Trusted Sources of Information

In a growing Web 2.0 world, consumer-generate content is becoming a staple for successful sites and sales. This is a big advantage for word of mouth marketing (WOMM) and those of us interested in using it. But as a novice in this area, you may not be sure what mediums to start with. eMarketer posted an article today with studies indicating people’s most trusted sources and where influencers flock.

As I say in most of my posts, identifying the niche for your product is most important place to begin. The niche(s) determines the subject of your messages and where you go to advertise your product. This perspective still applies with word of mouth marketing.

Information in the following charts can help us understand where consumers trend. We can use the information to choose where to begin our word of mouth campaign or even our general advertising.

We all know family and friends typically give us our most trusted information. The following graph presents consumer-trusted sources by popularity. When thinking about your WOM or advertising campaign, your goal is to get people on board with the following type of classifications or experiences.

People spread the word about a product with varying intensities. The most intense word-of-mouth communicators or “influencers” are the most attractive. One major component of WOMM sometimes crosses with publicity by attracting key persons to review your product and talk about it in articles or on their blogs. The chart bellow from eMarketer, based on a 2006 study, identifies key places influencers go to get their information. The first column, adult influencers, represents key influencers who shape consumer attitudes.

If you want to attract key people to your product, locations in the chart above is where you should start either advertising or request them to review your product.

For those of us who don’t think our product is excellent or that flaws in the product will be learned quickly, I suggest not advertising in some of the locations above. If your product is sub-par, people in these places will be the first to find that out and potentially spread the information on how much your product fails. That statement may seem unethical, but most of us at some point represent products we don’t have in confidence. Yet, we still want to do our best to make it sell as best as possible. Word of mouth marketing doesn’t work positively for weak products. The word will get out about its ineffectiveness (or people will simply not say anything about it). But, it’s possible to slow down the discovery and get strong initial buy-in using other traditional forms of marketing.

Online Advertising Affects Offline Sales

comScore released on Monday results of a study they and Yahoo! conducted of 5 major online retailers with offline store presence.

Article Stats:

  • People exposed to both search and display advertising spent 41% more in stores than those who saw neither ad.
  • People exposed only to search advertising spent 26% more in stores than those who saw neither ad.
  • People exposed only to display ads spent 11% more in stores than those who saw neither ad.
  • 89% of consumers shop for information about products online.
  • Less than 7% of all sales happen online.
  • Almost 90 percent of the incremental sales generated by online advertising take place in-store.
  • For every dollar spent online resulting from an advertising campaign, five more were spent by the same group of people in the store.

Why This May Not Directly Relate to You:

The study watched activities and sales of five major retailers. The announcement didn’t mention them by name, but the types were three national department stores, a major apparel retailer, and an office products supplier.

Due to the type of companies, the information may not directly apply to you. The companies in the survey probably have a strong Internet presence. They also can afford to put on large advertising campaigns and provided excellent and clear landing pages and cross-promotions on their own sites. The study also focused on consumers who were spending a bit of time researching products they were thinking of buying.

When putting together an advertising campaign, information on your products needs to be full, complete, and consistent from the ad to the point where the buy process begins. Those elements plus the ability for customers to pickup the product at a location nearby will help produce the results described in the article. Therefore, it’s not just placing the ad that makes a difference, but everything else in-between.

But what if you don’t have retail stores and you only produce the products other retail stores sell? Focus on providing all the right information on the products and then display the retailers near them that sell the product. Although you may also offer an online buying option, you can be confident that significantly more people will choose an offline option than who buy from you.


Click-throughs are just as important as they always have been. Therefore, this study doesn’t replace the need for targeted advertising. This simply shows that our advertising programs may be significantly more successful if we can make it easy for people to find an offline location near them to pick it up.


Types of Internet Marketing by Popularity

eMarketer just released an article discussing the effectiveness of RSS. Within this article they provided two graphs prioritizing the types of advertising marketers use the most (presented below). This really was the gem of the article for me.

They represent the conclusive expertise from seasoned marketers on where to best spend your internet marketing dollars. So, if you are wondering what the most effective types of online marketing may be or are trying to determine where to start your spending first, use these graphs to help you make your initial decisions.

Keep in mind that the product/service or company you are trying to advertise may get better results using a less “popular” advertising medium. Identifying your product’s niche is really the most important component. From there, you can decide which medium is best and how to present your ad within it. Good luck!

Most Effective Online Advertising Media
Online Mediums Most Commonly Used by TV Networks

The Rise of Word of Mouth Marketing

If you’ve been following any online marketing trends, word of mouth marketing (WOMM) is a recent craze. eMarketer sent out a newsletter today noting information about the rise of WOMM. Based on information from a BIGresearch study, the article points out that 91% of people in the U.S. sought advice on products or services between November and December 2006—the biggest buying season of the year (chart #080344 below). Ninety-four percent (94%) of us gave advice to others (chart #08033 below).

91% of People Seek Advice About Products and Services 94% of People Give Advice on Products or Services
The article also points out the types of marketing most people prefer to receive based on a DoubleClick study last January (see chart #080163). The top five are:
  1. Recommendations from friends (58%)
  2. Opted-in email newsletters (33%)
  3. TV ads (32%)
  4. Catalogs via mail (30%)
  5. Magazine ads (30%)

See the full article by eMarketer (available until July 4).

What is Word of Mouth Marketing

I’m about to post information about an eMarketer eblast. Before I do so, I wanted to give a quick overview of what Word of Mouth Marketing is. Wikipedia also has excellent information on this topic.

In the past month or so, I’ve heard TV and radio news programs report on this new trend. Both talked negatively about WOMM. But I think they were looking at the abusers of WOMM instead of those who are using it respectfully and accurately. The basic gist of WOMM is to encourage individuals to give an honest recommendation about your product to others. The realization is that people put more weight on the words from a friend or a person who has already experienced the product.

Abusers of this approach basically hire freelance sales reps to “sell” the product to people they know. Payment is usually received as free product or coupons. The companies strongly suggest what the customer needs to say about the product and the sales goal they need to achieve before a “gift” will be sent. When a company determines what a customer will say, it certainly is not word of mouth. When there are achievement goals to attain a “reward”, it is not word of mouth. I don’t have a problem with the approach. But I do have a problem with calling it word of mouth marketing.

To properly entice a person to talk about your product, it’s okay to offer things to increase excitement or to let them know you are thankful they chose to spend their money with you. Usually notification of those gifts happen at the purchase or receipt of your product. What makes WOMM different from incentive programs, such as frequent flyer clubs, are the type of gifts you give. The goal is to enable the person to spread the word about your product with the gift. I suggest checking with the customer to see if they are interested in spreading the word. That can be done simply by providing a means to do so or asking if they want the item you offer to further the discussion. Things given as a “thank you” of course do not need to be opted into. Your return rate on those would obvious be proportionately smaller, but overall activity should be larger.

Other ways of encouraging WOM is to simply provide a vehicle to discuss your product. This can be via an “email a friend” link (although I’m personally not a fan), emailable sample chapters if you’re a book publisher, customer comments on your site, product giveaways for the buyer to give away, or even bumper stickers.

The most important part to remember in all of this is that you need a product that’s worth talking about. Creative marketing can only go so far. If you have a bad product, it’ll come out in WOMM. That was one of my concerns with my websites or products. What if people don’t like them. I’m then empowering people to talk negatively about my product. But even if you don’t attempt to further discussion of your product, people will talk about it anyway. In fact, they already are. The advantage of being more engaged in the discussion is that you’ll find out sooner if the product won’t perform. You’ll then be in a better place to allocate your resources in directions you know will succeed.

For more information, I’d recommend a book by Greg Steilstra titled Pyro Marketing. I haven’t read the entire book, but I’ve met with Greg to get its gist and discuss some of my concerns with the WOM approach. He explains things well in the book. His fire metaphor makes understanding the WOMM concept clearer.

There is also an organization, named the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), that is committed to furthering and educating people about WOMM. They also conduct training sessions, webinars, and provide an email newsletter if you want to become a stronger advocate for WOMM.

Favorite Internet Marketing eNewsletters

I subscribe to many electronic newsletters, most of which focus on Internet marketing. Here are the one’s I most highly recommend:

  1. eMarketer Daily (left side)
  2. MarketingVOX News (the very top-right of homepage)
  3. iMedia Connection (halfway down on left)
  4. (top-left on homepage)
  5. CNET Webware Weekly

The publication I make sure to read every day is eMarketer’s newsletter. The content is concise and doesn’t overload you with various topics. Most articles review studies from other agencies. This gives me insight to consumer behavior and advertising opportunities. My next favorite newsletter comes from MarketingVOX. They include significantly more information, but focus more on the activities of leading companies in Internet Marketing.

Unfortunate in some ways, I typically don’t visit web sites or blogs to learn about information related to marketing or development. I suggest doing so if you have the discipline since many sites without an enewsletter signup can give you excellent information. I prefer information be delivered directly to me since I don’t always remember to visit sites for information and since the schedule of my day varies so widely. Plus, I can then easily archive the information for later reference and pass it around to others in the company.

Another option you can take is to start your own blog aggregator and look for site RSS or ATOM feeds. Internet Explorer 7.0 has an easy aggregator function within it. I haven’t had much luck finding other programs I appreciate. An aggregator enables you to go to one location to view the best content from your favorite sites. As an example, Thomas Nelson created its own aggregator combining blog posts from employees who have them. All of the sites I listed above have RSS feeds. The feeds typically include more information than what I receive from them once each week.

Conversions Increase with Ad Frequency

A study by Atlas Institute found that conversions increase as impressions when advertised across sites (see chart below). I’m not sure about you, but I think that information is common sense already. But what’s different in this study is that the percentage of conversions increase as the number of impressions increase. Instead of the percentage of responders staying relatively consistent no matter where the ad is placed, the overall portion of respondents grows with each ad placement (generally speaking, of course).

The study goes on to indicate that 9 out of 10 people in the study who eventually made a buying decision were reached by the ad in at least one other location (see chart below). We know that repetition is important in advertising. This article helps us know how much our repetitive advertising helps us.

One important note to make is that repetition is not best in all advertising applications. Plus, we should not simply advertise in various locations, but targeted locations where the same consumer visits. That requires a better knowledge of who is coming to our sites and where they shop.

Although, that could be a topic unto itself, I wanted to give you a couple recommendations if you’re interested in learning more. Hitwise is a company that provides this data most accurately. But it comes at a steep price. There are some web analytic tools you can buy for your site that attempt to find out this information as well. Both WebTrends and Omniture provide this information if integrated appropriately. They can also be pricy, but if buying the WebTrends software (not the company’s hosted solution) the use of the software can be depreciated over time. However, the best reliable option I quickly found for almost any size business is Google’s latest Google Analytics package. It’s totally free unlike the others, but Google then gains knowledge of your site’s performance and visitor behavior. Typically, that won’t be a problem. However, it’s certainly important to note.

The study is summarized pretty well by eMarketer. You can view this article until around July 4.