Word of mouth marketing. WOMM. Why is this such a hot topic? It’s been the most successful marketing method since, well, since forever. When I managed restaurants, I knew that it really didn’t matter how much money I spent on yellow page ads, local newspaper and magazine ads or direct mail. I used those methods to keep our name in front of people, but what really mattered was what our guests were saying about us. Our best marketing happened when they talked to their friends, family, colleagues, neighbors or strangers about their good experience in our restaurant. As Andy said, your brand is not what you say it is, it’s what other people say it is. That’s the power of word of mouth marketing.

Like all the simple things in life – coffee, bread, beer – word of mouth marketing has become a hot topic in the last several years. Its effectiveness is being rediscovered and we’re figuring out the best way to use it to our advantage, whether we’re an association, charity or business. Positive WOMM can bring us success with member recruitment and engagement, community-building, grassroots advocacy, event marketing, public relations and more. Andy calls it a “sustainable renewable marketing engine.”

Here are Andy’s essential steps for WOMM, the five T’s:

  • Identify the Talkers, your influencers. Look for them in your volunteers, members, industry non-members, event attendees, industry bloggers, readers, customers, and your members’ staff.
  • Give your talkers portable, repeatable and emotional Topics to get excited about. How to find those topics? Ask yourself this question about any new product or service — would anybody tell a friend? What are your members talking about now? Do you know; are you listening? Don’t choose topics based on association politics and history. Be honest about it.
  • Like David Meerman Scott, Andy tells us to provide Tools that will help your talkers share your topics with others – easy to forward emails with “tell a friend” forms, “share this” buttons on your web site or blog, free white papers to download from your web site, useful event swag to share with colleagues, promo codes for event registration or your online store, association logos and conference badges for their web sites, conference Twitter hashtags, or Flip video cameras for members to use at conferences.
  • Andy Sernovitz - photo by hyku/Flickr

    Andy Sernovitz - photo by hyku/Flickr

    Take part in the conversation about you, even the negative ones. Be an active listener and know when you or your industry is being discussed. Be a participant, not a broadcaster, and join the conversation. When your name is mentioned on a blog, take advantage of the opportunity to comment, adding valuable content, or merely saying “thank you” in response to positive remarks, or if necessary, “I’m sorry, I can fix it, here’s my email.”

  • Track and measure. Have your listening tools ready to go. Use Google Analytics for your web site and/or blog. Set up Google Alerts and Twitter searches for all variations of your association name, web site URL, conference name, and leadership’s names. BackTweets will alert you when your site URL has been shortened and shared on Twitter. Decide what you want to measure and establish your baseline so you can see what your new efforts are bringing you. When members join, attend an event, or buy a product, find out what led them to that decision. Were they motivated to buy from one of your traditional marketing methods (advertising, announcements, direct mail, etc) or did they learn about it from a friend? Keep track so you know what’s working.

Lindy Dreyer made Buzz2009 a living case study for applying the 5 T’s. Considering that more than 5,000 people registered to view the live webcast of one of the panels, I think they did well!

What are some other ways that associations can use these five T’s?