For years Andy has been able to ringlead this rag tag industry of mavericks, big thinkers, opportunists and evangelists into a tightly bound segment of marketing/media practitioners who share some insight, values and practices about word of mouth and how things should gety done in the modern marketplace and media aisle..
He was instrumental in the development of the trade association WOMMA, wrote the book on word of mouth appropriately titled - Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking (a fixture on my bookshelf) , authored the most commonly stated code of ethics for social media and now, beyond his consulting at GasPedal , lecturing at Northwestern, blogging at Damn I Wish I Thought of That, he has also conspired to build a new organization called the Corporate Blogging Council.
Beyond a finely tuned and buzzed about pedigree, Andy is a great friend and colleague and always an interesting conversation, here are the 7 questions I threw at Andy when we chatted last.....
1) You've recently moved from being president of WOMMA back to your days as an entrepreneurial rainmaker - enjoying the shift?
It's fun to be back in the startup game again. I'm definitely a startup kind of guy. But there is one thing I miss: the platform that WOMMA gave me to speak out and lead the fight on ethics. I'm still a
passionate advocate on ethics issues, but it sure helps to have 400 committed companies in your corner helping to spread the word.
2) You've had a lengthy ride with word of mouth, what topics have become more prominent and what issues have become less prominent as time marches on with WOM?
I love the fact that we're not really talking about technology any more. We have so many great, easy, and often free tools. If I want a blog or community I can get it launched in an hour. It takes away the IT excuses that prevent companies from trying these things.
3) If you're like me, you likely look at the current marketplace and cry out in horror with some marketing practices, what is a WOM idea whose time has come and yet you haven't seen it happen yet?
I'm still flabbergasted at the companies that haven't done the basics yet. They have spent more staff time trying to research the hypothetical ROI of a blog or community that they could have just done it and found out. That's why I love the Blog Council members (http://www.blogcouncil.org) -- they are the ones who are doing it.
4) The line between your professional brand - GasPedal and your personal brand is a little bit blurry, is this the wave of everybody's future or just the way you like to run a transparent consultancy?
Actually, one of my biggest challenges this year is to separate the two. I had the option to make it a personal brand, making a good living as a consultant and speaker. But there's no way to grow it. So I hired an awesome team of smart people who are building the GasPedal brand and an independent brand not dependent on me. We call it "deAndyfication". Either direction would have fine, it's just a personal choice. Think Seth Godin vs. Don Peppers.
All companies using social media correctly are going to have a lot more personal personality injected onto the corporate brand. The important thing is to be aware of where the lines are, and manage it. Dell has strong centralized corporate social media, where the corporate brand is first. Microsoft has thousands of individual voices, and less central social media messaging. Both are good.
5) Smart distinction company head vs. company operations this time around and cool new urban dictionary term ...deandyfication ..sounds like a little bit of Good to Great is slipping into your leadership skills repetoire, Andy. Let's forget about you, I like how you boil WOM down to its bare essence, for the legions of wannbe WOM marketers out there, care to topline your 5 things to get right about generating buzz from your book Word of Mouth Marketing?
Follow the 5T's of word of mouth marketing and you'll get it right every time:
Talkers: Find The People Who Like To Talk
Are they your customers? Neighborhood moms? Doctors? Bloggers? Think about the people who are most likely to tell a friend about what you are doing. Make sure they know about your new topic of conversation.
Topics: Give Them a Reason to Talk
Give people a reason to talk about you. It doesn't need to be fancy. A special sale, good service, a neat new feature, a better flavor, a funny package. (Remember the Gateway computers that came in cow-patterned boxes?)
Tools: Help the Message Spread Faster and Farther
Do everything you can to make it easy for talkers to pass along your topic. Include postcards and stickers in the box when you ship a package. Put up a chat room so people can talk to each other. Join a blog conversation. Hand out samples. (Did you ever get one of those emails with a "secret" coupon that was supposedly for employees only? Did you forward it?)
Taking Part: Join The Conversation
Conversations die out when there's only one person talking. When people are talking about you, answer them. Reply to their email. Comment on blogs that write about you. Send a lot of thank-you notes.
Tracking: Measure and Understand What People are Saying
The word of mouth conversation is the best feedback you're ever going to get. It's far better than any other kind of market research, because it is the authentic voice of the consumer. Hear what people are saying, learn from it, and use it to be a better company.
6) You once built a fairly large trade organization filled with promo companies, research houses, PR companies, big agencies, boutique firms, digital startups and I'm sure some superheros and crime figures to boot, who rules the roost (or should rule the roost) when it comes to WOM?
On the agency side, the best WOM folks usually have a media relations background. They have deep understanding of WOM skill #1: building trusting relationships with people who will speak for you.
On the client side, the best WOMMers are people with a true love of customers and customer service. You've gotta love people. That cuts across all titles and departments.
7) Despite impressive efforts, the reality is that 2/3rds of purchase decisions are made via WOM and yet only a tiny fraction of that is spent directly on trying to get it, read the tarot cards - is this the ongoing fate for WOM?, or are we reaching a tipping point? or is there some new technology, event, shift that will cause WOM to change its place and importance to companies in the future?
Repeat after me: "Hmmm." WOM drives lots of our revenue. We spend nothing on WOM. So maybe if we started paying attention and investing in it, we'd have more revenue. Maybe we could spend less on other kinds of marketing. Then we'd have more to spend on the service, support, and innovation that drives WOM. Which would let us cut our marketing costs. And we could invest more in service, support, and innovation. Ah ha!"
You either get this, or some competitor who does is going to kick your ass.
Well said Andy, until we muse about WOM again.