I have sometimes joked in the last couple of years that I have time to either read books or write books, but not both. The problem is that if I don’t keep up with what other people are saying, it should make you wonder about how I continue to retain what expertise I claim. So, I am making a concerted effort to catch up on the pile of books on my desk, prioritizing books sent to me by the authors first. I’m still busy, but the guilt induced from an author sending you a free copy of his book that I’ve never even read is quite motivating for me. So, Andy Sernovitz sent me a copy of his book, Word of Mouth Marketing, many months ago and I finally had a chance to read it. You should, too.
Some people ask me if they still need to read books on Internet marketing, because anything you could read in a book you can probably find for free on a blog somewhere. Too often, that’s true—too many books are just a series of stories that could easily have appeared on a blog. Maybe they did.
Not this book.
True, Andy has a great blog, and I had heard some of these stories before, but they didn’t lessen the impact of reading them one after another, organized in themes that help you really understand how to take advantage of word of mouth marketing, viral marketing, or even “word of mouse,” as I have heard a few people refer to it.
There’s still something about reading a good book—one that is well organized and walks you through something you need to learn in a smart sequence—that is just so much easier than randomly landing on blogs and having to synthesize everything yourself.
Andy’s book is divided in two parts, understanding word of mouth marketing and knowing how to pull it off. Most of the books I read are about Internet marketing, and Andy covers the Web applications for word of mouth in depth, but he also includes many offline marketing examples that I hadn’t heard of before. And he made me realize that even the familiar stories were often ones I hadn’t thought much about.
For example, he explains why the JetBlue’s adddition of TVs to their planes was such genius. It’s not because the programming in basic cable is anything exciting, but it was a simple story to tell: “Hey, JetBlue has TV!” Now, I have never flown JetBlue, but I have to admit that I know they have TV and I would like to see what that’s like. That’s what word of mouth marketing is about—focusing on things that customers care about, yes, but also that they will talk about. JetBlue’s customers care about their on-time record, but it’s boring to talk about. That doesn’t make it unimportant, but it means you do it more to prevent negative word of mouth than to get anything positive.
One thing I liked about Andy’s book is that it is unabashedly anecdotal. He uses almost no stats, cites no studies, and basically uses storytelling techniques to convince you of the marketing value of storytelling. The only place where that breaks down is the chapter on measurement, where you probably need a few hard facts and analytics tools to make that work, but hey, let someone else write a book on that.
So, who should read this book?
Storytelling has long been the bastion of public relations people, but I think this is a great book to give to a PR pro, because it might help them see how their skills can be applied to the Internet.
If you are marketer struggling to understand how word of mouth marketing can change the way your business communicates with customers (by helping them communicate with each other), this book is for you. I think it is especially good for you to provide to your boss, because it is an easy read and it communicates big ideas in a very accessible way. If your boss didn’t get it before, this book might help.
Word of mouth marketing is inexpensive and effective. If it’s not part of your plans, you’re giving your competitors an edge that you might regret. Andy’s book helps you take that edge for yourself.