Word of mouth does not just happen, but can be managed, created, instigated, shaped and extended by communicators.
There are four key channels, tools which public relations and marketing communications can harness to manage word of mouth. These include:
1. Sampling. If someone has direct experience of you, your message or product they can see at first hand what you are like, and reduce any future dissonance in deciding to buy or use you. You are creating a half step decision for them. Also, by giving something you are invoking reciprocity – your target has a sense of owing you something in return.
The concept of ‘samples’ can include a free consultation, articles, free delivery, or low-cost workshops. How much does your web site educate prospects, tell them about themselves?
When 3M launched the Post-it Note they initially found sales disappointing. Only in test markets where extensive free sampling had been used did sales sky rocket. The Post-It was a new concept, meeting an unarticulated need. People had to use it before they could readily appreciate its benefits. What ‘sample-gaps’ are there in your communications?
2. Seeding can be used to accelerate the rate of w-o-m. By targeting Innovators and Adopters with special offers you help speed-up the rate of adoption rather than waiting for nature to take its course. Your seeding at strategic points stimulates further take-up within networks.
Seed target special offers can include targeted discount offers, loans, as well as free samples. If you were a car manufacturer for example it would make sense to lend cars to influential individuals as people may not notice a new television commercial but they will notice their neighbour with a new car.
Seeding is not a new concept; whether it was opera singers hiring people in the audience to cheer ‘Bravo’, or the trick the author witnessed in East End street markets of a market trader having one or two plants in the audience who would be the first to buy and encourage the others to similarly make a purchase – the seeds act as the trigger for the rest to follow.
3. Showmanship and the use of unconventional methods can provoke or accentuate w-o-m. Outlandish guarantees, wild offers, outrageous trials and stunts can stimulate interest and subsequent buzz.
4. Sourcing – Many potential customers are not connected to existing channels. You need to reach people where they hang out. Illegal recreational drugs is one of the largest business sectors in theUK. It evidently does not spend a penny on formal advertising and relies on w-o-m.
By using these four channels pubic relations and marketing communicators can manage their word of mouth.
These tips are just a few of the 101 different tips an ideas being offered to public relations and marketing professionals in the first ‘Word of Mouth and Viral Marketing course being run by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.
The half day training course takes place in Londonon the afternoon of Friday November 11th. Places are limited, to book your place visit www.cipr.co.uk or ring 0207 631 6900.
The course has been devised and will be delivered by Andy GreenFCIPR. His book ‘Effective Personal Communication Sills for PR’, part of the Institute’s PR in Practice series, was one of the first PR texts to cover word of mouth and memes.
Sharing examples from the work of Edward Bernays to the latest cutting edge campaigns, you will go away telling your friends how you can manage your word-of-mouth, how to create positive messages about you, what you do and what you stand for.