Monday, May 26, 2008

In An Ideal World...Sustainable WOM

A couple weeks ago at the WOMMA conference, I sat in at a very interesting discussion on building sustainable word of mouth campaigns led by Brains on Fire's Geno Church and Intuit's word of mouth marketing manager Michelle Makowsky. The model Geno put on the board made sense: We were to research, uncover consumer sentiment, create the message and the environment for WOM to grow, deliver, engage and keep up the momentum. He was describing a circular motion, which suggested I could and should go back to the drawing board as a marketer during the course of a relationship with a customer. "Good," I thought, "if I can tap into a large enough budget, we can do this. Maybe merge PR and marketing?"

Yet, the a-ha comment came from Michelle. She noted that this long-term approach may not resonate well with those responsible for marketing. "This would generate buzz, no?" "That's exactly the point," she replied, saying that most of us in the marketing world need to show results, to prove a campaign's worth, to show success, to move on to the next project or level. So, most players will focus their energy on any approach that will create a spike on the charts, now.

Indeed, a sustainable, relationship approach is too long of an ordeal, doesn't fit into a box and needs constant dialogue and activities with customers. It is CRM, in its truest sense, with creative ideas sprinkled over it to keep conversations going. If it's not forced, all the better.

Imagine you're trying to drive interest around a video contest. You reach out to the media, buy some ads, send a newsletter to your opt-in list, give a desirable incentive or gift to the winner, make it easy to find and click. This is similar to preparing for a great, big party where your friends invite their friends and those friends invite their friends and so on. But how will you keep in touch with them after the party is finished? Will they remember you?

To build sustainable WOM programs, we need to start thinking about the post-buzz plans. In this example, the video contest can be the start of a conversation or a fun way to keep in touch with the fans. Next generation of WOM campaigns need to incorporate longer-term community building efforts.

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