We talk a lot about Word of Mouth. Usually it is in the context of Web 2.0. Whether you believe Word of Mouth is just being discovered as a marketing strategy, or whether you agree with me that marketers have been strategizing and measuring word of mouth forever, doesn't matter.
What also doesn't matter in terms of effectiveness are the tools, such as blogs or podcasts or even e-mail. What matters is that you strategize around Word of Mouth marketing, that you use the right tools, and most important, what you do with those.
The other day, eMarketer ran a newsletter article entitled Half of Customer E-Mail Goes Unanswered. Every time I read this sort of story and review the research, my reaction is the same: Why do we marketers spend so much time pushing tools at customers and clients, when we should be building strategies around how to use the tools?
Here is what eMarketer tells us they learned from this study:
1) In 2007, only 33% of companies responded within 24 hours, down almost half from a high of 63% in 2002.
2) Only half of the responding firms answered e-mail within any time period, down from 86% in 2002.
This behavior creates word of mouth (WOM) but not the kind we want. Strategies around WOM begin and end with the client's customer response rates, whether carrying on real-time conversations within blog posts or responding to customer e-mail and telephone calls.
When we ignore bloggers, when we don't respond to e-mail (or snail mail) within 24 hours, and when we put telephone callers on hold, the message we send is we don't really carry about our customers. That message is received loud and clear. And that word will spread among customers' friends, families, and blog readers quickly and in a way that damages both our brand image and sales.
To my fellow marketers, I recommend that if we don't have the budgets and the staff to actively participate in conversations with our customers, don't launch new tools that you will ignore. And to those consultants who recommend these tools, please be honest and helpful to your clients about both the upsides and the downsides and give them strategies that work.
That's my opinion. What's yours? How do you currently help your clients create WOM and more important, manage it? If you are a business that actively uses WOM to build your company, what works and what doesn't? Where am I right in my thoughts about this subject and where am I wrong?
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