that has the worst word of mouth to sales ratio, probably in the history of marketing. In other words, it probably has the best word of mouth of any present product. Yet, as of this writing, it only has 7% of the computer market. I often use it as an example of the fact that we have to curb our enthusiasm when we start talking about word of mouth overriding all other marketing considerations. In this case, what is holding back Mac is the perceived anticipation of a great deal of pain in switching, together with the fact that Windows programs will not work directly on a Mac without a great deal of inconvenience, such as rebooting or using other programs such as Parallels or Crossover to switch back and forth.
Here are my predictions: Next week, on Tuesday, January 9th at MacWorld, Steve Jobs will announce that the new Mac operating system called Leopard, OS X 10.5, will directly run Windows applications without needing Windows. That’s right, you will be able to install and run any Windows program directly into the Mac without having a copy of Windows on the machine! [Update: they made NO Leopard announcements!]
This will be the biggest announcement in the computer industry in the last decade or two.
I further predict that, if and when it occurs, this will produce the biggest word-of-mouth blowout in history. Combine the pent up positive word of mouth of the Mac with the negative word of mouth toward Microsoft, Windows, XP, Vista, the Windows PC makers like Dell, viruses, adware, spyware, malware, etc. and you have an explosive combination. This will be the most interesting test in years of the unleashing of word of mouth. It will demonstrate to the entire marketing community what happens when you follow my marketing approach of Blockbusting: find the decision blocks, bust ’em up, and you will see exponential growth.
I have been following Technorati and Google searches for months now to see if anyone appreciates what is about to happen. While I’m not the first to predict Windows apps running natively on the Mac, there are very, very few of us making that extreme prediction. Most are predicting some kind of hybrid, virtualization solution.
To my knowledge, I’m the only one predicting the landslide success of Mac in the next year. It probably won’t be immediate, but as the snowball gains momentum, it will grow exponentially. First, people will need the word of mouth of infomediaries like David Pogue and Walter Mossberg, plus their own friends nad colleagues — particularly the non-technical — to see that it actually works, even with legacy programs. Assuming that it does work for the non-technical, it will throw the Mac into production problems, especially when the Vista virus and other problems start spreading.
By the way, I was among the first to predict that a way would be found to get Windows to work on the then-new Intel Mac. It caused a lot of WOM among the tech savvy and a lot of sales, but not among the corporate people who would have to use it seamlessly at work. Now they can. Now we’ll find out that a lot of corporate IT people have Macs at home.
Advanced congratulations to Steve Jobs and the entire Apple team. You’ve finally completed the chain. (You now need my consulting to figure out how to handle the tornado.) [Update: There was an immediate crescendo of boos after the non-announcements of anything Leopard, Mac, iLife, iWork, etc., or even anything computer, except to take out “Computer” from their name]
Well, I was wrong about the announcement, but I stand by the fact that this is the biggest WOM disparity in the history of marketing, just waiting for an explosion.
[The only other time I was wrong was in 1972, when I had thought I had made a mistake! Brings to mind the quote from George Bernard Shaw, “The longer I live, the more I see that I am never wrong about anything, and that all the pains I have so humbly taken to verify my notions have only wasted my time.”]
I also think it would be the smartest thing that Apple could ever do. In fact, the best other thing that they could do is make OS X work on PCs. Sure, they’d lose a few Mac sales, but make it up on software sales. If they announced one or the other this month, they could get a lot of the Vista sales, and a lot of the sales of new boxes with Vista on it.
Now, I’ll just have to buy an Intel Mac MacBook and try Crossover, which purports to do just what I predicted, but with an additional program, still without windows. Failing that, I’ll use Parallels, but will have to run Windows. [In case you’re wondering, I want to run Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9 (which I maintain a separate Windows machine just to use) and Delorme’s Street Atlas. There are no comparable Mac programs. For everything else I’ve found, the Mac equivalents are far better.]
Update July, 2005: Got an Intel Mac (MacBook Pro) in May, tried Crossover and Parallels, which didn’t work properly with Dragon NaturallySpeaking. However, VMWare Fusion works like a charm with Windows XP and Dragon. Parallels had all sorts of quirks with the USB headset and froze up constantly. Crossover wouldn’t work at all. With VMWare Fusion, it can now see my Plantronics Audio 500 headset perfectly, and the accuracy is well over 99% and getting better all the time.
It even works perfectly with my Olympus D-30 recorder, even in noisy environments like a car. I’m about to try it in an airplane. I can dictate on my daily walk, into a tiny recorder and have a new section of my new book, a blog post, article or whatever a few minutes after I get back.
The only problem is that I still have to use Windows. Now that I’ve been away from it for almost 2 years, I’m shocked by how amateurish it is. Also using Word 2007 to dictate into and I’m amazed at how bad the interface is. While there are a few minor improvements, they have further buried many of the most-used functions and won’t let them go on the custom bar. 5 clicks to change a template when it’s 2 clicks on the Mac version of 2004? What is with Microsoft? Their word of mouth gets worse and worse. Vista is almost totally rejected by sophisticated users. Their sales are on new machines. If Apple could come up with a way to seamlessly allow people to upgrade to OS X in their present machines, they would take over the market.
But it has to be seamless because fear trumps word of mouth, unless the word of mouth is addressing itself to the fear. But people can’t say yet that the conversion is easy for an ordinary, non-computer-savvy person to do. I don’t care how easy VMWare Fusion is, people need a simple way to switch, with Fusion built in and automatic conversion.
Extraordinary review of a new product by an acknowledged expert:
What an example of the kind of word of mouth no one wants to get for a new product!
So, how do you avoid such negative word of mouth?
Involve people like David Pogue as consultants from the beginning, so that you can build in features that reviewers will give positive reviews to. (He probably wouldn’t do it because of the conflict of interest, but there are other people who are just as astute and practical, just not such good writers!) But, I’m afraid that’s too superficial.
The truth is, you have to have the right philosophy, viewpoint, mindset, frame of mind – whatever you want to call it. Apple has a profound respect for the customer and an deep understanding of design. Apple understands the whole Decision Experience. That’s why the iPod isn’t just a player. It’s a whole system that makes all the decisions seamless, easy, simple and fun. Everything about the music experience is made easy, elegant, even beautiful: finding, tasting (trying), refining one’s tastes, acquiring, managing, playing, sorting, etc. (except for backing up and sharing).
Microsoft, on the other hand, has a profound understanding of cut-and-try: getting something out into the marketplace, then learning from the feedback how to gradually refine it. That’s why everyone is wary of Microsoft 1.0 anything. It’s OK if you are very early in a marketplace where no one has a product or no one has a good product, but everyone wants it. In other words, fine for wild innovators, which Microsoft has long-ago ceased to be. But against Apple???!!! Particularly iPod???!!!!!! No, I don’t think so. Microsoft just doesn’t get it — particularly doesn’t understand the overwhelming power of WOM.
I trust Apple to get it right the first time, then improve it. I don’t trust Microsoft to get it right until version 3.0 at least. That’s why I’ll unhesitatingly put Apple’s new operating system on my Mac, but wait for a long time (if ever) to put Vista on my Windows machines. (Written on a Mac by an ex-windows lover)
Here’s a great example of word-of-mouth marketing, on many levels.
Background: I’ve recently gotten into home coffee roasting. It’s a growing trend that you’re going to be hearing a great deal about. The whole home coffee-roasting phenomenon is rife with wonderful word-of-mouth examples and case studies, about which I will be posting soon. [There is a whole universe out there that every marketer can learn a tremendous amount from in the worlds of green coffee bean sellers, roasting machines (including hot-air popcorn poppers!), grinders and coffee makers. The brilliant marketing and the blunders of these people provide some amazing examples of how to market products on extremely low budgets in long-tailed, niche markets.]
Anyway, I saw a post in Josh Rubin’s Cool Hunting Blog about a coffee maker, the Aerobie AeroPress, and landed on its website. I actually did not land on its home page, but on the page referenced in the Cool Hunting Blog, which is an info page. (Click here for the page)
Wow! It’s a masterpiece (I suspect because it is probably constructed by an amateur, probably the inventor himself. :update: see update at end). It’s better than the home page (pretty good, also) Almost the whole thing is carried by a series of testimonials, which they brilliantly call “reviews.” (I’m going to change my vocabulary over to mostly use the word “review” instead of “testimonial.”)
There is a list of short testimonials, whoops reviews, that are extremely specific and to the point. They are sourced from an impressive bunch of people, starting with “It makes the absolute best cup of coffee I’ve tasted in my entire life.” –Louis Singer –Cook’s Junction. Instantly, you are – or at least I was – hooked.
Notice an important principle of word-of-mouth marketing here: your customers can say things for you that you just can’t say yourself. If the headline were, “the best cup of coffee that you’ve ever tasted,” it would be totally unbelievable. Unless, of course, it was followed by a quote, thereby giving it credibility. There follow another 15 very interesting short quotes. Some general, some specific. Some with sweeping praise, others with short stories. Study these reviews carefully. They are a living lesson on the kinds of testimonials you want to elicit, using the techniques in my book. I could spend an entire workshop on just this one page, particularly these 15 testimonials reviews.
Then, and only then, once you are hopelessly hooked if you are a coffee lover, it is followed by five very short paragraphs under the heading “There Are Several Reasons Why AeroPress Coffee Tastes So Good:”
Total immersion of the grounds in the water
results in rapid yet robust extraction of flavor.
Total immersion permits extraction at a
moderate temperature, resulting in a smoother brew.
Air pressure shortens filtering time to 20
seconds. This avoids the bitterness of long
processes such as drip brewing.
The air pressure also gently squeezes the last
goodness from the grounds, further enriching the flavor.
Because of the lower temperature and short
brew time, the acid level of the brew is much
lower than conventional brewers. Laboratory
pH testing measured AEROPRESS brew’s
acid as less than one fifth that of regular drip
brew. The low acid is confirmed by coffee
lovers who report that AEROPRESS brew is
friendlier to their stomachs.
Notice, EVERY feature followed by a benefit. Simple. Elegant. Not a wasted word. (Wish I could write like that!) Look the paragraph above. Laboratory third party proof assertion, followed by confirmation. No hype adjectives. No BS. Totally believable. Hot damn, this is good.
Then, the question is going to be, “Well, how does it compare with my present methods?” So, a comparison of brewing methods follows, specifically telling you the shortcomings of drip brewing, espresso machines, pod brewers and French presses. These negative comparisons are not just bald, self-serving assertions, they are often put into the mouths of third parties, a.k.a. word of mouth.
Then, it tells the story of the invention of the AeroPress by Alan Adler, a Stanford University mechanical engineering lecturer who is also the inventor of the Aerobie, a Frisbee-like object that holds the record for the world’s furthest thrown object (about a quarter of a mile) and President of the Aerobie company, which has about 15 other extraordinary products.
AEROPRESS is the result of several years of applied research by inventor/engineer Alan Adler. He conducted numerous brewing experiments, measuring the brew with laboratory instruments. The experiments demonstrated that proper temperature, total immersion and rapid filtering were key to flavor excellence. He then designed and tested dozens of brewers before settling on the AEROPRESS design. The design was further validated by coffee lovers who tested prototypes in their homes. Adler has about forty U.S. patents and an equal number of foreign patents. He is President of Aerobie, Inc, Palo Alto, California and a lecturer in mechanical engineering at Stanford University. Adler’s best-known invention is the Aerobie flying ring which set the Guinness World record for the world’s farthest throw (1,333 feet).
(Notice the great example of soft-sell, inferred WOM throughout.)
Then they have a link to a list of walk-in and Internet retailers in the United States and internationally. When you go to those sites, you see other reviews, none of which is less than four stars and most of which are five stars. Furthermore, you can buy this thing for less than $30. (On an obnoxious, interruptive commercial it would be worded “not $1500 for an expensive espresso machine, not $1000, not $500, no not $250 or even $100. Yours for only one single payment of $25 plus shipping! Of course, on the AeroPress site, they only imply that it is inexpensive and let you be pleasantly surprised later.)
By the way, I learned on several of these other sites that Alan Adler participates in coffee discussion groups. Another a word-of-mouth lesson: join the discussion. I haven’t found any examples yet, but I’m sure he acts like an engineer and not a marketer: fact and evidence-based, reasonable, noticeable absence of hype, plenty of real-life examples, etc. One negative: he doesn’t have a blog yet; I’d subscribe in an instant.
Of course, I ordered it, paying a little extra at my favorite coffee site, Sweet Maria’s, so that I could take advantage of shipping efficiencies and trying a couple more examples of their extraordinary green beans. Sweet Maria’s is a wonderful example of how to differentiate your product through informational and educational enhancements. I use their example in word-of-mouth speeches all the time. More about them in some future posts.
How’s that for word of mouth? I got so excited that I’m posting about it before it even arrives! Of course, that’s several more lessons: when you get someone this excited, you better deliver the goods or you will have more than a disappointed ex-customer; you will have an angry one. Also, you can create an insanely great product in a mundane, niche market if you include all the right ingredients: On the one hand, it’s just a tube with a plunger. On the other hand, its years of dedicated experimentation, plus huge amounts of creative intelligence, plus a whole lot of other things, resulting in the extraordinary elegance and simplicity of a tube with a plunger that’s going to save me from countless horrible cups of coffee in hotel rooms. I can’t wait.
Update: Got so enthused, I spoke with their General Manager, Alex Tennant. He confirmed what I expected: Although he has an MBA in marketing, he is not a professional marketer — he runs the company. He and Alan, their engineer president, wrote all of the copy. No agencies involved. He says, ”Our aim is to create extraordinary products.“ These guys don’t have a separate marketing function. Or, to be more precise, their whole company is the marketing function: creating extraordinary products and then being straightforward in presenting them honestly, letting their products and their customers do the talking. How often does that happen? I’ve gotta meet these guys.
Further update: I’ve been using it for months now, and it’s the best coffee maker I’ve ever used. You have to get used to the taste (was a little disappointed at first) because there is absolutely no bitterness, so cream can overwhelm it unless used very sparingly. I now often drink it black, or with very little cream. Most people have never tasted really fresh-roasted coffee (between 1-7 days after roasting is the flavor peak). It’s a different experience. The problem is now that I can’t stand almost any coffee that I get anywhere else.
For the enthusiasts: As of now, my favorite is Sweet Maria’s Puro Scuro Blend green coffee (unroasted) roasted in the Behmor Coffee Roaster, then made in the AeroPress. Heaven.