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November 30, 2006

WOM with ADD

Now this is how you release a book about WOM. Send it to some talkers (i.e. bloggers) and ask them to write about it.

That’s how I got my copy of Word of Mouth Marketing by Andy Sernovitz. Greg Fine, CAE, VP of Membership for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) had an advance review copy of Andy Sernovitz’s new book mailed to me a few weeks ago (Sernovitz is the CEO of WOMMA). Seeing as I was elbow-deep in The World is Flat at the time I received it, I’m a few days later in posting this book review than I’d like to be. But, with the turkey fully digested and a little extra free time over the extended weekend, I had a chance to polish off the book Sunday evening.

Put succinctly, this book starts weak but finishes strong. The early pages are flush with elementary WOM advice. Really, really basic stuff. This book might be perfect for anyone new to the WOM game, but might be frustrating folks with a good grasp of the concepts. One of the reviews of this book captures this thought well,

It’s brief. It’s elementary. It’s obvious. But the Truth often is. Read this book to relearn what you always knew just in time for it to change your business life.” – Bob Garfield, Co-host of NPR’s On The Media
It’s true, this book won’t be of much use to people who are familiar with WOM concepts. However, although I would consider myself someone with a somewhat well-developed WOM acumen, I personally found several things to be worthwhile for wrapping my brain around the concepts. For example, Sernovitz’s “Five T’s” are particularly helpful for mentally organizing the fundamentals of WOM. The Five T’s are Talkers, Topic, Tools, Taking Part, and Tracking. There’s not much else in this book that I found particularly useful for conceptually grasping WOM.

But then again, by Sernovitz’s own admission, this book is not a think piece. It’s not an attempt to make the case for WOM or an effort to describe the phenomenon of WOM (pheWOMenon?). It’s about simple, actionable things you can do today. This is a roll-up-your-sleeves, get-down-to-business, roll out your WOM program handbook. It is packed with a ton of great tips and techniques to get a WOM project moving. Here are some of my favorites (one for each T):

TALKERS: Employees make some of your best talkers.
TOPIC: An elevator pitch takes way too long in the WOM world.
TOOLS: A sure-fire way to get your emails forwarded is to put “PRIVATE: DO NOT FORWARD” at the top of messages.
TAKE PART: Build credibility in advance by getting involved now in the online conversation already happening. It will pay dividends when the $#!& hits the fan.
TRACKING: Aggregate your WOM referral sources in your “how did you hear about us?” marketing reports into a single category.

What’s interesting to me, as an association executive, is that many of Sernovitz’s best practices for WOM are things that I’ve been doing as long as I’ve been working in this field. He even acknowledges, on multiple occasions, that not-for-profits are better at several WOM techniques than for-profits.

So how does this book fit into the WOM conversation? Well, if you “get it,” this book contains a number of golden nuggets to help you get real with your WOM plan, but it won’t help you significantly elevate your intellectual prowess on the subject. If you’re just interested in application, this is definitely the WOM text for you.

As for the title of this post, WOM with ADD, well, the book shifts gears frequently and suddenly. There’s very little finesse to it. Maybe reading books from Friedman and Sernovitz one after the other is bound to produce an unfair comparison. Word of Mouth Marketing won’t win a Pulitzer, but then again, WOM campaigns will probably never win accolades from the advertising or marketing industries.

Of course, that’s part of what makes WOM – and this book – so effective.


1 comment:

Andy Sernovitz said...

Thanks, Ben

Association executives (especially good ones like you) are really great at word of mouth marketing. It's what we do and what we've always done.

As WOM marketing matures, we're learning that lots of what we do is really about getting people talking. When we look at it in a new light, with the WOM objective first, then we realize that we can be great at it. It's not so much a new idea as a new way to think about the best in marketing.