TGarage, Word-of-mouth marketing firm, was founded by William Saxton, Roger Lowe and Paul Rhodes after they discovered the power of using Web 2.0 in conjunction with traditional marketing techniques.
The company offers a number of services including SEO, reputation management and social media marketing. Rhodes says small businesses can improve their brand recognition if they harness the power of word-of-mouth.
Can you describe how the business started?
All three of us had similar backgrounds, and came to the realisation there hadn’t been a lot of innovation in communication channels over the past 10 or so years. If you look back, TV and print had branched out with bus shelter advertisements, and other media formats, but nothing revolutionary was happening. We saw the feedback from traditional media wasn’t as strong, and we wanted to explore that.
So we were noticing these trends, and then also saw consumers moving towards wanting to engage with brands and have conversations with them on networks like Twitter. We figured if you talked to them and engaged them, it can be very powerful and they can then be persuasive and be advocates.
How did that lead to word-of-mouth?
The trend of course was formed around users engaging with social networks like Facebook. But word-of-mouth has always been around even before social networks. So we thought there was a good avenue to combine the two.
The whole internet trend is very much about people engaging in normal groups, and forums, etc, and businesses have taken advantage of that with viral campaigns. So we take that as the basis of our campaigns, both offline and online, and we focus on small groups.
So break it down for our readers, what do you do for a word-of-mouth campaign?
The first thing we try to do is find out what a company wants to achieve, what the messages are, and their key demographics, so we know which areas to target.
So we identify those demographics and then we give them something to share, which could be both virtual and physical. So a virtual piece would be like a viral video featuring the product with interactive features, physically it could be samples of products and so on, and then we have internet campaigns where these people can go and share their opinions.
So often we’ll use the real world to give out the product and then direct them to the internet to share that, through social networks or our own site or whatever. The internet isn’t the focus, it’s just a tool.
Can you give an example?
We recently had a campaign for a nasal decongestant for children – quite a strategic challenge. In their market they are very much the number two player, but thought they had a much better product. So obviously challenging the market leader is a big effort, and they said they didn’t want to spend too much money on their message.
So we immediately targeted the key demographic – mother’s groups. We identified over 5,000 groups we could use to spread the product. We showed them the product, allowed them to try it out, and then provided them with a site they could go to in order to share their opinions. It has to be a big campaign, it can’t be small, and I think we achieved that. We didn’t directly advertise, we just showed them the product and then got them to talk about it.
So you combine the internet and real world marketing?
That’s right, the internet can’t just work on its own, and is just a conduit to helping propagate word-of-mouth. You have to understand corporations are quite sensitive to having too much consumer generated media on their sites because you can’t control what people say. So that’s why we use physical demonstrations as well as the site, so we can influence that decision before a post even appears online.
So in the case of the nasal decongestant we would give them samples, and then only then would we direct them to a portal where they can post about what they’ve tried. Of course they could post on Facebook and so on but if the trial is done well that won’t matter.
For businesses wanting to create a word-of-mouth campaign, what do they need to do?
The first thing is that you have to identify a way in which your product is remarkable. This is word-of-mouth, it’s powerful, and people are only going to talk about things that are very good or very bad, they have no reason to make things up and that is why review sites have done so well.
Then you really need to think about who your advocates can be and the influencers for that brand. That’s part of the job we do, identifying demographics. You can use an existing database for this.
Then after you’ve done that you invite that database to participate in a program, usually offline, and then go from there. You can combine this with print advertising, and call-to-action type of programs where there is an incentive to get online and talk about it… like rewards and so on.
Keep in mind that word-of-mouth is often the number one way a company has achieved knowledge about a product, and is often in the top three. It’s a key factor for getting your name out there, and a driver for whether your brand is successful. Don’t discount it.