Thursday, December 21, 2006

WOM – Before You Measure, You Need to Define

If you’re unsure whether word of mouth is shaping into a highly valued tool that should be a required element in your marketing arsenal, you need look no further than the November 29th issue of The Wall Street Journal. In it, Research In Motion (RIM) — makers of the infamous BlackBerry wireless device — ran a full-page ad touting the strengths of WOM in building their BlackBerry business.

When a company is willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars in a national print publication to let the world know that word of mouth is working for them, all CMOs should sit up and take notice.

But while this gives WOM some of the respect it deserves as a media form, I’m not seeing a slew of other companies pushing to get in line behind RIM to do the same. That’s because most companies today are still struggling with the basics — things like defining what constitutes word of mouth, establishing a budget for it and defining how to measure it.

Through several interviews we conducted for the lead article in our latest issue of MarketingNPV Journal (“Is There A Reliable Way to Measure Word of Mouth Marketing?”) we found that marketers, consultants and other industry experts do not even agree yet on a definition. This is a critical first step if we are to eventually achieve the task of standardizing metrics.

The Word of Mouth Marketing Association, in its 2005 report, does a good job of clearly explaining all the elements that encompass word of mouth. We break them down for you in our article — things like defining the difference between organic and amplified word of mouth; the latter can be facilitated and controlled by companies, the former cannot, and that’s critical for companies to know and understand.

Which type of word of mouth an action or campaign falls under also affects the portfolio of metrics at a company’s disposal that can be used to track and measure them. For instance, organic WOM can be measured through traditional brand tracking devices, reputation surveys and customer experience monitoring, while amplified WOM lends itself more toward direct response-type campaign measurement tools.

To access the full article and learn more about how to define and measure word of mouth marketing:

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