Andy Sernovitz: How to Create Your Word of Mouth Marketing Plan — live from Word of Mouth Supergenius

11:55 — Kurt Vanderah introduces GasPedal‘s Andy Sernovitz.

11:56 — Andy: This will be a condensed version of our eight-hour crash course.

11:56 — Andy: The Key Steps:

1. Form a WOM Team

2. Find your Five Ts

3. Listen & Participate

4. Bake it into your DNA

11:57 — Andy says WOM has to be a company-wide thing. The bigger you are the more important it is to form a cross-functional thing. PR usually owns it, based on the companies we talk to. Customer service is best at handling the 24/7 aspect of it though.

11:59 — Andy says it’s best to get the internal team set before getting an agency involved.

11:59 — Andy: Plan for long-term continuity.

11:59 — Andy: Open it up to everyone. Employee enthusiasm will bloom when you support what they’re doing.

12:00 — Andy: Create your Five Ts.

– Talkers: Find people who will talk.

– Topics: Give them a reason.

– Tools: Help the message spread.

– Taking part: Join the conversation.

– Tracking: Measure and listen.

12:01 — Andy: Talkers are not necessarily customers. There’s no relationship between talking behavior and buying behavior. You never talk about the restaurant you go to every week, but you tell everyone about a restaurant that you try out for the very first time.

12:02 — Andy: Figure out who’s talking about you.

12:03 — Andy: As soon as you open the door to asking people if they want to be a fun or join the club, they’ll tell you who you are.

12:03 — Andy: Listen first, see what’s happening, then join in.

12:04 — Andy: Great topics are portable, repeatable, and emotional. If it goes in a press release and it looks good, then no person will actually ever repeat it.

12:05 — Andy says nobody knows what will work. Viral is an adjective. You never know what topic will catch everyone’s attention. They can make you a good video but you can only hope it goes viral.

12:06 — Andy: You can test really cheap and really fast. Keep rolling through as many WOM experiments as you can, and then invest when you see a response.

12:06 — Andy: Tools are the third phase. Beware the plan that starts with tools!

12:07 — Andy: Tool #1 is asking people to tell a friend. Ask for the referral everywhere, every time.

12:07 — Andy: Make content sharable. Let users however they want. Make it easy.

12:08 — Andy: You don’t need to do all social media. You don’t need to do most social media. Your job is to go where your customers are. It isn’t your job to be a technology pioneer. Don’t chase the shiny new object. If your customers are there, then follow them. Be a fast follower. When you get there, do it well. Calm down, hang out with your fans.

12:10 — Andy: Listen before you talk. There are already conversations happening. Fans love it when companies participate. The more you help, the better the response will be.

12:10 — Andy: Be careful not to be an ass. It’s living room rules. If you go to a party and the topic of your job comes up, talk about it, but don’t go to a party and start selling.

12:11 — Andy: Build credibility over time. You build respect. It’s Cheers versus the telemarketer. Your goal is to be Norm. Do not wait until you have a PR crisis or a product flaw and you’re only showing up because there’s a problem. It helps to have more than one voice present because it shows the company cares.

12:13 — Andy: How do we get it to 50,000 people? How do we flow it to the front line?

12:13 — Andy: How do we get it to 50,000 feet? How do we get every CXO to get it?

12:13 — Andy: How do we make this last 50 years? How do we keep the spirit alive?

12:14 — Andy: To sum it up: Try a lot of stuff. Go deep.

12:14 — Andy: Best of all, have fun.


Q: Is there a way to sort of deal with the ROI issue?

A: The problem with WOM is it’s in the wrong spreadsheet. Look at things like the customer service spreadsheet. If the person has a problem, you spend $25 to have a person answer the phone and solve it. If it’s on a blog, then that’s $25 saved, but then 100 people also see the answer on the blog.

Q: Is it better that social media resides with an individual or be part of the company DNA?

A: Long-term it has to be a company-wide thing but short-term, it has to start with the one person who can elevate it.

Q: When not being in a corporate environment, in some ways would it be easier or harder to manage?

A: Small business will be different. Keep trying until one of them hits.

Q: We’re a pretty boring brand; insurance isn’t associated with cool and wacky all the time.

A: Any business built on a broker model is a business built on old school word of mouth. It’s less about the topic and more about having a built-in army of talkers. You can make anything worth talking about because it’s meaningful to somebody in some way.

Q: Do you have any examples of large companies helping employees spread the word?

A: We run the Social Media Business Council and we’ve got a lot of examples in about how big companies do it.

Q: Talking about old stodgy companies… we live in a regulated world. We’re trying to be more proactive and involve ourselves in the conversations. How do you incorporate social media to be part of the conversation?

A: Where big companies hold back is that they’re worried about what to say. Sometimes it’s just about asking what the most asked questions are and pushing that out in the open. Sometimes it’s just about talking about what’s going on.


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  1. Kevin Andreassend

    If nothing else this comment made…”spend $25 to have a person answer the phone and solve it. If it’s on a blog, then that’s $25 saved, but then 100 people also see the answer on the blog”…. this shows the power and mindset of Social media. For companies wondering why do I need to use Social Media this interview has many gems of sound insight.


  1. Live coverage recap from yesterday's Word of Mouth Supergenius - December 17, 2009

    […] How to Create Your Word of Mouth Marketing Plan — with GasPedal’s Andy Sernovitz […]

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