Word of Mouth Marketing: Beyond the Grilled Cheese Madonna

The mark of a great lecture is that you want to run out and implement stuff immediately, and that’s how I feel after a wonderful talk from Andy Sernovitz. The message was that advertising is the price of being boring, and it’s more effective, more fun and much much cheaper to let your customers do your marketing for you.

Successful word of mouth marketing has two components:

  • giving people a reason to talk about you, and
  • making it easier for the conversation to take place.

Andy talked about being remarkable: from the restaurant that has baby buggy valet parking, to the hotel that gives you an hour’s long-distance call when you arrive: what better way to spread the message to your friends than to call them to tell them you got free phone calls!

Though he drew widely from business in general and from his own experience, this was a well-targetted talk where everything came ultimately back to eBay. How do you be remarkable as an eBay seller? Well, it’s firstly the famous strategies of including freebies and references to your URL in your packaging. At this point, I must admit my heart started to sink a little, as I thought that dispite Andy’s infectious enthusiasm for his topic, I’d heard it all before.

Then he started to talk about referral marketing. The conventional way to do this (think of Sky TV’s M&S voucher promotion) is to “pay” your customers for referrals. Rightly, this was characterised as creepy: it’s better to give your customers a voucher to forward (by email) to their friends. This was good sensible stuff.

The techniques discussed here, and I assume in his book, which I’m about to go and buy, apply equally well to eBay and to your website or other online business. It all seemed like common sense: several times I thought, “I’m almost doing that, but I’m doing it unconsciously, rather than as part of a concrete strategy”.

I had a great time listening to Andy, and if the rest of my sessions at eBay Live are so good, I’ll be a very happy seller indeed.

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