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Letters to the C-Suite

It's my pleasure to be a contributor to "Letters to the C-Suite: Sage Marketing Advice for Uncertain Times", a fantastic project from ExactTarget.

Read great advice from Rohit Bhargava, Pete Blackshaw, Hunter Boyle, Rex Briggs, Ann Handley, Joseph Jaffe, Jeanne Jennings, Aaron Kahlow, Kelly Mooney, Jeanniey Mullen, Stefan Tornquist, Steve Yastrow and myself.

Here's my letter:

To The Executive Team:

I think we need to get serious about word of mouth marketing.

Word of mouth isn’t just people talking anymore. It’s a massive wave of consumer-driven discussion about our products. And, frankly, it’s a hell of a lot more important than any other marketing we’re doing.

You heard it here first: We are risking our brand and reputation if we don’t take an active role in managing word of mouth about our company.

We’re also walking away from a fantastic source of new business.

Here’s why we need to start a formal word of mouth program right now:

New Reality #1: It’s the only way to stop negative word of mouth. People are already talking about us. Are we going to join the conversation? I know we’ve talked about the risk of engaging with consumers: “What if they say something bad? Will our PR department lose control?” There’s no choice here. Ignore it and take the hits, or engage and turn it in our favor. The train has left the station; we can only make it better.

New Reality #2: It drives sales. All of our advertising just sends people back to the word of mouth. We do marketing that drives people to Google, where they find blog posts and reviews about our products. Our buyers are seeing the word of mouth before they ever get to our web site. Do we know what those reviews say about us? We should be out there rallying our fans to share positive stories. A little effort will fill the search results with positive links back to us.

New Reality #3: It gives us a competitive advantage. Customers we get from word of mouth are free. Which frees up acquisition dollars to spend on service, support, and innovation. Which gets more people talking…which gets us more customers for free. It’s a renewable, sustainable cycle that gives us a permanent competitive advantage.

New Reality #4: This is easy to do well. We need to talk to our customers. Respond to their concerns. Participate in the conversation. Keep people happy (something we should be doing anyway). It’s uncomfortable, but not difficult. Really, it’s just about better customer service.

Let’s get excited about this.

Cheers,

Andy Sernovitz, Chief Executive Officer, GasPedal

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