Use WOM like a true direct marketer

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It's official. Word of mouth marketing is the current celeb-of-the-month in the world of marketing. Although WOM has been around forever (think cavemen confabs), today's digital marketers are making the most of WOM. First and foremost, marketers know that now they can get the word out at incredible speeds. They're also well aware that consumers' distrust of advertising hype keeps heading north.

What can traditional direct marketers learn from successful WOM programs?

Leverage your buyer's passion. Toyota does it for its hybrid cars with a dedicated microsite where buyers sing the praises of their cars and share stories with other satisfied customers. The site is simple, sincere and compelling. It's an ideal way to get prospects to cross over from being tire kickers to customers.

Initiate a tell-a-friend program. This old warhorse of so many traditional DM programs uses coupons, discounts, free merchandise and other incentives in the hope a customer will bring a friend onboard. Why not borrow a page from viral marketing and use it in conjunction with a tell-a-friend program? Make sure you include a way for prospects to respond so you can capture the order.

Use "Fast 50" offers with a twist. Instead of the traditional rewards, you might offer the first few responders 15 minutes of fame. Give them a platform to relate their experiences with your product or service. Create an online video, an editorial or a commercial with a "winner's story." Think Volvo's current TV commercial featuring regular folk who drive Volvos because they want all the protection they can get for that special someone in their lives. It's reality advertising coupled with a plug for your product.

Create a site with a point of view. Start with information so valuable, you make yourself indispensable to customers and prospects alike. The goal is to make visitors want to continually revisit your site and tell others.

So what's the takeaway for DMers? Think about new ways of using satisfied consumers to play a roll in telling your story as well as selling your product. Offer compelling information about your product as well as related topics that are worthy of being passed on. Make it easy for customers to communicate with each other and with you.

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