Recommended Article: Talking with…”Word of Mouth Marketing” author, blogger and CEO Andy Sernovitz
“Good marketing is more about brains than bucks.” This is just one glimpse into the many words of wisdom from Shop.org friend, author, and entrepreneur, Andy Sernovitz. In his must-read blog and New York Times bestselling book, he shares his insights and best-in-class examples of how to simplify your business, earn word of mouth, and thrill your customers. And as a treat for our Shop.org community, we’ve asked Sernovitz to bring is marketing expertise, energy, and tactical delivery to keynote our Digital Retail Boot Camp at the Shop.org Annual Summit in Denver this September.
In anticipation of his presentation, I had the pleasure of talking with Sernovitz about his favorite word of mouth marketing examples, how retailers should deal with negative product reviews, and the most common social media blunder committed by retail companies. Needless to say, he practices what he teaches and it’s undoubtedly worth talking about.
At the Annual Summit, you’ll be presenting concepts from your book, Word of Mouth Marketing. Describe what that term means and why it’s so important.
Word of mouth marketing is: 1) giving people a reason to talk about your stuff, and 2) making it easier for that conversation to take place. But word of mouth is more than a marketing tactic. It’s a fundamental philosophy that will change your business forever. When you commit to earning the respect and recommendation of your customers, you’ll soon find yourself making better products, creating amazing experiences, and improving your customer service. You’ll also have more fun and make more money. Because in the end, it comes down to love or money. Sure, you can pay people to talk about you and share your message. That’s advertising, and you’ll always pay, every time. But it’s much more powerful and sustainable to inspire people to talk because they love you and want to see you succeed. The result is a recession-proof competitive advantage that will carry you through good times and bad. Now is the time to earn this army of fans who will do your marketing for you, for free, forever.
In your “Word of Mouth Marketing Manifesto,” you say marketing is what you do, not what you say. What do you mean by that?
Here’s the reality we all face: Your brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what other people say it is. You can do all this amazing advertising — but it doesn’t send people to your amazing website or your incredible shopping cart. All of your advertising just sends people to Google, to social media, and to review sites. And what do they find there? All sorts of stuff written by regular people. This means you can be the grand champion of e-commerce, but the consumer opinion is the last thing people read before they click, “Add to Cart.” Remember: Marketing – the stuff you say- may come first, but it’s what people think and feel and say about you that really makes your brand, and all that is the result of the stuff you do.
What are your favorite examples of great word of mouth marketing from retailers?
For retailers, the best word of mouth is always around the question of, “What will this person say when they leave the store?” We’re so focused on completing a sale that we forget to think about the next thing that’s going to happen. Is that customer going to tell everyone about the experience they just had? Here are a few of my favorites:
- Zappos: They’re such an incredible story because everything they sell is available cheaper somewhere else. But Zappos has invested so much in extraordinary customer service that everyone has a great Zappos story. These stories are the word of mouth that drives new business with almost zero acquisition cost. The other big lesson of Zappos: They’ve cut through much of the BS of social media. While everyone else is hiring “experts” to come up with social media vision, Zappos just put “Please follow us on Twitter” on their order confirmation screen. It was so simple that all the rest of us missed it.
- RedEnvelope: RedEnvelope is an online gift catalog. They have nice stuff but not necessarily nicer than any other good catalog. Their motto: “RedEnvelope’s mission is to make gift giving, no matter what the occasion or circumstance, simple and fun.” That’s fine, but nobody is going to repeat it. But they have a killer topic: Every item comes gift wrapped in the most gorgeous, elegant, impressive red box with a giant bow. People who receive gifts from them can’t help but talk about the wrapping. (They talk about the wrapping more than the gifts.) The wrapping is a perfect word of mouth topic. It makes people want to talk, and it’s easy to talk about. When most people get a gift from a catalog, they rarely remember the catalog, just the item and who sent it. RedEnvelope’s box creates instant word of mouth. When one of these boxes is opened at a party or a baby shower, a whole room of people are talking about it.
- Sephora: The work Sephora does with Bazaarvoice (disclosure: I’m a Bazaarvoice advisor) is really interesting. They integrate their customer reviews — the word of mouth — into their advertising and into their stores. They’ve got signs in their store with headlines like “our bestsellers” and have quotes from real customers. They do similar stuff on their website. Why? They realized that the authentic word of real customers was more powerful than anything written by a professional copywriter.
How should retailers deal with negative comments in social media or negative product reviews?
For this one, let’s take a page straight from the comic edition of my book:
How do you track word of mouth and measure its impact?
Word of mouth needs to be clearly identified in your order forms. When you ask, “How did you hear about us?” be sure you’re asking the right way. There should be a consistent, clear choice that indicates word of mouth. You won’t be able to track the true impact of word of mouth if some say “from a friend” while others say “from a family member,” “from a coworker,” “from my doctor/lawyer/plumber/hairstylist,” or “online.” Tighten it up so that the answers are clear. “Online” might mean the banner ad you bought or a happy reviewer on a shopping site.
What do you think is the most common mistake retailers make when it comes to social media?
They write sales-y marketing copy instead of having genuine conversations with their customers.
What do you do to stay on top of what’s happening in the marketing world?
I’m really lucky, because I run a group called SocialMedia.org. It’s a private community for heads of social media at big brands, and our members talk all day, every day, about what’s happening right now in social media. Being a part of this conversation is the most authentic, from-the-source learning I could ever hope for.
What’s the most common question people ask you?
“Excuse me, are you Brad Pitt?”