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Monday, February 14, 2011

Word of Mouth Marketing Really Works!

I love to split firewood. Have you ever split wood before? I love word of mouth marketing.  I’m sure by now the connection is obvious.

See, splitting firewood involves cutting down dead trees, slicing them into logs and hitting the logs with an ax. You can’t use a jigsaw to cut down a hickory tree. This isn’t about finesse or details. It’s about getting tangible results with hard work.

Anyone who has ever been in a gym can quickly identify two types of people in the weight room. There are the guys who put a lot of weight on a bar. They squat, they deadlift and they bench as much weight as they can as many times as they can. In the next workout, they try to squat, deadlift and bench a little more weight. They are big. They are strong. They are lean. They say things like “Go Heavy or Go Home.” They probably have been doing this years and will keep doing it for years because working out makes their lives better.

Then there the guys doing a LOT of bicep work. They toss in a few wrist curls and calf raises. They burn no calories, get very few results and probably won’t be back next week. They probably wear way too much Spandex too.

Are there ever cases when you should use a jigsaw? Sure, but not until after a tree has been milled into a piece of finished lumber, Should you ever do a bicep curl? Again, sure, but they aren’t in the same zip code as developing a strong core.

Word of Mouth Marketing is no different. I’ve observed, worked on and led many Word of Mouth programs. While there is no guarantee of success, there are some pretty good indications of program headed for failure.

You guessed it, I’m talking about the programs that start with the jigsaw and the wrist curls. If you come up with an innovative way to cut through the clutter, reach your audience and excite influencers, don’t spend a lot of energy trying to get the perfect shade of blue on the microsite.

Take Twitter, for example.  Here is what a chainsaw would say: “So people can connect with others on this network and instantly send and receive real time updates on their phone, desktop or browser? The application by its nature will go viral because every member has a vested interest in recruiting new members. NASA, the next president and major news networks, along with 3 million others, will use this as a part of their everyday work and social life.”

Here’s a jigsaw: “The site is ugly. There is not enough text to tell me what to do. What’s up with the bird?  Can we call it something like ‘’? Why didn’t you include more graphics? I’m not sure what to do when I land on this page. Where do I click?”  (The jigsaw would probably say the same thing about LinkedIn)  -  So what causes “jigsaw” thinking on Word of Mouth strategies? Probably the same thinking that stifles any innovation:

It’s easy. I can look at Twitter and quickly say that I don’t like the blue background or I don’t “get” the bird. I can delay the launch of Twitter for months by spending my time, energy and money on site copy and design. That’s a lot easier than focusing my mind on changing the way people use real time communication for business and socializing.

It’s safe. I won’t get fired for following brand guidelines. I can’t fail by insisting that terms and conditions are prominent on my home page. There is no fallout from suggesting a script shouldn’t include a gorilla playing the drums. Criticizing, delaying and getting the little pieces right are all safe things to do. Pushing ahead and saying, “we’re going to do something big, innovative and different” is a high risk claim. You’re laying your name on the line. You’re walking up to the edge and jumping. The program may backfire. Bloggers may say bad things. You may not move the Buzz needle.

Word of Mouth marketing, viral marketing, social media marketing and blogger pitching are all great ways to cut through clutter, get people talking (and buying) and produce great results. But they are not for those who like to play it safe or take it easy.

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