I recently finished a book by Jonah Berger, “Contagious: Why Things Catch On” and wanted to share some of his insights with you.
Mr. Berger is a Wharton Business School professor and has, for the last ten years, been studying why some products and ideas take off and why others will wither and die.
According to Mr. Berger, “Word of mouth is not random, it is not luck and there is a science behind it.”
As I read the book, I noted several important statistics, one of which is that “just 7% of all word of mouth takes place on line.”
That’s because people trust recommendations from their friends more than they do from an organization. (Remember how frequently we talk about the importance of testimonials; so few organizations are disciplined enough to use that strategy consistently.
We have to really understand how things catch on and how ideas spread. Most of us think that ideas just start to spread; that it is kind of a random thing; almost a lucky thing.
That is really not the case at all.
Here are six basic principles why ideas and products take off.
1. Make your customers feel like “insiders.” If you write a newsletter about your open play programs, make sure that it is for “The Happy Lanes Insider Club; Special programs for Special Customers.”Exclusive accessibility creates a certain kind of buzz which people want to share. Think of your friend that goes to Vegas and tells you how “He Always Gets Comped.” And of course he shares his exclusivity status, which makes him feel good and makes you think that you MAY want that status too.
2. Try to associate your product with something familiar to all customers. For example, if you run a Pizza, Pins N Pepsi program, try to associate your program with something that shows, via digital media, how people eat pizza in the form of some quick vignettes. You can then create a YouTube video to post on your Facebook page or on your website. Show little scenes of people and their pizza; folding it into pieces, cutting it into squares, eating from the crust first, cutting their slice into smaller triangles, or putting a ton of garlic, o pepper, oregano or French dressing on their pizza. Your objective is to show the fun of eating pizza…and bowling at “Happy lanes.” Maybe even create a funny postcard and send it to 1,000 people at the same time your Facebook campaign is going on.
3. Tug at someone’s emotion. Anybody remember Coca Cola’s famous TV commercial about “Buying the world a Coke™.” Think about how you can make an adult child video that shows a Dad and his daughter, hugging and laughing at the lanes, rather than showing a great pin splash. Maybe even do the hug in slow motion and then just splash a couple of words on the screen like “It doesn’t get any better than this.” Adult child programs start at Happy Lanes on day and date. Come for the bowling, Stay for the love.”
4. Knowledge. Your word of mouth campaign won’t become anything if people don’t have knowledge of what you do. It does you little good if you run a great Boys N Girls Club fundraiser in the community and no one knows about it. You can stimulate that by inviting people from the media, issuing press releases to various public TV and radio sites as well as to other fund raising organizations so they know what your center has achieved. You could also place some information on your website and in the center advising people that “Happy Lanes puts The Fun in Fund raising.” You wouldn’t believe how many centers I go into that have no information about available fund raising options…or on their website.
5. Share information that is useful. Make a video about how pigs use old bowling balls to exercise. Who knows, it just might go “viral.”
6. At the recent Bowl Expo, attendees listened to George Bush, the 43rd; tell stories to make his points about strategy, tactics, and brinkmanship. Abe Lincoln, Mark Twain and Will Rogers were some of the greatest story tellers ever and people would flock to them, take their stories and repeat them. If you can tell a story about an 85 year old Grandma who has not only bowled for 63 years, but also climbed Mt Everest (I’m exaggerating here, of course) at the age of 77; you would have a heck of a story. Try to find miraculous things that your customers or employees have done and publicize them.
If you want your word of mouth to be successful, practice the art and science of making your “members” advocates for your product.
And like anything else out there in “media-land,” it doesn’t happen unless you manage it…
Because Hope Is Not A Strategy.