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Monday, September 08, 2008

Can you manage or harness Word of Mouth marketing? Maybe . . .

In my previous posting, I contended: " I don't think you can manage or harness your word of mouth marketing." Perhaps this is not 100 per cent correct. Organizations such as BzzAgent Inc. offer a service to consumer marketers to spread the word through organized word-of-mouth seeding. Dave Balter's book: Grapevine: Why Buzz Was a Fad but Word of Mouth is Forever explains the concept -- the BzzAgents receive product samples and guidance, he says, but are encouraged to be transparent about their objectives, and file reports on their word-of-mouth spreading activities. I signed up to be an Agent last night. (Agents are paid in rewards points and with free samples, but most participate for the chance to be ahead of the curve in new product introductions and for the ego satisfaction in spreading the word.)

I doubt most construction industry businesses could benefit from this type of consumer-market service; just as they would probably not have sufficient sample size and market diversity to benefit from organized consumer feedback surveys conducted passively (that is, by relying on online invitations rather than someone going out and directly asking the survey questions, which can be both intrusive and irritating to the person receiving the survey questions.)

But there are ways, I believe, to engage clients and 'manage' word-of-mouth, and in the previous posting, I suggested a simple approach -- find ways to go with your most satisfied clients to association/community events and network with them among peers and other potential clients.

I also think if your business culture internally is respectful, engaging, and rewarding, your employees will naturally spread the word among their peers and connect in the community with potential clients in ways that can only help attract new business for you. Of course, encouraging non sales/marketing employees to help out with referrals and recommendations (and leads) is sometimes easier said than done -- but will probably be a whole lot more profitable than engaging external marketers to drum up new business.

3 comments:

prninja said...

Mark, I do believe that Word of Mouth is especially important in industries such as construction, where quality of work is what separates you from the competition. Construction, landscaping, etc-- these ARE features of a home or office that people talk about. If a client throws a party, you can bet that a stellar piece of work is going to be the centre of attention and you can bet even further that in that group of friends is someone else looking for great construction work.
As a BzzAgent and PR pro I'd encourage your readers to place a heavy emphasis on WOM.

Tim Tracey said...

Hi Mark,

You make a good point about the challenges in "harnessing your word of mouth marketing".

In order to help contractors and other local businesses benefit from the genuine referrals that their customers, neighbors and friends are sharing, we built a "Connection Engine". Our patent-pending model turns traditional advertising, not only upside down, but inside out.

It's free to join and free to use. Businesses pay a voluntary amount that they set. They only pay this after they make a new sale from a referral. And most of this fee goes straight back to their referrer and their new client.
To benefit the entire community, Members are able to keep their reward or to donate it to their favorite charitable organization.

It's called YouGottaCall.com. We hope you check us out and let us know your thoughts.

- - Tim Tracey

Mark Buckshon said...

Prninja, I certainly agree word of mouth is vital -- though don't know if the BizAgent model (which could work well for national/large scale consumer brands) will be practical or effective for contractors.

Tim, I looked at your site and observe that linking referrals to direct rewards (even supporting charity) is debatable as an effective motivator. Ultimately, your challenge will be to have enough businesses listed to generate networking volume -- that is a daunting task.