The Truth about Bad WOM

There’s a dark side to Word of Mouth, too. Negative reviews are inevitable. So what should you do in response?

Develop serenity to accept the things you can’t change: You WILL get negative reviews. Expect them. You can make some of the people happy some of the time, but there’s always that one guy who just wants to complain.

Realize what’s actually going on: People who are taking the time to complain share another trait – they actually CARE enough to share their feedback. That doesn’t mean that you have to slavishly follow every single suggestion that comes in (which would be impossible anyway, since at least some of them will be directly contradictory), but it does mean you should think about whether there is a nugget of truth and, if so, how you might be able to incorporate that into improving your program or service.

Remember: “most companies don’t have a negative word of mouth problem – they have a lack of positive word of mouth problem.

Getting Good WOM

Want to increase your sales, market impact, and online search? According to MarketShare/Keller Fay, word of mouth has a significant, measurable impact on your marketing. A 10% lift in WOM leads directly to a 1.5% increase in sales and up to a 54% increase in marketing impact. That’s big.

But what makes a great Word of Mouth topic?

  1. It’s emotional – it connects with people
  2. It’s portable – they can share it easily
  3. It’s repeatable – the message is not too complicated

Want to find out more about WOM? Check out Andy Sernovitz’s blog or sign up for his GasPedal e-newsletter (at the blog). A lot of the examples he uses are corporate/consumer, so may not suit the association industry directly, but they’re always inspiring.


Be a Super Genuis

Another belated book review – or, to be more precise, a timely review of a book it took me way too long to read.

I just finished Andy Sernovitz’s Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking. If you’re familiar with Sernovitz, either from Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That or his WOM newsletter, the book is not going to be revolutionary. It will be more like sitting down with an old friend, where you’ve heard at least some of his stories, but they still make you laugh every time.

WOMM is written in an extremely practical, friendly style, just like everything Sernovitz produces. It’s simply laid out: the first part deals with the concepts behind WOM, and the second part breaks down the key elements. All are accompanied by short anecdotes illustrating the points.

Some of the key points that particularly struck me include:

In an era of social networking and nearly ubiquitous connectivity, customer service may be your MOST important marketing tactic. Treating people well, even to the point of going WAY above any beyond (the famous Ritz-Carlton $2000 rule) is going to serve your organization far better than pretty much any other action you can take to promote yourself and what you do.

WOM is simple but not easy. Being interesting and trustworthy and making people happy are simple to understand, but not easy to do, particularly in organizations where lower-level staff lack decision making authority (you know who you are). When you can do these things, though, people’s natural inclination to share things they like to help other people (and hopefully be seen as smart, connected and important in the process) kick in, to your benefit.

I think the key chapter is “Six Big Ideas” (chapter 2).

  1. Consumers are in control
  2. Marketing is what you DO
  3. The Internet is forever
  4. Honesty is the key
  5. So is customer satisfaction
  6. WOM generates more revenue (not least of which because it doesn’t generate much in the way of costs)

Sernotivz then runs through the five key elements of WOM (talkers, what they’re going to talk about, the tools you can use to help them spread the word, getting involved in the conversation yourself, and how to track all this) in detail, complete with worksheets to help you plan your WOM campaign.
I’m pretty sure you’ll walk away from this quick, engaging read with at least ONE concrete thing you’re going to try or change immediately (if you’re really pressed for time, skip right to page 197, pick any of the ideas there, and go).

And, finally, the MOST important advice of all:

Be nice.