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Smart Man Online: WOMMA's own Andy Sernovitz

This week we're bringing you some good, old fashioned Word of Mouth Marketing, dear readers. Via Andy Sernovitz, our Smart Man Online, and president and founder of WOMMA: Word of Mouth Marketing Association. Seems to us that this is something the marketing and advertising world should have started LOOOooonngg ago! But, it took someone innovative, visionary, and SMART to do it. Someone like Andy...read on and find out how YOU, too, can get Word of Mouth Marketing to work for you...

Lip-sticking: Let's start way back, to the beginning of advertising, if that's possible. If word-of-mouth is so powerful, why did we turn to print and radio to get clients and customers? Why not just stay with the tried and true, like the village market, where word of mouth testimonials were so powerful?

Andy: WOM is powerful, but it's harder to work with than traditional advertising. Only recently, with the Internet, blogs, etc. has WOM become something that we can actually do something about. We finally have the techniques to encourage it, amplify it, and make it work within a marketing plan. The other thing that has changed is that WOM has happened TO advertisers. The voice of the consumer, amplified by blogs, is suddenly a real concern for brand image. No one can ignore it, so we're finally learning to make it an ally and an asset.

Mass, traditional media still works - and it's an effective way to reach a lot of people. WOM ads a deeper, more genuine 1-to-1 conversation to it.

Lip-sticking: Jumping into the 21st century now, to the Internet and blogs and blogads and all the ways people connect today -- can you share some insight into what all this 'collective' conversation means to WOMMA?

Andy: Real people finally have the tools to make their opinions heard and their opinions count. There is a core of smart marketers who get this consumer-in-control idea. They've been fighting for this at agencies, brands, and on their own. WOMMA provides a home and a platform to act on this situation and do the right thing.

Lip-sticking: When we were growing up, there used to be a sing-song phrase that went something like this, "Telephone, telegraph...tell a girl." It was meant as an insult but -- doesn't it sum up the reality of word-of-mouth? Aren't women better at this than men?

Andy: It's not about women vs men vs teens. It's about which populations are most excited, enthusiastic, and vocal about products they love. [rightly so, Andy...but Jane needs to introduce you to some Mommy bloggers...]

So, for some categories, women are powerful influencers. But you get equally powerful matches in other categories (such as teens and videogames). I'm not comfortable with that stereotype, because like any stereotype it isn't fair to the people described - and it enables lazy marketing. Marketers need to work hard to understand exactly who feels a passion for each and every one of their products and find a way to earn their recommendation. [point well-taken]

Lip-sticking: To go a step further, women control much of this country's wealth -- we're responsible for buying more than 80% of the goods and services bought and sold in the U. S., as we're sure you're aware. We're also starting new businesses at twice the rate of men. How many women do you have in senior management positions at WOMMA?

Andy: Well, only 3 people work at WOMMA, one woman. As the only senior manager at the moment, so my feminine side is it. But stay tuned as we grow a balanced team. [keep us updated - the world is watching, and we will talk...]

Lip-sticking: Tell us about WOMM events. What's coming up? How can our readers get in....at a discount?

Andy: How about I talk about the conference in Orlando in Jan. --> Word of Mouth Basic Training (WOMBAT!). It's the first-ever event focused on practical, hands-on how-to training. We want to help marketers learn to do this right, and the right way. The focus is "what to do" - 16 how-to courses, 16 case studies, 8 major authors, 60+ expert speakers. We've already started with a blog, newsletter, and podcast that teaches ethical WOM.

Faithful readers of Lip-sticking: use code yvonnesentme to save $100. [Do plan on attending, dear readers - Jane, aka Yvonne, will be there demonstrating How to Get Women Talking! Say, what's not to like about that?]

Lip-sticking: Tell us more! We want the inside scoop so we can pass it on.

Andy: WOMBAT is the first tool to teach WOM [word-of-mouth]. There's been lots of discussion, but very little teaching. I think we've got the triple-crown of teaching here, with a blog, a podcast, and an email newsletter. Over time this will be the definitive WOM library.

Lip-sticking: Aha, we LOVE libraries! But, WOMMA is relatively new...isn't it? What took you (not YOU, but you the group of professionals who are WOMMA) so long to create this engaging association? How successful are you? Can we expect to see you around for some time to come?

Andy: We're a bit over a year old, with more than 225 corporate members. That makes us the fastest growing association in recent memory.

It all started when a critical mass of marketers "got it" and needed an organization to fight for the core issues: ethics, measurement, and best practices. As soon as we opened our doors, hundreds of experts came out of the woodwork - so clearly this was waiting to happen, and we were in the right place at the right time. We'll be one of the major marketing associations for a long time to come -- and we expect to see our emphasis on ethics have an impact on all marketing.

Lip-sticking: Ok, we get it. Word-of-mouth works. We think we've always gotten it. To be honest, we think everyone gets it. So, why do we need you? Seriously, talk is cheap, isn't it?

Andy:  1. Ethics are everything. We need a strong voice to fight stealth marketers, teach ethical practices, and protect consumers.

2. WOM happens, but WOM Marketing is a complicated practice, like all marketing, and a group like ours serves as the education center.

Lip-sticking: We can't let you go without asking you to provide a comment on personalization. Women love it -- we're not sure men notice -- but it's a difficult goal to achieve with everyone so worried about privacy. How do we get WOM working along with personalization, and not invade anyone's privacy? Wordofmouth_andy

Andy: WOM is inherently personalized, because we're talking about real consumers talking to their friends. When we understand and respect the authenticity of the consumer-to-consumer conversation, everything is personal.

Lip-sticking: Who does the shopping in your family -- you or your wife? How much shopping do YOU, personally, do online? Were you an early adopter? What trait of online shopping appeals most to you? 

Andy: We both spend insane amounts of money online, in equally irresponsible quantities. We've been doing it since the beginning (I was in the dot com business in 93!) My favorite part of online shopping is speed. My least favorite part - browsing is less fun, you don't get to touch the stuff.


Word-of-mouth marketing - in a learning atmosphere, with experts (we're one!) who can teach YOU how to get the word out: say, what's not to like about that? We'll see you there, dear readers.


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Great post Yvonne and Andy! Excellent points for marketers to consider.

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