Word-of-Mouth is Most Trusted Media Source

There’s a new restaurant in town.  What will convince you to try it: A newspaper ad or a friend’s recommendation?

The recommendation wins hands down, every time.  That’s because a recommendation from a friend is a far more trusted source of information than a paid advertisement.

We know that intuitively, but a new report from Nielsen finds that consumers trust in word-of-mouth appeals has increased dramatically: 18% since 2007.  By comparison, consumers trust in paid television and radio advertising has fallen by 25% or more.

According to Nielsen, “92% percent of consumers around the world say they trust…word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising.”  What puzzles me is why more groups and business don’t jump on this bandwagon and get their people talking!

The Amputee Coalition is an organization using word-of-mouth to raise awareness.  During April, the group has recruited hundreds of companies, medical professionals and individuals to distribute educational materials in their community.  The group is hoping to distribute 1 million cards and generate just as many conversations.

A campaign like this also keeps members engaged with the organization.  All-too-often the only time someone hears from a group is when they’re looking for a handout.  Studies show that the more a volunteer is engaged with a group’s mission, the more money they will give to that group.  Talk about a no-brainer!

Are You a Connector? Daniel Poneman Is!

Last week I got the following message:

“You all don’t have to believe me on this, but I just posted a ridiculous score. I knew I would crack the 100’s, and knew I was a connector, but didn’t realize my true social impact until taking this test… i got a 149.”

In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell describes how he gave the test 400 times and only 4 people scored above 100. Daniel also has 4,079 Facebook friends (4,080 if he accepts my request).

What’s he do? “I feel blessed to say that I have never held a “real” job in my life and hopefully I never will have to. My job entails watching basketball, talking to people about basketball, providing basketball content for my website, and helping college programs find the best basketball players for them, and helping young men find colleges to play at. It’s a lot of fun.”

Are You a Connector?

Connectors are people specialists, those with a large circle and network of friends. Malcolm Gladwell writes about Connectors in The Tipping Point, his thought-provoking book on how information spreads.

“Identifying Connectors and getting them talking about your cause, company or candidate is critical,” said SparkLight Communications President Joseph LaMountain. “Since they know everyone, they can begin to spread the word and start to generate word-of-mouth conversations.”

Gladwell developed a simple 5-minute test to determine if someone is a Connector. He’s given the test to more than 400 people and scores have ranged from a low of 16 to a high of 108. I scored a 52.  Where do you fall on that scale?

Sales Tips from…The Nutcracker

Last night, with several thousand others, I attended The Washington Ballet’s performance of the Nutcracker.  While the show was very good, what most impressed me was their use of grassroots communications strategies to pack the house.

Set to the music of Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker has been entertaining audiences worldwide since 1892.   Each year, one can find multiple dance companies performing it in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  One reason is because The Nutcracker is a proven money maker.  Because many dance troupes rely on it for the bulk of their funding, strong ticket sales are vital.

Last night’s performance at the Warner Theater was packed, as were most of the 20+ performances.  How did they do it in a down economy?  Artistic Director Septime Webre will get much of the credit.  And The Washington Post’s stellar review certainly didn’t hurt.  Without a good product, no amount of marketing or salesmanship can help.

But I have a feeling that a grassroots marketing tactic is the real reason for the crowds.

Each year, The Washington Ballet’s Nutcracker relies on local schoolchildren to fill secondary roles.  From toy soldiers and mice to clowns, Chinese dancers and mushrooms, young dancers are constantly on stage.  And because they cannot perform their cameos in each performance, multiple dancers are needed for each role.  How many?  The program listed approximately 300 “Alternate Cast” members performing in this year’s Nutcracker.

Any idea who is filling all those seats?  Proud parents and siblings.  Beaming grandmothers and grandfathers.  Aunts, uncles and cousins.  Friends, neighbors and schoolmates.  Not to mention me and my family, who attended largely to see a friend’s daughter perform.

This is a real stroke of marketing genius.

The biggest challenge in grassroots marketing is engaging consumers.  By involving a large amateur cast, you automatically engage 300 dancers, their families and friends in the performance.  Not only do they each buy multiple tickets, they become “evangelicals” and spread the word in their community.  You just can’t buy that kind of advertising.

The end result?  A crowded house.  More specifically, if each “Alternate Cast” member is responsible for selling an additional 10 tickets (our little friend “sold” at least 14), that means an additional $150,000 in sales and invaluable word-of-mouth exposure about the performance.

Talk about a real Christmas present.

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