Category : Word of mouth

How to be a word of mouth supergenius

So much of social media is word of mouth marketing. But I fear folks are overlooking what it takes  to get people talking about your product, your company, your services.

On December  16 I’ll be speaking at: Word of Mouth Supergenius: The “How to be Great at Word of Mouth Marketing” Conference in Chicago.  The one-day agenda includes 12 how-to classes, 12 real-world case studies, and 6 word of mouth authors — including moi.

If interested in going   apply the coupon code “Loisismyhero” to get $101 off registration. Hope to see you there.

More egoboo

“How should we incent people to participate in our online community or be our word of mouth ambassadors?” clients frequently ask.

Forget money, give them egoboo.

Not the game Egoboo, but egoboo, derived from ego boost, which people get from seeing their name in “lights” and getting recognition for what they have to say.

According to Wikipedia, egoboo originated from science fiction fandom around 1947:

As a reliable way for someone to get their name in print was to do something worth mentioning, it became caught up with the idea of voluntary community participation. As a result of this, in later years, the term grew to mean something akin to an ephemeral currency, e.g., “I got a lot of egoboo for editing that newsletter.”The term later spread into the open source programming movement, where the concept of non-monetary reward from community response is a key motive for many of the participants.

Marketing tips for resort retailers


Yesterday was one of those precious few Sept. New England days where the sun is bright and the temperature balmy. So at lunch I skipped out of the office and went to  Newport, RI for a walk on the beach and a tour of the shops.

The beach was great and Newport’s downtown was jammed because a huge Bermuda-bound cruise ship was stuck in the harbor, forced to stick around due to impending bad weather. What a boon for retailers, who have had a poor sales season due to the rainy, cool summer.  Yet I  think some  of these retailers may be struggling for other reasons.

Here are some observations and marketing advice for retailers at a resort location like Newport:

Be open: many shops were dark, with ‘closed for Monday and Tuesday’ signs on the doors.  When the weather is good and a cruise ship with thousands of people are in town,  open the doors and make some money. Cash flow is king. In another six weeks the tourist traffic is going to dry up. Catch up on your rest then.

Be different: so many stores looked the same, carrying similar merchandise, having similar looks and feels. The bland and blander tourist tee shirt storefronts,  hippy clothing stores and   pizza shops made it easy for me to just skip past them. One store caught my attention because of its name, “Gossip: a boutique to talk about.”  Alas, it was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.  Stand outs, however were Tyler Boe, with a unique collection of cashmere-cotton sweaters in unique colors. But Tyler Boe has no web site.  I want to  give some positive word of mouth marketing but the store makes it hard for me to do so. No Web site is being different, but not a smart marketing strategy.

Be interested: one of the biggest challenges for any retailer is staff. Too many stores had help that looked  bored  to death, probably lamenting the departure of their hip friends and cool summer people, left to wait on cruise ship patrons whose taste looked more J.C. Penney than J. Crew.  Disinterested staff dampens the shopping vibe. Perhaps it’s wiser for owners to work the floor more themselves  or pay more to get better help.

Be helpful:  conversely the stores with friendly, helpful people were great shopping experiences that earned my word of mouth recommendations. I walked into Sovereign Bank to ask for change so I could feed the parking meter. I fully expected them to say they didn’t do that, as I had already seen signs in stores saying this. Instead, the teller was delightful and gave me my quarters and a few insider tips about what’s going on in Newport. I might even change my bank account if that’s what every Sovereign branch is like. Similarly the owner of RoyalMale on Bannister Wharf and Spring St. was an example of superb customer service, providing suggestions, pulling out sweaters not on the floor that she thought might look good on me. No wonder that the store was doing a brisk business  even though the items had a relatively high price point.

Be ready: Running a retail business in a resort is unpredictable, but that’s no reason not to be ready to take advantage of happy surprises, like a cruise ship pumping thousands of people through the town on a typically “off” day.  Have a back up plan to get more help into your store when lucky breaks happen. The Rockport shop on Thames street was jammed, but staffed by just one person.  What a shame to see people come in and leave empty handed because they couldn’t get help.

The one-line: what marketers can learn from screenwriters

The secret to selling a screenplay in Hollywood is writing a great one-line, says screenwriter Blake Snyder, author of Save the Cat: the Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need.

Creating a great one-line is invaluable for marketing anything, whether it’s a company, product, service, book proposal, online community, a vacation spot or professional services.

You see, the one-line tells people what the product/service/screenplay is so they can quickly decide if they’re interested or not. Make it too hard for them to understand the “what it is” and they’ll simply ignore you, no matter how brilliant the product and supporting marketing programs.

Snyder says that a great one-line:

  • Hooks your interest
  • Helps you see the whole movie in it
  • Makes your imagination run wild with where the story is likely to go
  • Has a built-in sense of who it’s for
  • Is somewhat unexpected or ironic
  • Is emotionally intriguing
Aside from the primary benefit of selling your product, creating a great one-line helps you better develop the product or service or book proposal because you’ve focused the concept.
“Concentrate on writing one sentence. One line. Because it you learn how to tell me “What is it” better, faster and with more creativity, you’ll keep me interested. And incidentally, by doing so before you start writing your script, you’ll make the story better too,” advises Snyder.
I read the one-liners in the N.Y. Times Sunday Book Review every week to practice my one-line writing. This one-line writing is the hardest writing I’ve ever done. I think it’s easier to run a business than write the one-line about the business, easier to write a book than write the one-line about the book. BUT without the one-line answering, “what is it?”  developing your services and products and running your marketing will be much, much harder than if you had sat down and written the one-line to  begin with.

Give me the same thing only different

The second most important screenwriting lesson that also applies to marketing: tell people what your product/service/book is most like and how it’s different.

In screenwriting, the more you understand the genre of your concept, the more likely you are to sell the script and write a great movie. Ditto for marketing. Help customers understand where you fit into categories that they understand — and then tell them how you’re different.

While creating new business models or wildly innovative products is admirable and noble, most don’t take off because the buyer can’t understand “what it is.”  And those that do, have brilliant one-lines, like Salesforce in the early days — software you can rent instead of having to implement.

Another example is Communispace, one of the most successful private online community companies. In  the early days of the company, long before terms like social media or Web 2.0 were around, Communispace CEO Diane Hessan explained that their communities were “like focus groups on steroids, only different.”  Marketing decision makers got it, and bought. While many other early community pioneers no longer exist. People couldn’t understand the “what it is.”

I’m working on some new concepts and starting with my one-lines. Who knows maybe someday I’ll even be able to pitch a screenplay.

PS — thanks to the wonderful book marketer Nettie Hartsock for turning me on to Save the Cat.

The sound experience

The experience a person has influences word of mouth — good and bad. This week I’ve been in a Hilton Hotel in San Diego with a beautiful setting, but I’d never recommend it. There is one restaurant and the food is mediocre, which I can live with for a few days, but the canned music blaring out of a sub-standard tinny sound system is god awful.

At 6 a.m. this morning I felt assaulted, with bad early 1990s pop/rock music screaming at me. Think Alanis Morissette using a megaphone in a hallway shouting “Like rain on your wedding day.”   The poor choice of music and terrible sound system gave the hotel a feeling of being dated. Worse, the sound made me not want to eat in the restaurant nor recommend the hotel. Perhaps, too, the droning sound was causing the staff’s lethargy.

Interestingly, Conrad Hotels, Hilton’s luxury brand, did a survey a few years ago confirming the importance of music in hotels and finding the musical atmosphere an essential part of guest satisfaction.

One finding:

In the restaurants, there was a surprisingly high demand for classical piano and strings, taking 33% of the votes, while other musical tastes had low showings.  In public areas there was a strong desire to hear classical and jazz (82%).

The Conrad Hilton hotel study said it is “committed to monitoring and evolving musical environments to meet guest expectations.”

Until its US Hilton brands do the same, I’d suggest that silence can be golden.

Low cost video exceeding 1.3 million black and white views

We’ve been analyzing characteristics of marketing content that gets shared and passed around. Here’s an example of a home-grown advertisement from Red House Furniture in High Point, NC that has 1.3 million + views on YouTube, has been covered by on a number of news programs including CNN, and is being covered all over the Blogosphere.

The reason for its appeal? It’s provocative, employees and customers introduce themselves as being black or white, and talk about how the furniture is good for black people and white people. Racial? Yes. Racist, no way. Just pointing out that blacks and whites like the same kind of furniture. Hilarious? Most definitely

The video is also genuine — real employees, real customers, low production quality and a folksy tune sung by two geeky guys: “The Red House…where black and white people buy furniture.” (The company os also sells tee-shirts with the theme, leveraging the interest in the video

The video was a risky best for The Red House, but good for the owners for taking a chance. I hope the attention is bringing in lots of business.

New research: word-of-mouth effect on sales

A new “buzz action score” from researchers at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management shows that  positive and negative online conversations are leading indicators of sales performance.

The research found that a relatively small group of people in online communities can have a substantial influence on purchase decisions, much like in face-to-face word of mouth.

Some implications for marketers:

  • Tracking online conversations is becoming essential. By understanding the “buzz” — good or bad — you can can act early to either change strategies to improve performance, e.g., pricing, longer warranties, or boost performance, e.g., increase promotional budget for product receiving a high “buzz score.”
  • Re-evaluate sales forecasting: rather than waiting until retailers report sales figures, you can being to get a sense of how well a product is doing real time by evaluating the buzz.
  • Ask your brand ambassadors for help, either providing an assessment of the buzz you’re seeing or  more actively sharing their views into online conversations. (And if you have no brand ambassador program or community, start now. These folks are invaluable to helping any brand succeed in a world where word-of mouth-is becoming so influential.)

8 ways to "social mediafy" marketing, PR campaigns

Creating marketing and public relations campaigns within a social media context requires some new steps– and greater attention to steps that hopefully have always been considered.

Here are eight ideas to “social mediafy” your campaigns.

1. Know what’s relevant and current: First, know what your audience cares about. What issues, topics, ideas are front of mind.  Not what your company wants to talk about, which is usually your own products and service features/functions (boring), but what people are already concerned about and interested in. Do this by analyzing the digital ecosystem for your category — blogs, tweets, news articles, YouTube videos,  Digg posts/rankings, Google searches, etc. What’s most popular, triggers the most responses?  If you have a corporate blog or a customer forum — what are the most popular topics?

2. What’s the business goal: Before doing anything, clearly understand the intention of the campaign. Is it to develop preference for your brand vs. another? Change a perception about your company? Make people more aware of the company’s expertise in a particular area? Help people understand an issue that is an obstacle to sales? Generate leads? Make your brand more likable?  The more specific you can be, the more effective your program will be — and the easier it will be to measure it.  I see far too little time spent on this important step. “General Awareness” is too superficial — nor does it guide how to execute.

3. Formulate a provocative point of view: What’s your take on a topic of current interest to your audience — and how does your point of view connect with your goal? Make the point of view is fresh, thought-provoking and even provocative.  As word of mouth author Emmanuel Rosen points out in an interview with Sean Moffit of BuzzCanuck, one of the worst practices in marketing is having nothing interesting to say. My research has found that there are nine themes that people like to talk about; here’s more on “The Nine Best Story Lines for Marketing” from Guy Kawasaki’s blog.  My favorite is taking a contrarian or counterintuitive view. Done right, this approach creates interest, debate and longevity — and can help address a number of goals.

4. Put that point of view together in a shareable form: Take your point of view and develop it in a form (or multiple forms) that people can easily share with other people — eBooks, videos, ChangeThis manifestos, blog posts, presentations, white papers. And put those not just on your own site but where people are browsing — YouTube, SlideShare, Delicious, etc.  Some recent examples of content easy to share: Disney Park’s “make your own personalized video,” which you can then share with friends. IBM’s “Art of the Sale” mainframe videos by Tim Washer. And a great white paper, “EMC/One: A Journey in Social Media” by Chuck Hollis. Having some thing makes it easier to share. Of course, it needs to be interesting enough that you want to share it with your colleagues and friends.

5. Get your views out into the ecosystem: Now stir things up and let people know about your point of view– and where they can go to learn more.  Use Twitter, Facebook, blogger outreach,, YouTube, Digg, Sumbleupon and all the many, many other places out there.

6. Stay in the conversation: As people start talking about the topic, stay in the conversation, adding new perspectives, answering questions, providing other people/places about the issue. Set up Google alerts at a minimum to keep up with the conversation and post responses to what;s being said. The days of dropping a press release, talking to some media, and calling it a campaign are over.

7. Repackage: Take the highlights of what ensued and repackage them to further achieve your goals — use for customer newsletters, sales presentations, management reports, in employee communities/Intranets.

8. Measure what sticks: Lastly, learn from all the issues you initiate. Which garnered the most interest — and why? What fell flat? Was it the topic — or was it the execution. This execute-and-measure-and-learn is the only way to find what works for your audience — and is an ongoing education for you.