By: Andy Levitt
Every year on April 1st, tricksters revel in their annual opportunity to play jokes on other people. In fact, just this morning, I told my wife that I was ready to get a vasectomy (even though we've had plenty of conversations about having a third child someday). The surprise on her face when I mentioned this - and the laughter that ensued when I answered her question of "Why are you telling me this now?" - was priceless.
From a business perspective, the influential nature of word of mouth conversations is nothing to laugh at. For years, I've been following the good work of Ed Keller and Brad Fay, co-founders of the The Keller-Fay Group who provides research insights into word of mouth dynamics. Next month, their new book, The Face-to-Face Book: Why Real Relationships Rule in a Digital Marketplace, will be released, and I am really looking forward to getting my copy.
In advance of their book release, they provided some data points to our friends at WOMMA that I wanted to share:
"There's nothing more impactful than a face-to-face word of mouth conversation. When we compare the credibility of advice about brands, we find that face-to-face gets the highest scores, followed by phone and then online. Face-to-face interaction has the benefit of emotion and facial expression that just doesn't convey electronically, and this leads to more actions taken based on offline conversations."
"Offline conversations enjoy greater scale, despite conventional wisdom to the contrary. Nine times more conversations happen offline than online, and it's possible for marketing activities to trigger enormous cascades of offline word of mouth."
"Less than 1% of the Facebook fans of brands engage with the brand following the initial decision to "like" the brand online. Online social media has great potential, but it's not "word of mouth on steroids" and it really needs to be integrated into a larger strategy that almost certainly includes traditional media or marketing approaches as well."
Offline word of mouth: more persuasive interactions happening on a larger scale that lead to more actions taken. Shouldn't that be every marketer's dream?
These data points and new findings resonate deeply with me, and I hope they make you stop and think.
The key takeaway here is that there is no silver bullet for successful marketing, but offline word of mouth needs to be in the mix. People will continue to have discussions with others (at a surprisingly high rate!), and the brands that can engage consumers with meaningful information will reap the benefits. And that's no joke.