Dave Baltar, the CEO of BzzAgent, along with the BzzAgent Director of strategy led a pretty interesting workshop on how to run a word of mouth (WOM) marketing campaign at Ad:Tech last week.
First let’s look at some of the numbers that were bandied around – as some of them were quite interesting:
- 2/3 of the US economy is influenced by WOM – this is according to a McKinsey report
- 15% of all conversations contain a reference to a product – based on a recent Northeastern University research paper
- 40% of all WOM episodes include a reference to other media – according to their own research
- 80% of consumers trust WOM recommendations more than any other source – according to a Forrester report
This is all very much in-line with the research done by Everett Rogers on Diffusion of Innovation – some of which was first reported in the 60’s and 70’s
At BzzAgent, they now have close to 160,000 BzzAgents – volunteers who engage in conversations with friends, family, and acquaintances and make word of mouth recommendations for products in the context what happens naturally in their environment. In trying to develop and manage WOM as a real media channel, BzzAgent tries very hard not to turn their evangelists into “sales” people. In fact, the principles they adhere to include – no scripting, 100% volunteer, double opt-in, allow both positive and negative WOM, and ensure disclosure.
While WOM is not a “new” media channel, but one that has been in existence for as long as social networks have existed, if you look at BzzAgents’ rate card, it looks like they have been able to turn WOM into a manageable and predictable media channel – and that maybe something new. For $65K they will deploy a 1,000 agents, which will generate 47,375 conversations over the period of 12 weeks. If you’ve got a little over $2M to spare, they will deploy 75,000 agents who will generate 3,553,125 conversations in a 12 week period.
If this is all working, and all indications are that it is, then there may be another hidden “lesson learned” here – one that companies should apply to their traditional sales force – have them be less scripted, and freer to improvise and create real dialogues with their prospects instead of delivering sales pitches. But that is not “new” either – David Weinberger and his co-authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto have been saying that for over a decade..