5 sources of great word of mouth topics

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As word of mouth marketers, it’s our job to give our talkers something worth talking about. All recommendations, referrals, and conversations are based on this fundamental ingredient: A reason to talk.

The best topics are simple, portable, and repeatable ideas that are easily passed along. They’re not mission statements or marketing copy, they’re simple ideas that spark interest and conversation.

You never know which topics are going to work, so try a whole bunch and see what happens. To get started, here are a few of the best categories to focus on:

1. Deliver great customer service
2. Create something surprising
3. Have some fun
4. Add a new feature
5. Share great research

1. Deliver great customer service

Great customer service always starts a conversation. Brands like Zappos, Southwest, and Rackspace have built billion-dollar businesses on this idea. But any business on any budget can do it. Start small by doing the little stuff: Simplify your return policy, fix things that are broken, stop pressuring your customer service reps to get off the phone so quickly, and be nicer. Keep asking yourself this big question: When someone gets off the phone with us, what are they telling their friends?

2. Create something surprising

Surprise can be a powerful conversation starter. As customers, we love to talk about unique, unexpected experiences that catch us off guard. Try it out by sending your customers a hand-written thank-you note or call to check in on them. Add chocolate to their next order. Upgrade their shipping. Offer them a doughnut while they wait in line. Show some humor in your legalese. The more routine and generic something is, the more opportunity you have to blow their minds with something completely surprising.

3. Have some fun

It’s fun to talk about companies that do fun stuff. Hasbro turned San Francisco’s Lombard St. into a life-sized Candyland board. Costco sells a $3,000 toilet. The Wienermobile has been starting conversations about Oscar Mayer since 1936. Think about your talkers and what might get them smiling. Try throwing a party, celebrating an unknown holiday, or adding a few funky items to your product offering.

4. Add a new feature

Product features make for excellent word of mouth topics. The feature doesn’t have to add utility or be a competitor-killing benefit. The flower vase in a VW Bug doesn’t make it go faster or help with gas mileage, but it does create a million conversations. Google Maps was already the best map tool out there, but adding Satellite and Street View gave us whole new reasons to recommend it. And it’s hard to say how much we needed another hole in our beer cans, but this new feature on Miller Lite cans has a bunch of people talking.

5. Share great research

Great research always gets shared. Put together some useful data, give it away, and watch how many talkers pass it on. It can be a full report (like this one from Altimeter), a fancy infographic (like these from GOOD), or a simple ready-to-go slide (like these from eMarketer). No matter what business you’re in, you can create topics around your data — because if you can do it for beards, you can do it for whatever you sell.

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