Over the last three days I had the pleasure of attending the School of WOM put on by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association here in Chicago. Over the course of those days, from Monday afternoon to Wednesday afternoon, a series of speakers shared with attendees various perspectives, insights and information on sparking conversations among casual buyers, serious advocates and “influencers,” though no one could quite adequately define what that’s supposed to mean.
There were plenty of interesting takeaways from the sessions I attended and I’ll get to those soon, but whether they were stated outright or lurking in the background there were two big ideas that were kind of unavoidable when you get right down to it:
- If you want to create word of mouth you have to be interesting: We can talk tactics all day and design some killer programs that look really good when presented in PowerPoint format. But if the company itself isn’t interesting, if their products aren’t useful or if there’s nothing that differentiates the company from its competitors there’s not a whole lot for people to talk about. Everyone’s going to have their own opinions (for the most part) on what constitutes good customer service and what’s considered a reasonable price so if you’re just competing on those two points you’ll forever be subject to the whims of the individual. But if there’s something over and above that, some experience that leaves a customer with the feeling that they just have to share it with their friends – be it online or off – that’s extraordinary.
- If you want to create word of mouth you have to measure it: This gets a little tougher. Of course everyone over the course of the event was talking about how to measure what people are talking about online, but that’s only half – or less – of the story. While there are certainly difficulties in measuring what’s happening offline in the same way you can online (assuming you’re not running some vaguely shady pay-per-buzz program) there are still ways. And even beyond direct measurement word of mouth pays off when you see more people walk in the front door, either literally or figuratively. A lot of companies with great reputations (an outcome of positive word of mouth) may not track direct WOM conversations or conversions but they know they’re happening because they continue to see an influx of customers.
More direct insights from the presenters at the School of WOM will be shared tomorrow and some points that were made that I feel like need to be refuted (or at least challenged) will also inspire more posts down the road a bit.