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Why create a word of mouth network

April 02, 2006

In my last post, I discussed how a survey found that marketers believed that advertising is less effective than it was two years ago. One of the ways that marketers are addressing this shift is by developing word-of-mouth networks. Wikipedia defines word of mouth as “the passing of information by verbal means, in an informal, person-to-person manner.”

This tactic is nothing new for marketers. For a long time word of mouth was described as buzz. Although, it wasn’t a tactic that was often employed because television advertising was felt to be the most effective way to reach the public. In the Internet age, word of mouth networks are extremely crucial to sell any product or build public support for any legislative issue.

For many in the public affairs realm, creating word of mouth networks is extremely difficult for them to do. It is difficult because many they do not want to give up the control that is necessary for these sort of campaigns to be effective.

The dinosaurs in the public affairs world believe that as long as they raise enough money to spend on advertsing that their issue or candidate will win. This assumes that you have the right message that is going to resonate with voters. But even if you spend a lot of time with focus groups refining your message your audience is not guaranteed to respond to it. This problem arises because of the speed at which information travels and changes. What may have worked 3 months ago during a focus group now no longer works because the debate on your issue has continued to evolve. So how do you address this problem?

You should develop a grassroots base of supporters that can defend and build support for your issue. Markets are now conversations that constantly evolve. Anyone that is trying to sell something should understand that the attitudes of customers, constituents, and the general public are constantly changing. A grassroots base allows you to listen to those conversations and employ your supporters to introduce your message to their word of mouth networks.

Organizations and corporations that are able employ their supporters to speak out will be better able to advance their issues.

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