The Two Ts of Successful Word-of-Mouth Marketing

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by: Josh Hawkins

What are the key ingredients of a successful word-of-mouth marketing campaign? Targeting and Trust. In today's fragmented and on-demand media environment, niche targeting and referrals are becoming increasingly important. But too often marketers rest of entertainment, or shock, to generate buzz and viral promotion. While these tactics generate impressions, they rarely provide a measurable lift in sales.

The missing ingredients: 1) targeting "influentials" within niche communities; and 2) engendering trust in referrals based on positive brand experiences. This is exactly what Sears recently did in a word-of-mouth marketing campaign for Sears Portrait Studios. Today, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the case study:

[A]s consumers increasingly feel barraged by marketing messages, they're blocking out traditional advertisements and looking more to other people for advice on what to buy… Word-of-mouth is valued 1.5 times more by consumers today than in the 1970s, and it's valued twice as much as traditional media… As a result, companies are trolling customer databases, Web sites, chat rooms and blogs to find the most-trusted regular folks.

Problem: Sears Portrait Studios wanted to attract more moms with young children. The company knew personal recommendations drive a lot of decisions about where to go for children's photos, especially the first time. It also knew moms tend to stick with one photo studio.

Solution: Use word-of-mouth marketing to build buzz and get new mothers to try the studios.

Find you: Using a customer database to conduct phone surveys, moms were asked questions to determine whether they're "influentials."

Shape you: Panels of influential mothers were created. They discussed products, marketing, other studios and what the company could do better.

Prompt you: The conversations gave insights into the company and sparked the moms to spread the word.

Compensate you: After the panels, the moms received free portrait packages.

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