WorkWise: Word of mouth in new guises creates startling results

10/23/2013 11:55 AM

10/23/2013 12:22 PM

In “Contagious: Why Things Catch On,” Jonah Berger writes that “people tend to ignore the importance of offline word of mouth ...” and cites research maintaining “only 7 percent of word of mouth happens online” (Simon & Schuster, $26). He also posits that “word-of-mouth is more effective than traditional advertising.” Three small businesses that threw themselves into marketing and achieved unexpected results did so either online or through infomercials. They appear to be redefining “word-of-mouth.”

A manufacturing client wanted to double its web traffic and leads, according to content consultant Bill Peatman of Napa, Calif. “Any small business needs to get found and be heard,” he comments. The manufacturer used the HubSpot marketing platform and followed its advice.

“We wrote a whitepaper and had calls to action, which led to information about what people want,” he says. “Blogging got us a lot more web traffic. Everyone and his uncle is a blogger, but blogging breaks new ground.” Eschewing wire services, he advocates keywords and placing the same information on your website. Web traffic tripled and the contact database sextupled in three months. Peatman discovered that blogs and resulting conversations sparked instant credibility.

Who would ever think that a business owner could make a pillow go viral? Michael Lindell, CEO of MyPillow Inc. in Chanhassen, Minn., patented a pillow, for which he concedes “lofty” goals after seven years of home shows closing 95 percent of prospects, b-to-c. He wanted ROI, not branding, from infomercials, which he obtained by using a live audience, unscripted, an enthusiastic customer and himself.

“The response was off the charts,” he says. “We had thousands of calls about the product. The sheer volume and sheer numbers were way beyond what I thought out of the gate. We went from 20 employees in manufacturing to 300 in weeks.”

Not all startling results are financial. Alex Zorach, founder and editor of RateTea.com, the largest website under Merit Exchange LLC in Lancaster, Pa., has reviewed hundreds of teas. He was exceedingly impressed with Royal Tajiri, an artisan tea from Kenya. “I wrote a glowing review, gave it a perfect score, 100/100, and decided to put out a press release.” He expected attention from tea companies and tea drinkers.

“Initially, nothing happened,” he explains. “A few weeks later, I received an email from the tea wholesaler with contacts with the tea growers, an audience I hadn’t anticipated reaching.”

WORD OF MOUTH

Zorach observes that in marketing “we never know ahead of time whom (or how many) our message is going to reach.” All three of the businesses affirm the importance of word-of-mouth. Lindell believes that since he was speaking in the infomercial, he was engaging in word-of-mouth. “My heart, my passion go out of my TV,” he says. “I had real people with real testimonials. They said whatever they had on their mind. I took word-of-mouth to TV.”

If Lindell was overwhelmed by the results of his marketing, which led to one referral after another, Zorach discovered a new group he reached in his marketing – tea growers. “Word-of-mouth played the role of the company passing the release on to them,” he says, “and then passing back to me the news that everyone was celebrating the 100/100 rating for their tea.”

Peatman, the formerly reluctant blogger, says that “online word-of-mouth through endorsements, even by people you don’t know, boosts credibility.” All three businesses, while active online or in electronic media, affirm the importance of new forms of word-of-mouth.

Mildred L. Culp of WorkWise® welcomes your questions at culp@workwise.net. © 2013 Passage Media.

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