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Word of mouth and advertising work together

Advertising reaches whoever you pay for it to reach — unless you lay the groundwork for word of mouth to support it.  If you get the word of mouth part right, your fans will spread your ad to a far bigger audience.

Think of it this way:  You pay for X impressions. If you can get 20% more people to see the ad through word of mouth, you get 20% better response, for free.  (That's a the difference between a huge success and a failure.)

Here are some tips from Pete Blackshaw's Ad Age column:

  • Feed the seekers. Don't snub curious consumers. If a consumer watching the ad drops by your brand site for a visit, be prepared, and don't look clueless. Dedicate immediate real estate to the spot, perhaps in several places. And don't — I repeat don't — blow off search. Last year, too many advertisers didn't turn up when consumers searched for their spots. Never disappoint. Make sure you feed the seekers beyond your brand site: on publisher sites, on social-media fan sites, on relevant blogs and online communities. Your spot should be on YouTube seconds after it airs. 
  • Enable friction-free sharing. Remove all barriers to sharing. Don't make consumers work to tag, embed, distribute or bookmark the ad. If you want free impressions, take the first step for the consumer. From tools such as ShareThis to countless other social-media pass-along utilities, do everything possible to help drive word-of-mouth.
  • Ask for feedback. Feedback and loyalty go hand in hand. Beyond providing insights, feedback makes consumers — especially the ones with bigger megaphones — feel more important and valued. Get consumer affairs enrolled in the process and expand its radar to venues such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and certainly blogs.
  • Know thy influencers. Don't run your spot without knowing your most passionate and influential consumers. It's not difficult to start building this list. Check your opt-in lists and your consumer-affairs databases. Properly managed and empowered, these consumers can provide extra lift and momentum — even a much-needed defense if the buzz is turning sour. Oh, and don't forget to include "marketing influencers" in this equation, as there's a new Fifth Estate of marketing bloggers and Twitterers who fill the airwaves before anyone else does.

Read the full article (registration required).

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