Word of Mouth Marketing Book, Andy Sernovitz: Review, Notes and Quotes

Recently I delved into Andy Sernovitz‘s book, word of mouth marketing: how smart companies get people talking. It’s a good and very useful read for getting some great tips and tricks for online word of mouth coverage. You could argue it’s a basic book, but he does highlight some good points. In particular he highlights some effective, but simple campaigns that a lot of companies aren’t doing. Marketing should be simple and this was highlighted in the last book I wrote about [22 ILM].

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The most value I personally got from this book is the part about business to business sales. When you’re dealing with that aspect it’s so important you have case studies and testimonials. Andy writes about this aspect quite well gives examples of where you can include these too.

Overall the book is worth diving into, I found it a little repetitive, which was useful and slightly annoying. On the useful aspect: he drills home the important points, and you do internalise them. The annoying aspect: the structure of the book, makes it feel like you read the same point over and over again. It was quite easy to read, and a good stop-start book because it’s broken down into sub-headings and sub-sections.

Buy it? Yes.

Here’s a copy of my notes below, for your use and mine.

5 types of word of mouth, the 5 “t’s”

  1. Talkers – who will till their friends about you
  2. Topics – what will they tell their friends about you
  3. Tools – how can you help the message travel?
  4. Taking part – how you should you join the conversation?
  5. Tracking – What are people saying about you?

In detail:

  1. Identify the right kind of talker but give them the topic to talk about. Talkers are closer than you think. Not always celebs, journalists
  2. Good topics are portable, clear ideas that one person can repeat successfully
  3. An easy-to-forward email or a tell-a-friend button on every page
  4. Taking part gives marketers the heebie-jeebies. You need to participate if you don’t join the conversation, it will die out.
  5. Consumer-to-customer conversations are easy to measure online. Use it to build a smarter marketing plan and better company.

Word of mouth marketing is about listening to consumers and giving them a voice. Stealth marketing is tricking people.

  • Always add a word of mouth for budget reports on acquisition
  • “The best value from your marketing investment is the customers you’ve acquired for free”
  • A consumer has a bigger voice than any ad agency ever could

Word of mouth is now mass media, here’s how it happened:

  • We are reviewing like crazy. Amazon, ebay
  • We ask a friend for a type of store. We share what we think about your business whether or not anyone asked
  • People like me – we don’t rely on professional opinion

Your job: make sure word of mouth is good you can’t control the consumer conversation, so remember that PR isn’t over when the article is written. The goal is to earn good word of mouth on an ongoing basis

Know people are talking about you. Marketers who ignore the conversation will be seen as aloof and clueless, and they will get kicked around

  • Don’t hesitate get out there. Get talking
  • You are what real people experience with your company
  • You are the user experience. (UR the UE)

When thinking about a new product, you should really be thinking about what it is people will say after using it. e.g.

– Functionality, quality and their treatment

Customer experiences drive more word of mouth sales than another ad.

  • Success comes not from what you advertise but what you deliver
  • Your mission: make sure the good stuff gets on a permanent record
  • As a word of mouth marketer, make sure the company human face gets out there
  • When bad press happens: Participate, earn respect and tell your story
  • Why not recruit a customer rep? Search the web and: thank, apologise, and fix it
  • Your mistakes live on forever on the internet
    • So do the fantastic things you do. Focus on the fantastic.
  • Focusing on the spreadsheet will cost you on word of mouth, it frustrates customers. [P.51]

“Traditional cost accounting doesn’t report how many betrayed customers decided never to come back”

  • Bad service is expensive. Especially when you look at the marketing cost to replace the leads burned through negative word of mouth.
  • Your reputation has real value. Factor it into your balance sheet and business plan.

Word of mouth marketing makes more money

  • Reduced customer acquisition cost
  • Free advertising
  • Better results from traditional advertising
  • More productive sales people
  • More sales leads
  • Reduced customer service costs
  • Stronger brand

Word of mouth makes all of your sales and marketing more effective. So do these 3 things:

  1. Protect them
  2. Treat them with respect
  3. Listen to them

You will of better at marketing  and be a better marketer because of it.

The Five Ts of Word of Mouth Marketing

Free tool worksheet: The Five Ts of Word of Mouth Marketing

Keep It Easy

  • Put a tell a friend link on every page

Ask yourself:

  • When she walks out the door, what have I given her to talk about?
  • How will he remember to tell his friends?
  • Could I have made a it easer for her to talk to more people?
  • Was anything about his experience remarkable?

A word of mouth program

  • Identify the right talkers
  • Create a communication channel to reach them regularly
  • Give them topics to talk about
  • Keep them happy and motivated


  1. They want to feel good
  2. They want to help others and,
  3. They want to belong to a group

We want to hear from someone with the same needs and lifestyle that we have. Your talkers are:

  • Current customers
  • The worker who gets a flyer in the mail
  • People who post reviews online
  • People in the neighbourhood
  • A shopper who helps another shopper in the aisle [Amazing case study on p.70. Ref. for Confident Sexual Health]

“Regular visitors aren’t always the biggest spenders or the best talkers”

Types of Talkers

Talkers #1: Happy Customers

  • Comment cards, sign up for newsletters, submit suggestions online, comment on your message boards, email you.

Talkers #2: Online talkers

  • Website comments: reviews, raves and responses
  • Find them using regular search engines, both a regular one and a specialised one for blogs
  • They will be thrilled to hear from you – email them

Talkers #3: Logo lovers

  • Give out goodies with your logo, they want to show that they’re part of your group of fans

Talkers #4: Eager Employee’s

  • Look around, who has a bumpers sticker or your clothes on?

Talkers #5: Listeners

  • People who subscribe to your newsletter or read your blog are hungry to know the news

Talkers #6: Forms and hobbyists

  • Die hard fans almost always have websites these days. Find them.

Talkers #7: Professionals

  • Reporters, columnists, critics, full-time bloggers, business networks etc.
  • More PR stuff but can be excellent for word of mouth

New Talkers Worksheet:

New Talkers Worksheet - word of mouth

Recognise good talkers with:

  • Passion
  • Credibility (some expertise in what they’re saying)
  • Connections  – a wide network, quantity counts in word of mouth
    • Do they – post photos online, amazing wishlist, volunteer or blog? Members of networking organisation?
    • Opportunity – People who have many interactions (don’t sit at home). e.g. Business travellers.

Talker Profiles

  1. Pick a single group of talkers you want to work with
  2. Create a plan to reach them
  • What motivates one group will be very different from the other
    • if they have more than one type of talker, build multiple profiles
  • Who are the talkers?
  • What are their basic characteristics?
  • What are they already talking about?
  • To whom are they talking?
  • How do you contact them?

Build A Contact Plan

Step #1: Get permission and contact information

Step #2: Create a contact vehicle (find a way to connect)

Talkers want to see:

  • detailed data – technical and product manuals
  • Progress reports – development, future menu items
  • Company news – fill them in on office news, new hires, promotions, put a human face on it

Say Thank You!

  • These people are singing your praises and putting their name on the line for you

Thank them publicly [recognition and gratitude]:

  • Mention your top talkers on your website. Make recognition part of the program.
  • Give out special lapels for volunteers
  • Show how interacting with others can give you status
  • Track geographic location of “telling a friend”

“Your word of mouth won’t match what the marketing department dept. want them to say”

  • A great topic is more simple than you think. Resist the urge to make it complicated
  • Don’t drop your topic – commitment to a topic will set you apart just as much as the topic itself

Do something silly – use funny signs/banners or email titles. Get people to share with friends.

Why not partner with a charity

Viral Campaigns

  • Game, joke or funny video
  • Coupons, newsletters or product updates

Free info:

  • Free content, market research, reports, white papers, webcasts, free newsletters

Wacky stunts

  • Create something really bizarre to get talked about
  • Hold a contest. Host a party. Hire guys in Elvis suits[!]

Being a buzzworthy company:

  • Great products that make people go “ooh”
  • Uniqueness e.g. “Did you know about?”
  1. Ask People to spread the word
  2. Put everything in an email
  3. Put a tell-a-friend link on every page
    • Include sign-up instructions in your email (in case it was forwarded)
    • Put a call to action right at the top of the email. “Tell a friend” ask them to refer several people.
    • Protect privacy, and be clear on this.

Business to Business Word of Mouth

  • Ask for testimonials
  • Ask customers to be references
  • Use case studies
  • Publish research
  • Have user conferences


  1. White papers and research – people love to share articles and data. They get quoted, copied and forwarded
  2. Testimonials – Ask for them everywhere . Display them everywhere, homepage and all sales materials
  3. Email newsletters – They are the only kind of advertising that people ask for. Create an email newsletter for each of your talker groups.
  4. Customer referral programs – create a formal program to get existing customers to spread word of mouth to new prospects. Testimonials, videos case studies, talk about them on your blog. Make them feel important and look like stars.
  5. Live meetings – Get them together anyway you can. It doesn’t need to be formal (but those do will). Invite 20 customers to dinner, even better have employee do it.

The Power of Making People Happy

  • An unhappy customer tells five people
  • A formally unhappy customer who is made happy tells ten people

“Fixing problems is the most powerful marketing you can do”

  • Word of mouth is more than marketing. It’s also your best market research tool
  • Use online tracking tools, encourage feedback
  • Listen to tell-a-friend forms
    • What pages are they sharing?
    • Track how many referred people become customers
  • “Buzzworthiness” = number of referrals divided by number of page views
  • Net promoter score = Subtract percentage of negative responses from percentage of positive responses. Calculate this on a 1-10 point scale [Likert scale]. Throw out neutral responses.

Put Value on Word of Mouth

  • Clearly identify the generalised “how did you hear about us?” question on forms. Have a way you can track this to word of mouth specifically. Literally put word of mouth or something similar.
  • Track word of mouth to place a value on you most active talkers. Derive their value relative to other customers.

Ways to Measure

  • Referral sales – measure value of sales generated by your direct mail and email forwarders.
  • Leads from tell a friend forms – Overtime someone uses one, you get a lead without paying for it
  • Sales created by customer service – Recognise customer service as not merely an expense but a way to create positive word of mouth. Generates positive return on investments
  • Savings from public participation – Solve problems online for everyone to see. Saves multiple people asking the same question


word of mouth marketing book
Buy on Amazon

Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking

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