Go check out email-marketing-reports, where David Greiner, the initiator of the Email Standards Project, gets interviewed and gives his take on why the Standards project was made and what it’s for.

One of the highlights of the interview has to be the hint that one of the email client industry’s key players (such as MS, Yahoo, Google, Lotus, etc) have already approached David and his team to get more information on the ESP and, hopefully, are willing to do something about it.

The real goal of the ESP is for change.  Actual, black and white change.  Any other project similar to this one might go half the distance – which would still be a great thing – but they’d stop at making a resource website that shows how an email acts in different email clients.  Greiner and his ESP are going the full mile – they’re not only showing the behaviour of emails in each client, but they’re also pushing for change to those email clients who need changing.  We’re talking Microsoft’s Outlook 2007, Hotmail, Google’s Gmail, and Lotus Notes here – major players in the email client market.

Obviously a lot of onus is being put on these big wigs to sit up and listen, but, just as I ranted on about in my manifesto, the beauty of today’s web is that anyone can step up on a soapbox and be heard.  The power has shifted to the user, and the ESP will be a perfect example of just how much power we the users now have.

I think I’m quickly becoming the Email Standards Project’s biggest fan.  What they’ve achieved, in less than a week, is monumental.  Its one thing to think of doing something, or wishing something had already been done, but it’s quite another actually doing it.  These guys have addressed one of the major obstacles in the email marketing industry, one that affects everyone, not just email designers, and they’re clearly willing and able to tackle that obstacle head on.  Effectively they’re pulling the weight of anyone connected with email marketing on their shoulders, and the least we can do is help.


Email Standards Project

November 28, 2007

It seems that the guys at Australia-based Campaigner Monitor are officially carrying the torch for email marketing design and implementation.  I for one couldn’t be happier, and think they are doing a fantastic job with their new initiative.

It’s called the Email Standards Project; its aim: to create a universal standard for email design, akin to the existing universal Web Standards that every web designer adheres religiously to, so that we can all code faster, easier and better HTML emails that will work across all email clients.

The email client environment is similar in many ways to the current web design environment:

“Hey, my __________ looks great when viewed in/on ___________, but looks like total garbage when viewed in/on ____________.  What gives? Argh. Damn you Billy Gates.”

If you design websites or email campaigns, you’ll fill in the blanks above with ‘website/email’, ‘Firefox/Outlook 2003’, and ‘IE6/Outlook 2007.  All web designers have been there and cursed in the general direction of IE6, and most email designers have been there and cursed in the general direction of Lotus Notes.  I have the privilege of cursing both, which is why the Email Standards Project is like a breath of fresh air.

The Project has already done 1 ‘acid test’ on the most common email clients out there, with results that won’t surprise any email marketer, but will definitely give a fantastic, comprehensive, and useful insight into what exactly doesn’t work in which client, and why.  Have a look by visiting the homepage at http://www.email-standards.org. Outlook 2007, which I wrote about back in January, is definitely no surprise with a rating of ‘poor’ due to its use of MSWord as its rendering engine, but the depth of analysis the ESProject goes into is amazing.

I’m so full of support for the Email Standards Project that I’m including their badge on my blog from now on.

Keep up the great work guys!

Building a brand from scratch is not an easy thing to do, especially if you are in a market that is very competitive. How does one start to rise above the noise to distinguish themselves as a heavy hitter? What techniques and tricks can you use to reach your brand awareness goals? Below I have outlined some of the most effective ways to build your brand using online marketing techniques.

Video Marketing:

1. Create videos that research proves will do well on the sites you are marketing to. Usually funny videos and tutorials tend to do well.

2. Decide what video marketing stance you are going to approach with your video marketing: Cut the video and add branding before something funny or interesting happens to redirect the viewer to your site. Or allow the entire video shown to allow for more viewers and impressions.

3. Initiate streaming rich media ads on videos.

4.Purchase pre-roll or post-roll ads on videos.

5. Distribute your video across these multiple video sharing sites.

Conversational Marketing

6. Leverage sites like Sponsored Reviews in order to create a viral buzz online regarding your brand.

7. Join as many forums as you can adequately sustain a quality contributor.

8. Get to know who the industry voice is for your niche and post comments on there blogs.

9. Contribute to online groups like google groups and myspace groups.

10. Market yourself by adding a blog.

11. Use advanced techniques to gain RSS subscribers for maximum exposure.

Pay Per Click

12. If you have a larger budget create an account on the top tier pay per click networks, Google, MSN and Yahoo!.

13. If you have a smaller ad budget go with Google and some tier 2 and tier 3 networks.

14. A great way to get branding is to get those impressions. Try giving 3rd tier networks a try but know that conversions may be lower on 3rd tier networks.

15. Utilize keycompete to get a good base on competitor PPC advertising.

16. Do extensive keyword research to find optimal exposure and converting keywords.

17. Try to find niches and keyword markets to target that are not as heavily competitive but are highly trafficked so your cost per click will be way down.

18. Mind your ad quality.

Social Media Marketing

19. Stay as ethical as you possibly can.

20. To successfully leverage your social media for online marketing you need to really be active in your communities, ergo is best to have power accounts on a few social media sites rather then trying to manage many of them across multiple networks. Find your niche.

21. Initiate social bookmarking campaigns online.

22. Create content to support edits in wikipedia.

Email Marketing

23. Team with companies with double opt in lists

24. Sponsor mailing lists with companies who have a wide subscriber base.

25. Try to leverage DBA lists

26. Setup a network of sites geared towards lead generation. By capturing these leads you can use them for yourself or sell them to leading lead brokers.

Mobile Search Marketing

27. Create a click to call campaign

28. Develop a mobile version of your site.

29. Include jump links below your content as normal navigation on a mobile search page can cause problems when viewing on mobile devices.

Search Engine Optimization

30. Optimize all title tags and meta data according to your rev mix.

31. If you are having problems ranking internal pages for there given keyword terms consider developing an effective silo.

32. Develop search engine friendly html sitemap.

33 Develop quality internal linking structure.

34. Create optimized html source code.

35. Create optimized robots.txt

36. Create optimized XML sitemap.

Affiliate Marketing

37. Create accounts in the 2 major affiliate networks, link share and commission junction.

38. Evaluate your competitions affiliate program

39. If you do not have an affiliate option for your services or products then think about creating one because the chance to have others advertise your products and services is a great way to get exposure and build your branding.

40. Incentavize your affiliate deals to attract the affiliate and the consumers.

Banner Advertising

41. Examine potential sites demographics.

42. Get media break outs

43. Consider Portal Advertising

44. Weight your cost per acquisition model between the cost of CPM and CPC banner advertising.

Application Marketing

45. Create a marketing campaign on Instant messangers

Contextual Advertising

46. Initiate a PFI (pay for inclusion) campaign for in bound links with sites like Text Link Brokers.

47. Consider Pre Sale pages or Hosted Marketing packages.

On to offline Marketing

48. Clothing is one of the best ways to market a product and service on and offline. By creating clothing that is branded with your logo and services you can ad this clothing line to online shopping sites and having people wear your clothes with your branding obviously increases your brand awareness.

My last and final tip is to make sure that everything you do can be tracked and measured via an accurate web analytics system. If you can afford it I would recommend click tracks. If that is to expensive for you then you might consider web trends. Many of these tips can not only improve your online marketing success but can increase the value of your own site allowing you to be paid much more for your sponsored reviews..

– Joe Whyte

There is no single “magic formula” to a successful Website. You can, however, make your own magic with a mix of marketing programs that is right for you. Your choices depend upon your overall goals and strategies.

A laundry list of marketing tactics that have worked for others — and some of the benefits or features of each — is below. They are in no particular order because each Website is unique. The tactics that will help you reach your goals may be completely different than the tactics that are right for another Website.

1. Write and distribute articles available for free republication — Provides a “sample” of your writing or knowledge and creates inbound links to your Website.

2. Write and publish your own ezine — Develops a list of interested prospects and provides a way to communicate directly with subscribers.

3. Distribute Website or newsletter content via RSS (xml) feeds — Provides a way to reach prospects without email and creates more ways for potential prospects to find your Website.

4. Rewrite sales page(s) — Increases conversion rates for your product.

5. Start an ongoing SEO campaign — Improves organic search engine rankings and increases number of visitors.

6. Test different Website configurations — Improves conversion rates and profit.

7. Send postcards or notes to Website customers/visitors via “snail mail” — Additional point of contact improves conversions and recall.

8. Add a signature to your email — Increases exposure to your site and communicates your marketing message.

9. Spend one hour each day on prospecting new customers or visitors — Spreads the word about your product/service/Website and improves awareness.

10. Offer a podcast — Recipients can listen to the mp3 file while away from their computers. A way to verbally communicate with prospects.

11. Blog — You can easily share thoughts and resources up to several times a day.

12. Audio message on Website (With start and stop under visitor control) — An additional way to verbally communicate your message.

13. Online radio show — Attracts visitors to your Website on a regular basis and is a way for visitors/listeners to know the “personality” behind your Website.

14. Survey visitors as a research method — Helps you understand the needs and problems of your visitors.

15. Include a daily (weekly, monthly) interactive survey for visitors — A way to make your Website “stickier” and is a reason for repeat visits.

16. Provide a discount coupon, available only online, and advertise it offline — Pulls new and repeat visitors to your Website.

17. Offer a free ebook that you wrote/developed and allow reprints — Creates a viral marketing effect and provides a sample of your work.

18. Show others’ advertisements on your Website (examples: AdSense or Yahoo! Publisher Network) — Adds a source of revenue for you and more research options for your visitors.

19. Implement a customer loyalty program — Increases repeat purchases and builds a more loyal customer base.

20. Offer a gift with certain orders over a certain amount — Increases average order size.

21. Write press releases to announce important news — Spreads the word about your business and creates additional avenues of contact with those interested in your industry.

22. Hold an online chat — Interactive way to communicate with prospects and draws visitors to the site.

23. Launch a direct-mail campaign, sending 3 to 6 postcards – spaced a week or so apart – to prospects – Draws new visitors to your Website.

24. Partner with other online businesses by mentioning each other’s products/services in your ezine Websites — Opportunity for synergies between businesses.

25. Launch an affiliate program — Creates a sales force for your product.

26. Offer different versions of your product — Provides a “tiered” choice for customers.

27. Participate in others’ affiliate programs — Develops an additional source of revenue and expands your product offerings.

28. Open a merchant or third party processor account — Increases your ability to take payments online and improves customer service.

29. Offer free shipping — Improves customer service.

30. Have a limited-time offer — Encourages customers to buy now rather than later (or never).

31. Conduct a workshop or class — Builds credibility and attracts prospects.

32. Add testimonials to your Website — Helps establish credibility and shows experience.

33. Participate in interviews — Displays your expertise and attracts new customers.

34. Study your competition — Helps you understand what is happening in your industry and better address important issues and needs.

35. Launch a pay per click advertising campaign — Attracts new prospects to the Website pages you want.

36. Hold a teleseminar — Provides a way to attract potential prospects and customers get to know you better.

37. Put a “refer-a-friend” link on every page — Reminds people to tell others about your site and encourages viral marketing.

38. Set up an autoresponder course — Is a value-added service to visitors and increases exposure to your product and Website.

39. Continually split-test your sales page(s). Change a single element (headline color, for example) and test against the current version. Replace anytime you get a page that converts better than the current – Over time, this dramatically improves profit.

40. Develop a mailing list of “hot prospects” and send them a brochure about your Website — Improves awareness and attracts new customers.

41. Communicate your URL and tag line at every point of contact with customers and prospects — Increases awareness and interest; improves recall; and attracts new customers.

42. List your Website in appropriate directories — Provides more points of contact with potential customers, helps search engine rankings.

43. Install a “bookmark this page” script on each page — Encourages repeat visits.

44. Improve a marginal product — Increases sales and provides an additional opportunity to communicate with customers.

45. Provide a “co-branded” product or service — By partnering with another Website to create a new product, improves both businesses .

46. Offer a contest — Provides additional “stickiness” and encourages repeat visits.

47. Become active in online forums and groups — Establishes you as an authority on your subject, improves credibility, and increases points of contact with potential prospects.

48. Move your primary call-to-action “above the fold” and test different page positions — Can dramatically improve Website conversions.

49. Install live customer service on site. Staff with knowledgeable people so potential customers can get immediate answers – Improves customer service and conversion rates.

50. Develop different versions of your products (example: print book, audio book, ebook, etc.) — Meets needs and preferences of customers in more ways.

51. THE MOST IMPORTANT ONLINE MARKETING TECHNIQUE: First, implement to your greatest ability. Then, persist. Improve upon and tweak implementation of each marketing program until it works for you.


About the Author

Bobette Kyle draws upon 15+ years of Marketing/Executive experience, online marketing experience, and a marketing MBA as inspiration for her writing. Bobette is proprietor of the Web Site Marketing Plan Network (http://www.WebSiteMarketingPlan.com). She is also author of the marketing plan and Web promotion book “How Much For Just the Spider? Strategic Website Marketing For Small Budget Business.” You can search all articles on the network through the marketing directory by going here: http://www.websitemarketingplan.com/directory

We all love Easter Egg or scavenger hunts.

The Globe & Mail (one of Toronto’s biggest newspapers) have announced a new website promotion that should tickle many a reader’s fancy.

They’ve hidden $1000 CAD per day on their website for the next 50 days; all you have to do is answer a daily question that’s taken directly from a current story, feature or article on their site from that day.

Digging around looking for the answer means you get exposed to their advertisers, their other current promos, and obviously their content.  It’s a simple, fun, and likely effective way to increase their web traffic as well as their average time spent on their site.

I received this notice in an email marketing campaign,  proving once again that when delivered at the right time and with the right content, email marketing works like a charm.  What’s more, after clicking the email, I land on a pretty simple but effective landing page that pushes what seems to be their top 4 content sections in order to drive further click-thrus to their site.

Not bad all around, except 1 thing they’ve overlooked – missing out on some free promotion by failing to add a ‘tell a friend’ link on either the email or landing page.  Oops.

Check it out at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/1Kaday/

I’ve just finished another client’s website – http://www.incidentaltourist.com – and I expect good things from it.  The interesting part about the website is the content itself; Dental Tourism is an interesting industry, but Dental Tourism to China is pretty bold and new.  My client has already had success with Canadian InciDental tourists, and hopes for more from all over North America.

I think the most important aspect of this venture is the price.  It might sound strange, but when compared to Western dental rates, Dental Tourism to China saves you big money. With The InciDentalTourist.com, you can keep the money you would spend at your local dentist, travel to China for the trip of a lifetime, and get your teeth fixed at facilities better than your local dentist.

I’m considering it myself already.

New Website Launched!

May 14, 2007

Finally, the new and much improved CarbonGraffiti v 3.0 website has launched. This new version’s highlights include a better, cleaner look, improved functionality, and [much] more emphasis on both the work portfolio and blog posts. Come back soon for upcoming email marketing campaign templates (to be open source, of course), continued email marketing and online marketing blog posts, and much more.

Back in December 2006 I excitedly returned from the WOMMA conference in D.C., went a bit crazy, and wrote a lengthy essay/manifesto in the airport terminal to channel all my thoughts onto paper. I realized that customer service plays an integral role not only to creating good WoM, but also plays a major role in good corporate karma. Putting the customer first and making them happy above all else was a great impetus to creating good WOM and building a solid customer base, but after seeing one side of the coin – the theoretical part from the seminars at WOMMA- I was missing the other side where I actually got to experience it.

During one of the seminars at the conference I remember an interesting anecdote about a customer of intuit feeling much aggrieved at something related to intuit’s customer service – so much so he decided to (negatively) blog about it. By venting his frustrations on his blog he got the issue off his chest and likely felt a bit better and went to sleep. Much to his surprise the next day he saw a comment on his blog, straight from some semi-bigwig from intuit who had actually taken the time to read about the issue he was having, and who vowed to resolve it for him. It got resolved, the angry blogger couldn’t believe his luck, and he blogged again the next day on how surprised, amazed, and most importantly how happy he was that this massive corporation had actually bothered to see him as an individual person, not a number. Everyone ended up happy, and everyone listening in the seminar gave a genuine smile, and it’s stuck with me since – especially up to now.

2 weeks ago I ordered a brand new laptop from Dell Canada. I was obviously very excited and couldn’t wait to receive it. After some initial problems were cleared up (none of which are important or interesting enough to bring up here) I waited 1.5 weeks. Dell send some pretty neat email campaigns to a customer notifying them of their order status, and I hadn’t got one in a while, so I emailed them. Turns out my order was canceled. No notice to me, no phone call, no email, no nothing. Out of nowhere my order was canceled because, as it turns out, a SKU was wrong so the order got canned. I, the customer, had to then track down (via at least 4x 1-800 numbers) the right customer service department and find out what was going on. Safe to say I was livid.

I know this kind of stuff happens to other Company X Y or Z customers all the time, but I didn’t expect to be one of them. I was so angry at the concept of having to run around to find where and what the screw up was at a multi-million dollar company (which is just barely more than I make a week, FYI), that I couldn’t think straight. I was more than livid. …That is until I spoke to Heather, who was perhaps one of the best customer service reps I’ve encountered.

To put a (getting) long(er) story short, Heather made me feel completely comfortable. She took care of me, apologized for the mishap, explained exactly what happened (very candidly might I add, which was refreshing), and basically covered every single base there was to cover. She coolly dealt with my hot head at the beginning, and through the entire conversation never lost sight of the fact that as a customer I had the right to be frustrated, but that the situation had a solution and that she was going to solve it. By the end of the conversation my order was booked, everything was good to go, and I had a smile on my face and was very impressed. I checked my order status today and the laptop is on it’s way.

Which brings me here. Just like the guy complaining about Intuit, I have a blog and I felt like venting – but a good vent, not a bad one. I’m able to voice my opinion, regardless of who might listen to me, and that’s clearly starting to count more and more these days. Dell especially haven’t always had the best of ‘customer feedback‘ record, so maybe I’m just trying to show my appreciation for their handling of an individual’s customer service mishap by voicing it here. What any of this proves is that there’s a real development of reciprocation beginning online – because anyone can get on a soapbox and talk about a company or a politician or a movie, and because other people can and will listen, customer service can only play a more important role online. Customer service is all about making the customer happy, and the Web 2.0 movement is simply amplifying that importance.

Bottom line: Keep your customer happy and you can get 2 birds with one stone – you get to keep your customer, and you might get more customers (for very little cost to you) if they want to rant about it. …Get them angry and they’ll still rant about it, and likely stop their friends from buying from you ever again in the process. I wonder – which is the better option?

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I’ve just returned from the WOMMA summit in Washington D.C, and let’s just say it inspired me. A lot. So much so that whilst sitting in Reagan airport waiting for my flight back to Montreal, I couldn’t help but start to type like a maniac about what everything I took in. In today’s online world it’s easy to forget that in the old days of marketing, back when people didn’t have virtual worlds like Second Life, or the internet, or email, or forums, chatrooms, etc. Instead they just relied on good, old-fashioned word-of-mouth. If a product worked, it would spread the traditional way – people would talk about it. So I can’t help but think it’s ironic that today there are so many ways people can connect with one another, yet word-of-mouth marketing isn’t getting quite the recognition it deserves. In my mind it’s poised to make a strong comeback, and in my mini essay below, ferociously typed while sipping a coffee, there are many reasons why.
The [company X] WOM Manifesto:

How word of mouth marketing tactics can benefit [company X], and what we have to do now and tomorrow to create and sustain a healthy and advocate-rich customer base.

Customers are fast becoming the wielders of power in today’s marketplace. YouTube, Flickr and Digg.com are just a few examples of the power of user-generated content. Blogs are putting anyone with a voice on the map, large or small, and they’re being armed with soapbox and a megaphone. To put it into perspective, 55 million bloggers are currently ‘armed’, and 100,000 more are every day (Technorati, 2006). It’s these people that have the power and capabilities to push an ‘OK’ product to its tipping point, where it becomes the product. As we’ve all noticed, things in the online world can easily accrete (read: YouTube being bought for $1.65B within a year of its inception), and just as easily dissipate into just another product that no one remembers (read: soon to be Second Life).

It’s making the thing start in the first place that’s the challenge. At the conference I received a book in the good bag entitled ‘Pyro Marketing‘, and the analogy is perfect. It’s the dream to have the product sell itself, to light the fire with just one match, and it is possible. Something referred by a friend or colleague rather than a TV commercial is approximately 1000x more powerful than a simple ad or movie poster. ‘Go see that new movie, it’s fantastic and you’ll love it’ is a phrase we’ve all heard, and likely a referral we’ve all heeded. Even though TV commercials for that very same movie bend over backwards trying to mimic that ‘go see it’ buzz and noise, (think “Rolling Stone says this movie is out of this world, spell-binding, mesmerizing, Roger and Ebert give it 4 stars…”) nothing can come close to what happens when a close friend tells you it’s the best thing you’ll see this year.

Word of Mouth is one of the strongest and most effective ways to market and promote a product. People just don’t trust TV and banner ads, subway ads, movie trailers and print ads anymore. We’re all more savvy than we were 5 years ago, and we’ll only get better at wading through the crap. Look at how product placement is increasing in movies like the new James Bond (Omega, Aston Martin, etc). Why? TiVo, YouTube, and iTunes are killing the TV commercial. It’s all on-demand now, it’s all accessible when you want it, without the fat. We’re all more savvy and we’re all starting to see that we can all have a soapbox if we want; we can all go find someone who has the same interests as us, the same tastes, and listen to them, not NBC or ABC or CTV.

With this new power, customers just like you and me are able to cut and slice through the 3000 advertising messages we get a day, and focus, and change, and have a voice about the things we care about. We’re no longer captive audiences who sit in front of a glowing box and get bombarded by push marketing and advertising… now the shoe is on the other foot. We’ll watch what we want when we want, we’ll fast-forward what we want, download what we want. And if we don’t like it, we’ll find a way to get around (just think back to pop-ups). This is the new mediathe new marketing landscape that, in all honesty, we as marketers all have to get used to. We have to start to learn how to leverage it, not waste time being fearful or hesitant to try it out, otherwise we risk letting our customers, be it in the tens, the thousands, or more, just slip through our fingers.

So, what’s the main thing about word of mouth marketing that I’ve learned since attending the WOMMA conference?

It’s all about the customer.

The term ‘viral’ still applies, but it’s an increasingly dated catchphrase that represents only a tiny portion of WOM (Word Of Mouth). There’s a massive foundation to build first, like a really solid house, before anything comes even close to going ‘viral’ by itself.

Today’s internet user and customer are, as mentioned, more savvy. They’re a different breed (and this includes from Baby Boomers to Gen X, it’s overwhelming to start thinking of the ‘millenial generation’ and their kids…) and they’re becoming so powerful as a virtual community that they’re no longer faceless wallets with 2 ears but no voice. They have a voice, and they should be encouraged to use it – for positive and/or negative commenting.

People want to talk about things – we’re social by nature, and we like to talk about things that make us happy, or things that are fun, or neat, cool, interesting, funky etc. More and more we’re being equipped with tools and in some cases weapons (Digg, blogs, MySpace to name a few) to show to the world and who ever is listening exactly what we think of all those things.

The customer is the marketer.

‘The medium is the message’ but… the internet killed the Television star.

It’s becoming a reality. In some cases, the internet user/customer has more power than some traditional marketing departments – and doesn’t necessarily know it. In some cases, teens between 14 and 19 actually have more power than companies with marketing budgets in the millions of dollars. Half the time they know, the other half they don’t. But does it matter? The concept here is that the customer, this everyday guy or girl with access to the web, access to email, access to a blog (their own or someone else’s) can talk about something they want to talk about, and in effect market that product for yay or nay. If they hate it, they’ll say it, and if they love it, they’ll say that too. In fact, 1 person is likely to tell 5 people about something they’re happy about/pleased with, whereas they’ll tell 10 people if they’re dissatisfied and unhappy. Whichever direction the customer takes, it’s still marketing something – and marketing to people and future customers or advocates or ambassadors that traditional marketing departments might not be able to touch. By letting the customer freely market a product or service that they feel good and passionate about, new media-embracing companies can in effect sit back and watch a snowball grow, or a new universe be born!

So, what do we do, as marketers?

We embrace it. Not, by any means fear it and walk away. This is not the end-all be-all of marketing, far from it. Traditional marketing does and will continue to exist, and will play a major role in creating influencers indirectly, simply by (for example) getting more eyeballs to a new product or brand. Awareness is the first step to finding people who want to talk more about a product or service, know as early-adopters and influencers.

But, at least from a [company X] standpoint, there’s a lot of work to be done. Companies have to start putting their existing customers first. And by first I don’t mean ‘yeah, they’re #1… so what’. I mean start to rethink the way their entire customer service, support, marketing, and sales groups interact with customers. Companies have to begin believing in actually putting the customer on such a pedestal that they WANT to go and talk about it. The companies today that do put the customer at #1 against all odds are the companies that have self-perpetuating advocates that simply want to ‘do good’ and tell their friends and family about a good product with great service. It all starts with customer service treating the customer like a human being, not a ticket or a phone call, or a job.

Edit: Added late December, 2006

So what are just some ideas a company can do to start the process of word-of-mouth?

  • Rejig all customer interaction points, with the sole intention of delivering the best possible service to your customer
  • Employ a news watcher or news aggegrator (via RSS is a good way) to watch any and all mentions of your company. In today’s world of blogs, if a customer is unhappy and blogs, chances are they’ll talk about it. If you find an unhappy post, comment – show them that you’re willing to take the time to solve their individual problem, and offer solutions
  • If budget permits, consider meeting your ‘star’ customers. Have you CS team identify those people that are the happiest and most vocal (are rare but effective mix) and invite them to lunch next time you’re in their town. Get to know them and their issues, likes and dislikes of your products, services, etc.
  • At all times, start to embrace the power of ‘Web 2.0’ technology. Give your customers the opportunity to blog about you, to talk about you, to send your product or service to their friends. On the things that are worth forwarding, add a ‘forward this to 5 colleagues’ link. You won’t be sorry.
  • Blog. Show your customers, even the most passive ones that you’re more than a company. You’re individuals within a company all sharing a goal of making your customers’ experience a better one. Also, enable posting on your blog, so your visitors can feel free to share their thoughts and experiences. Even negative comments are good – they give you the opportunity to solve a problem in front of a larger audience.
  • Get people in your company believing in what WOM is and what it can do. There’s no point in being an island. Having internal advocates of WOM will result in having external advocates of your product.
  • Have fun, and enjoy yourself – your customers will pick up on it and enjoy themselves too. Old companies are used to being uptight and strict. Get with the times – new web start-ups are throwing off that thick skin and becoming friendlier. It’s not a coincidence – they realize that by speaking to customers like they’re peers, not wallets, they’re getting somewhere.

Happy WOMing!