Word of Mouth (WOM) is a tool that many businesspeople have found to be an effective marketing resource when they want to generate buzz about a product, brand or service. Many companies rely on WOM to raise awareness about a product, build more business through customer referrals or make a video go viral.
Ultimately, the goal of WOM is to provide customers with a product or service that is so fantastic, that they have to tell people in their social circle about it. And with the ever-growing importance of branding and image, it’s no wonder that more and more companies integrate WOM into their business models.
Brooks, an athletic apparel company known for its running shoes and gear, spends less on expensive media strategies and focuses its efforts on word of mouth marketing tactics. The company invests in events where there target audience is likely to be on the lookout for sports-related products. For example, Brooks is the title sponsor for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series, which host runs across the country. Not only does this garner national attention for the brand, but places running products front and center during running events. In other words, these events are perfect opportunities to talk to others about the product.
Whether your company is looking to integrate WOM, or your current strategy needs to be freshened up, consider the following three strategies to generate great WOM for your business.
1. Going above and beyond: Think about the last time one of your friends told you about an experience they had at a restaurant. Chances are, they told you about their experience because the restaurant went above and beyond in service, food, and atmosphere. The key to generating word of mouth starts with the experience, and if your customers enjoy the experience that you offer, they’ll share that with others.
2. Turning customers into brand advocates: Developing a customer base that includes repeat customers (and even better, lifelong customers) is something that all companies strive for. So make customers feel like you’ve known them forever. Offer your loyal customers special deals like access to products not yet available to the general market, or gifts for holidays and special occasions. Happy customers are talkative customers, and their words will bring more people to your business.
3. Zigging while everyone is zagging: When it comes to generating buzz around a product or service, think outside the box and provide customers something different and refreshing. Feature new items on the menu. Host in-store entertainment. Sponsor a “secret sale” with deep discounts for loyal customers. Whatever you do, the most important thing is that you offer customers something they can’t help but talk about.
For more tips on generating word of mouth around your business, check out this recent Forbes article on word of mouth and why it works.
By: Lynn Halverson
Scenario #1: You need to educate older adults about new Medicare benefits under the Affordable Health Care Act. You’re trying to decide how best to reach them – a print brochure, a website or perhaps TV/radio ads.
Scenario #2: You’re developing a video on the dangers of smoking that you would like to test with teens to see what images and messages resonate with them.
Reality check #1: The budget is limited.
Reality check #2: This project needs to be completed yesterday!
In either scenario, focus groups would achieve the goal without breaking the bank. They provide a relatively inexpensive and timely way to brainstorm with target audiences about how to reach them, or to test messages and advertising concepts.
The key to getting the most from your limited focus group dollars is to plan ahead and to use the right tools… and the right people. Here are a few key ingredients you need to make the most of this valuable research tool:
1. Qualitative Research Consultant/Moderator
If you know you will use focus groups at some point in your project, make sure that a trained qualitative researcher/moderator is working with you from the start. She or he can help you budget correctly, decide upon how you want to segment the groups, determine whether in-person, phone or online groups are most appropriate for your study, and figure out the best way to present your concepts in a focus group setting.
To find a qualified moderator, contact the Qualitative Research Consultants Association or get recommendations from colleagues. Don’t forget to ask prospective moderators if they have received professional training.
2. Effective Recruitment Strategies
Good recruitment strategies are an essential part of having successful focus groups. Use qualified market research firms and cooperate with them on incentive or screening recommendations, as they have extensive experience trying to reach the very people needed for your project.
You may decide that you want to hold groups in three or four different geographic areas in order to see if people in Los Angeles react the same way to an advertising concept as those in rural Alabama. How do you do that? You hold focus groups in several different locations and compare the responses. Use the Green Book website or Quirk’s Marketing Resource Media site to find professional focus group facilities nationwide. They’ve been in business for years and know what firms are out there.
3. Appropriate Incentives
It’s unlikely that someone will participate in a focus group for free. That’s why determining the appropriate incentive for your groups is important. Offering less than the going amount could end up costing you money in the end, as market research firms base their own recruiting costs in part upon the intended incentive. Lower incentives can mean higher recruiting costs, or the need to recruit more people for the group in order for an acceptable “show rate.” Paying a reasonable incentive is a sure-fire way to ensure that respondents will show up and participate.
4. Adequate and Realistic Timelines
The best gift you can give to yourself and your project is time. Proper planning will lead to a better research approach, more exact research goals, better testing materials and adequate time to identify the right respondents.
You also need adequate time between completing the groups and submitting the final report to ensure that the moderator/qualitative researcher has enough time to time to read and process transcripts, enter data into qualitative software programs, and fully analyze the data.
Often, however, time is limited. When developing a focus group timeline, be sure to include a realistic amount of time for:
- Obtaining Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval (if the project is funded by Federal funds)
- Developing recruitment screeners and moderator guides
- Developing materials to be shown/tested in the focus groups
- Obtaining bids from focus group facilities
- Recruiting participants
- Getting transcripts made from focus group recordings
- Analyzing data
- Preparing the report
5. Compliance with OMB Process for Federally-Funded Research
Any focus group project that is funded by Federal money needs to be approved by OMB. Most Federal agencies have an office that works with OMB to ensure that all projects comply with OMB requirements. Incorporating the OMB compliance process into your research plan will ensure that the project meets OMB requirements and the client’s needs at the same time.
Good luck! And if you have questions about how to structure a successful focus group project, be sure to contact TMNcorp’s qualitative research team. We have researchers with 25 years of experience in this field, and we would like to help you make your next focus group project a huge success.
By: Nicole Pulley
The cherry blossom trees blooming around the Tidal Basin are a clear sign that spring has hit the Beltway, and what better way to welcome warm weather and sunny skies than with a little cleaning. E-cleaning, that is.
What do I mean by e-cleaning? Well, just as you take time this season to tackle cluttered closets and give walls a new coat of paint, spring is also a great time to set aside time to refresh your online presence.
To start, take a moment to think about the last time you updated your LinkedIn profile picture, checked in to a location, or wrote a post for your blog. Come to think of it, are you having trouble remembering your passwords to all the accounts you’ve created over the years? If so, perhaps it’s time to put some spring into your step and do some e-cleaning….and we’re here to help.
Just like you clean your home room by room, we’ve put together the following e-cleaning checklist for tackling many of the pieces that make up your personal e-presence.
Many social media sites provide users with a space for uploading a profile picture, and in some cases, even a background photo. Be sure to upload a recent photo of yourself that reflects the industry you are in. Norine Dagliano from Careerism recommends wearing your most complementary color and choosing a photo with a background that isn’t distracting. After all, the most important part of personal branding is, well, the person!
Make a list of all the accounts you have created on different social media sites over the years and ask yourself questions about them. When was the last time you logged in to that account and posted something? Or the last time you updated the content? How about those daily subscription emails that go unopened? After you’ve made a list of your accounts figure out which are worth keeping, and if you haven’t logged in within the past 6 months, consider deleting them. Once you’ve made a list of accounts to delete, check out this article by Eric Griffith on deleting accounts from any website.
Now that you’ve successfully logged into your blog account on the third try, head over to the settings or My Account tab to look at the privacy settings and other account preferences for that platform. According to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, privacy policies can change after a user creates an account and that they may not cover third-party applications that interact with that site. If you don’t feel safe using that website or social medium, delete your account.
And while we’re on the topic of privacy: see that sticky note with the list of passwords stuck to your monitor? You’re better off memorizing them, or storing them in a location with less eyeball traffic.
One of the most important parts of e-cleaning is updating the content on your social media sites and accounts so that it reflects accurate, up-to-date information. Have you recently switched jobs? Has the topic of your blog changed? Be sure to read through the text on your profile accounts and replace outdated pieces with relevant information. Don Campbell from Expand2Web recommends you update the content on your blog and other websites as often as possible. Not only will this keep your visitors happy with new information but will improve the listing of your page in search engine results.
So after the basement boxes and garage shelves have been taken care of, refresh your online presence with a little e-cleaning. It will give everything a fresh and clean look, just like spring!
Melissa, our new research analyst, offers over 10 years of experience in designing, conducting, and evaluating public health research. She is also an instructor at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in the Department of Population, Family & Reproductive Health.
Melissa took part in our “One Minute with TMN” interview to share more about herself and her work. Check out her answers to our questions:
What’s the connection between research and communications?
Research can discover, describe and predict important information. But, without effectively communicating the findings to the people or community who can most benefit from the information, it’s only one piece of the puzzle.
When did you know you wanted to work in public health?
I went to Emory University in Atlanta, GA and was fortunate to work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the four years while I was a student. Freshman year, I worked in the epidemiology division on a research study exploring listeria contamination. Before that experience, I didn’t even know what public health was. After working at the CDC, I knew I wanted to study public health.
How do you define innovation?
Innovation requires conviction and leadership to think about ideas or methods in a new way and to persuade others it’s better than the old way.
What communicator inspires you the most?
My dad. He passed away when I was 19 years old, but I have hundreds of letters he wrote to me throughout my childhood. When I reread the letters I’m inspired by his humor, wisdom and great advice he gave to me as a kid. It’s so helpful to me now that I have my own children.
What are you most excited to bring to TMN?
I am excited to jump in and support TMN’s current projects. I look forward to bringing a perspective that focuses on reducing health disparities and on the promotion of health and healthy behaviors in communities.
By: Nicole Pulley
Since its “hatching” in 2006, Twitter has quickly become one of the world’s most popular and widely-used social media platforms. From breaking news to industry trends to photos of the sandwiches your friend ate for lunch, Twitter users generate and share a flock of information every minute of the day, which just goes to show how everyone uses Twitter differently. That information can be beneficial to all of us, so here are five unique ways to make your 140 characters go a little further:
1. Job Hunting
The job hunt can be an intimidating process, especially if you can’t remember the last time you updated your resume. Do some searching on Twitter and ensure you’re using as many tools as you can to find that perfect job. You can filter through thousands of job postings by typing in keywords into the search bar and then following hashtags based on industry, job type and location. There are even accounts that tweet classified ads, like @DcSocMediaJobs and @IdealistJobsDC which posts job alerts in the Washington, DC area. And if you’re searching for a job at a social media-savvy company, you’re already in luck.
2. Twitter Landing Page
A Twitter landing page is a page on your website that introduces your Twitter followers to your organization and its brand. It provides viewers with the basics of what your website features and encourages them to access other pages on your site. If your business is looking to convert Twitter followers to customers, creating a Twitter landing page for your company’s website could expand your customer reach and increase brand awareness. Chris Brown has created a Twitter landing page for her company’s blog which lets visitors quickly understand the purpose of the blog and navigate to other pages on the company’s website.
3. Creative Showcase
If you’re an aspiring painter, sculptor or cartoonist, Twitter is a great way to display your work to the public without the expense of owning a gallery. Upload photos of your pieces using twitpic, link to your personal website, and with the right hashtags your tweets could jumpstart your artistic debut.
4. Teaching Aid
If you’re looking for alternative ways to engage students and make learning more interactive, consider including a Twitter component to your class syllabus. Start by creating a hashtag that the students can follow throughout the semester, for example, #ProfessorSmithBiology101. Students can earn extra credit by answering questions tweeted by the teacher and posting news articles related to class discussions. It can also serve as an alternative way to participate if students are shy about raising their hands in class.
5. Customer Appreciation
Every consumer likes to know that the restaurants and stores they frequent appreciate their business. Show them you care by using Twitter to take your customer service a step further. Whether it’s tweeting a deal of the week, announcing a new product exclusively on Twitter, or offering discounts to those that retweet, customers will feel special because they know that you care. Who knows, they may just become your biggest brand advocates. Bonus points if your advocates have a lot of Twitter followers too.
This is just a short list of the endless ways Twitter can be used to increase brand awareness, jumpstart a career or earn bonus points in class. Take a moment to think of how you could take your Twitter account to the next level, and happy tweeting!
By: Sarah Vogel
Actually, I should make that five. The first tip is developing a title or headline that piques a reader’s interest. Didn’t the title of this post do that? Using numbers in titles is a great way to get your content noticed.
While I can’t promise that the other four tips will make you a great writer, I can promise that they will help your writing become more strategic, and hopefully, more effective.
Tip #1: Don’t forget the first rule of communications: know your audience.
Before you put pen to paper (or realistically, fingers to keyboard), think about who your audience is, what you want to tell them, and how they want to receive the information you have to share. Let’s say you’re writing a press release. How do you get reporters to read it?
First, make sure the content is short and answers the “5Ws” (Who, Where, When, What and Why). Reporters prefer facts over fluff. Next, make sure it has credible content, like a quote from a government official and a point of contact for more information. Most important, the press release should have a sentence or two that emphasizes why the information you’re sharing is actually newsworthy. The fact that your organization is hosting a gala isn’t newsworthy. The fact that the funds raised at the gala will pay for 10 local students to go to college is.
Tip #2: If there’s a simpler word, use it.
Writers are often so entrenched in a particular topic that it’s difficult for them to step back and remember the power of word choice. When writing, avoid reaching for the SAT vocabulary book. Instead, use simple and easy-to-understand words that will help make a piece of writing clear and memorable.
Words like “use,” “show,” and “find” are common for a reason. It’s because people understand what they mean when they are used. Words like “utilize,” “illustrate,” and “ascertain” have similar meanings, but selecting the simpler versions of these terms ensures your message doesn’t get lost in the clutter of complicated vocabulary words.
Tip #3: Ask yourself: “Who did what?”
My mom is a former English teacher who never forgets the power of good grammar. One of her pet peeves is when writers use passive voice. That is, when people make the subject of the sentence the object of it. For example, “I love you” is an easy sentence to understand. I (the subject) love you (the object). This sentence is in the active voice.
When this sentence is written in passive voice, it reads “You are loved by me.” You can still understand the sentence, but it’s not nearly as clear or concise.
To help me remember the active voice, my mom told me to think about “who did what.” Using that lens will help you tighten up sentences and make them easier to read and understand.
Tip #4: Never underestimate the power of a good ending.
Mrs. Isaac, my fourth grade teacher, was another writing mentor of mine. One of the best lessons she taught me was that the end of a piece of writing is like the bow on a present; if it’s tied right, it will bring everything together.
As you write, think about how you want the last sentences of your piece to impact the people that read it. Do you want them to start thinking about something? Do you want them to visit a website or learn more about a topic? Ask yourself how your ending can inspire a call to action.
Speaking of endings, here we are at the end of this post. Now, I’d like you to share your favorite writing tip. What tidbit has helped take your writing from good to great (or at least to strategic)?
By: Nicole Pulley
Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms are changing the way information is created, shared and received. These technology applications are giving traditional forms of communication a run for their money, as new media allow for faster communication, news in real time, and more transparent relationships between all of us.
Federal government agencies are the newest stakeholder to join the social media bandwagon. During this week’s 4th annual Social Media Week, several agencies are sharing their insights on how digital platforms are helping them start conversations, gather feedback, and improve service.
On Tuesday, I attended the 2013 #SocialGov Summit, which featured representatives from eight government agencies discussing how they are using social media in their work.
Scott Prince from the National Institutes of Health explain how he uses social media to gather data about his organization’s audience. NIH’s National Library of Medicine (NLM) has a strong social media presence, with a dozen twitter accounts in addition to the website and Facebook pages. Information gathered from these sites based on sharing, listening and engaging allows the NLM to compare metrics with other health-related entities, observe the effectiveness of NLM affecting change, and view audience feedback on the value of NLM resources.
Justin Herman from the General Services Administration also highlighted the importance of monitoring and collecting information from social media sites to help achieve their goals. Herman says organizations can do this through three activities:
1. Sharing information – Connecting with consumers helps build relationships and communicate important information.
2. Listening to the audience – Listening is a form of understanding. Doing it via social media helps organizations deliver better services and enhance the customer experience.
3. Engaging with listeners – Engagement brings insight into how stakeholders can modify and customize their content to improve their social media presence.
Scott Horvath from the U.S. Geological Survey says customization is an important part of social media when it comes to gathering information and filtering through content. Platforms such as Twitter allow organizations to filter through content based on keywords to find trends across a variety of topics. Using social media in this way, Horvath and his team can identify trends in earthquake-related content and even monitor information in different languages by filtering for keywords such as “terremoto” and “temblor.”
One thing I learned from the #SocialGov seminar is that social media platforms can be used in different ways. From generating content to sharing information and to monitoring trends, the possibilities with social media are endless. Engaging with others to strengthen relationships is one way social media is brining audience engagement to the next level, and I hope to become a more engaged individual through these platforms.
By: Dr. Allison Hyra
In marketing and communications, one of the most difficult questions to answer is: Did our efforts make a difference?
Many of us calculate media impressions, estimate reach, and study website analytics to determine our response to that question, but that information is only a part of it.
The next step is to determine whether our activities imparted the knowledge and motivation needed for audiences to make positive behavior changes. In the research world, these changes are known as immediate outcomes. For example, immediate outcomes for a campaign about the dangers of texting and driving may include:
- Increased the awareness of a problem: “I understand that texting while driving increases my risk of having a car crash.”
- Improving knowledge about the problem and how to address it: “I can easily avoid the consequences associated with texting while driving.”
- Changing attitudes and opinions about the problem: “Texting while I drive is a dangerous activity.”
- Improving behavioral intentions: “Next time I get in the car, I’ll put my cell phone in the glove compartment.”
TMN is currently conducting an evaluation to assess immediate outcomes of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) activities to educate individuals about the dangers of impaired driving.
Over the past two years, we’ve collected data from over 6,000 people nationwide about their attitudes regarding impaired driving and awareness of impaired driving slogans, advertisements and police efforts. These surveys are conducted before and after NHTSA conducts nationwide crackdown efforts and media placements about the topic.
The fact of the matter is that if people don’t learn the information or change attitudes about an issue, they will not be compelled or empowered to act and effect change. By taking evaluation to the next level, organizations like NHTSA are able to increase the probability that their activities are not just being seen by people, but are also improving their lives.
By: Nicole Pulley
There comes a moment in almost every commuter’s morning when they regret not leaving for work at an earlier time. From the time they leave home to the minute their foot enters the office lobby, commuters in urban areas like Washington, DC can sometimes face a lot of uncertainty with travel congestion.
A recent report by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute found that Washingtonian commuters have the longest commute in the country. Using the Planning Time Index (PTI), researchers determined that a 30-minute commute during off hours in our nation’s capital will take 2 hours and 51 minutes during rush hour. That makes Washington’s PTI score 5.72. The chart below shows the PTI ratio for other congested urban areas:
In addition the 2012 Urban Mobility Report found that the carbon dioxide emissions caused by traffic congestion is 56 billion pounds.
So, what can Washingtonian commuters do to make their commute better for themselves and the environment? A great resource is the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government’s (MWCOG) Commuter Connections.
Commuter Connections is a reliable resource for options for Single-Occupant Vehicle (SOV) commuters and allows them to find others in the area to carpool. TMN is partnering with Commuter Connections to bring awareness to ways for commuters to reduce congestion, conserve energy, and better the environment.
Since 2001, campaigns like the ones created for Commuter Connections have proven successful in minimizing traffic congestion, as millions of commuters have used alternative options for traveling within the DC metro area. In 2010 alone, 2.6 million commuters used alternative options, a 27% increase since 2001. In September 2012. approximately 7,100 commuters also pledged to go car-less for the Car Free Day.
TMNcorp continues to partner with COG to improve commuting in the Washington, DC metro area through alternative programs and events such as van pooling and Bike to Work Day. For more information on Commuter Connections and how you can participate in the commuter dialogue, visit http://www.mwcog.org/commuter2
The following post was written by Katherine Hudson, TMN’s media buyer.
After 25 years of media planning and buying, I’ve found that just when you’re certain about some characteristics of the industry, the landscape changes.
One major change in the media landscape is the rapid growth of the Hispanic population. According to Census Bureau data, the Hispanic population grew by 43% between 2000 and 2010. That’s four times more than the entire nation’s growth rate during the same period.
What did that change mean for media professionals like me? It meant taking the time to learn about this demographic and understand their needs and preferences, what motivates them, and how they make decisions.
I encountered my first national Hispanic campaign eight years ago while working as a consultant for an international public relations firm in Washington, DC. The firms client was launching its first national Hispanic outreach initiative on financial literacy in major Hispanic markets across the country. Mortgages, the best way to save for college and investing were just some of topics covered.
Surprisingly, not much was known at the firm about how best to plan and execute a national Hispanic campaign. An agency in California was used to develop the creative components of a radio, print and web campaign.
I’d like to share with you three lessons I learned from that experience. I hope they’ll help you see Hispanics as not just another target audience, but a demographic whose unique characteristics must be understood before any planning takes place:
- Look Beyond the Label. The word “Hispanic” doesn’t adequately define a demographic with such a complex identity. This group is a made up of multiple cultures with different dialects, traditions and beliefs. Attempting to produce one print advertisement that is universally understood and accepted by all Hispanics is a challenge. Likewise, producing a radio spot that collectively appealing is equally challenging. I’ve learned that it is essential to adjust regional methods of planning buying based on the characteristics of the Hispanic community that a client is seeking to reach.
- Family comes first. Despite their differences, one fact that holds true for the Hispanic population is the importance of family. Three-generation households are common. Events bring together multiple cousins and siblings to discuss not just family news, but current events and issues affecting their loved ones. That’s why it is important to consider the family dynamic when reaching Hispanics. On a related note, multiple studies show that household decisions tend to rest with the woman of the household. Hispanic women are much more likely to access information online than Hispanic men. This becomes a key point when attempting to create brand loyalty for your client or convey an initiative.
- Connect with Communities. I’ve found to truly reach multiple Hispanic cultures across the United States, you have to reach out to the media that moves them in the communities that they call home. You must understand communities’ concerns and develop messages that address them. Then, coordinate a media buy with community involvement through events, sponsorships, and strategic partnerships to best serve their specific interests. The campaign required us to organize tutorials in each of the targeted markets. Our radio partners were key in securing locations and event production. Of course, the seven basic principles of media planning and buying apply for any demographic group. These include:
- Use the appropriate research service to identify and isolate the media habits of your desired audience.
- Access the most recent ratings of media available within the market.
- Determine the best mix of media for the desired outcome of the campaign.
- Negotiate the best rates possible ensuring significant “reach and frequency” of the commercial message.
- Negotiate added value, bonus spots, editorial opportunities, sponsorships, and event participation for additional “no charge” exposure.
- Monitor the campaign to ensure it runs as contracted.
- Provide the client with an accounting of the true value of the media campaign including bonus exposure.
Together, these principles not only ensure a winning campaign on paper, but also create real and positive change in a community.