In March of 2001, the MIR Space Station was scheduled to fall to earth. Much speculation in the news centered around where the debris from the falling structure would hit earth. Taco Bell, meanwhile, placed a 40 foot by 40 foot target in the Indian Ocean and announced that if the MIR hit the target, every person in the United States would be offered a free taco. News stories began to spread immediately. Hundreds of newspapers and periodicals printed the story and the phones at Taco Bell rang constantly. Taco Bell had initiated one of the great Word of Mouth Campaigns of the decade.
This week, we are going to spend time on the topic of word of mouth marketing (“WOM”). WOM is really an umbrella term for a wide variety of marketing techniques and tools ranging from testimonials and referrals to blogs and formal referral networks. Your efforts do not have to be as dramatic as Taco Bell’s. The truth is, WOM happens with or without your participation. That does not mean, however, that it is out of your control. To the contrary, it is worthwhile for a travel planner to find ways to initiate, monitor, amplify and track word of mouth to the extent possible. In fact, it is very possible and desirable to incorporate a solid WOM campaign into your overall marketing plan and to provide a framework for WOM marketing to grow and prosper.
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WOM marketing is powerful. It carries with it the strength of a third-party endorsement. Upon hearing a recommendation from one of your existing clients, a new prospect feels assured and some of the concern that always attends the choice of a new travel agent disappears.
The first requisite of a solid WOM campaign is a highly noteworthy, quality product. In this case, that means you. Your service, the interactions you have with your clients and the “buzz” that surrounds your travel practice must be well above average -it must be exceptional. Ask yourself, honestly, if your service and the relationships you build with your clients is exceptional. If so, congratulations and you are on the way to setting forth a WOM strategy that can be monitored as surely as any other marketing campaign.
Last week, we discussed the importance of formulating a message for your company – a clear statement of what you do and what your travel practice is about. The clarity of your message is especially important when considering WOM. Well-intentioned clients may attempt to describe you to others and either do so poorly or get it wrong altogether. For that reason, make sure that your “message” is clearly articulated in all of your points of contact, so that clients know exactly how to describe who you are and what you do.
Now that we have the basics – a great product and a clearly articulated message – we can look at the primary distribution channels of a good WOM strategy and tactical implementation. In each instance, we will take an existing WOM channel and seek to amplify it impact.
Word of Mouth Channels
- Existing Clients
- Internal Clients
- Public Relations and Referral Networks
Tomorrow – Get your Clients Talking