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January 26, 2007

WOM Marketing for Certifications

Hello there! I figure about a quarter or more of my blog visitors today will be driven here by Lenora Knapp's teleseminar on WOM marketing for certifications. I've prepared this special post for the seminar to build on one of the themes Lenora talked about.

Towards the end of her presentation, Lenora talked about evangelist/hub marketing and blog marketing. Well, I am a self-professed evangelist for the CAE certification and a blogger. I'd like to share some things I've learned and experienced over the two and a half years that I've been blogging about the CAE.

Just a quick overview of my journey: This blog started with the title "Preparing for the CAE Exam" in August 2004 as a diary of my preparations for the CAE exam. In the early days I blogged about my reading, practice tests, review courses, anxiety about the exam, etc. I simply wanted to tell my story. It also was motivation for me to study hard and pass: The prospect of having to reveal on my blog that I had failed was a good motivator.

So after I passed the exam, the focus of the blog had to change. The blog's title changed to "Passing the CAE Exam" and then changed again to "Certified Association Executive." During this time I put together 13 tips to help candidates pass the CAE exam. The index to that post is the single most popular page on this blog, and traffic to that page really spikes 2-3 weeks before each CAE exam. I have some 2006 stats, if you're interested.

Since then, my focus has been on blogging my opinion, thoughts and analysis of things that are happening in the association business; finding things that are happening in society at large and letting readers know how I think they will affect associations; writing about how I'm applying CAE principles at work; and commenting on the CAE program.

That's the end of the history lesson.

Now, being that I am both an association executive and a blogger, if I have any expertise at all, it's how an association should engage with bloggers in their space. I've grouped some advice into two categories: What to do if you want to encourage blogging, and what to do if you already have bloggers talking about your industry and/or certification:

Want to encourage bloggers:

  • Find out if your members are already writing a blog on some other topic, then ask them to blog about your certification.
  • Approach members who have recently gone through the certification process and ask them to blog about their experience.
  • Approach members who are just beginning the certification process, and ask them to blog about their experience.
  • Pair certification applicants and members who are already certified to blog in a Q&A format (blogs will allow multiple authors).
  • Set up a blog for the certification department, with staff writing some entries, then invite a member to guest post as s/he goes through the process.

    Already got bloggers:
  • Comment on their blogs. If you feel you can't comment on the blog because of a conflict of interest, ask a member, volunteer, or someone else on staff to do it. The worst thing you can do is ignore the blogger.
  • When a blogger passes your exam, and announces it on their blog, congratulate them in the comments.
  • Start your own blog. Why? Bloggers trust other bloggers. If the proverbial $#!T hits the fan, you'll be in a much better position to explain your side of the story if you have a track record of meaningful blogging.
  • Provide inside information about the program, a peek behind the curtain so to speak. Stuff you think the average member wouldn’t care about could be very interesting to bloggers in the space. Like the average percentage of candidates who pass or the number of applicants per year.
  • Just like journalists, bloggers love an exclusive story. Contact bloggers off-line to feed them news about the certification.
  • Hold a video, photo or essay contest for the certified to demonstrate how much the certification has changed their lives.

  • Here's an essential reading list for WOM marketing:
    Church of the Customer Blog
    Citizen Marketers
    Cluetrain Manifesto
    Naked Conversations (It's not porn!)
    Word of Mouth Marketing
    Word of Mouth Marketing Association's ethical blogger contact guidelines

    Now, if you've made it to the end, here's a treat for you. You may have noticed a little widget on the right hand side of the blog called "Chat me up." I should be at my desk most of today, so if you want to ask me a question, just enter your comments and I'll chat with you right on the blog.

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