Word Of Mouth 101: How To Unlock The Most Powerful Form Of Marketing
If you can get people talking, your revenue will accelerate exponentially.
We want to take a quick moment before this week’s “Category Design Tip” to remind you that Black Friday is coming up. So before you lock in your marketing campaigns, we encourage you to read our Black Friday mini-book: Rethinking Black Friday: A DIFFERENT Approach To Discounting, Couponing, And Short-Term Marketing Promotions
Dear Friend, Subscriber, and Category Pirate,
This week’s Category Design Tip is about sparking a word-of-mouth marketing fire.
(Metaphorically, of course.)
Most marketers know the power of word-of-mouth marketing. But how you maximize marketing dollars, and unlock exponential growth at decreasing levels of CAC, is by laser-focusing on Super-Geos. The purpose is to spend enough money in these areas of demand density so that word-of-mouth marketing tips.
So, we’re sharing how to apply WOM marketing in a way that exponentially scales.
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Word Of Mouth Is, And Will Forever Be, The Most Powerful Form Of Marketing
As we shared in our mini-book Category Science 101, word-of-mouth marketing is all about talking.
Unfortunately, the way most entrepreneurs, executives, and creators think about word of mouth is by “reaching as many people as possible, as cheaply as possible.”
Conventional wisdom assumes the more people who hear your message, the more people will spread your message. But this just isn’t true. When this strategy fails, most marketing experts think the problem was “the creative” or the “ad buys” or any number of other traditional marketing levers.
What they fail to consider is that their marketing did not create viral lift, with a decreasing CAC, because they did not put the right words in the right mouths.
WOM is really about putting the right words (POV) in the right mouths (Supers) in the right places (Super-Geos).
The people who are most likely to want to talk about your product, service, platform, or idea (category) are people who are obsessed with that kind of thing.
And they’re not doing word-of-mouth marketing because some company hypnotized them into it. They’re talking about the product, and more importantly the category, because they heard the Point Of View, internalized it, tried it, experienced a transformation of some kind, and are now over-the-moon excited to help other people experience the same transformation they did.
But not all WOM marketing is the same. So let’s walk through the different levels:
The 5 Levels Of Word-Of-Mouth Marketing
Level 1: If you want negative WOM, sell to the customer. This guarantees they won’t tell anyone about your product/service.
Level 2: If you want to open the door for WOM, create the perception that everyone else is buying. This is what happens when you see a restaurant that’s jam-packed with a line down the street. You just assume it’s good.
Level 3: If you want to spark WOM, help the customer realize the benefit your product/service solves is the opposite of what they thought was possible. In other words, “wanna hear something weird” WOM is incredibly effective at piercing through the noise.
Level 4: If you want WOM to catch fire and spread, help the customer understand how this thing will transform their life. Educate them on the bigger mission. What does their life look like after using this product/service? What does the world look like if tons of people start using this product/service?
Level 5: And if you want WOM to spread like crazy, help the customer make money. When the product/service is awesome, and it allows them to transform and live a different future, AND there is economic value, WOM spirals out of control.
But WOM doesn’t do you any good if random people all over the world are talking about your category.
What you really want is a small group of people, who live inside a (Digital or Analog) Super-Geo.
They should be evangelizing your category such that other people in this Super-Geo can’t go anywhere without hearing about it. This gives you the illusion of being “everywhere.” As a result, “the right words” keep coming out of “the right mouths,” and revenue begins to accelerate exponentially as the result of proximity.
Super-Geos are portals to new dimensions—and when you find one, you suddenly “live in the future.”
A Super-Geo is a specific place (Analog or Digital) where a group of Superconsumers is together:
Geographically (Chicago or a suburb east of Atlanta, etc.)
Digitally (a Discord channel, a Facebook group, a gaming chat room, etc.)
Affinity (a neighborhood that is predominantly Catholic, Jewish, or Hindu. Or a spot where all the local surfers, artists, or bankers hang out.)
Vocationally (a club, a fraternity or sorority, a shared specialized school, etc.)
These are areas of extreme demand density.
This is how a tiny zip code, on a relative basis, becomes exponentially more profitable than anywhere else you serve customers. Or how a single Facebook Group, Discord channel, or email newsletter partnership can yield 50x more ROI than any other marketing channel.
What you’re doing (whether you realize it or not) is tapping into a Super-Geo full of your Superconsumers—who buy more, at higher prices, more often—and bring more people to the category and your brand.
This becomes a virtuous circle, creating WOM at scale.
In order to discover these Super-Geo opportunities, you must put your Category Scientist lens on.
You have to analyze data from the past with a mindset focused on spotting the “weird” so that you can discover/create the wormholes that lead to DIFFERENT futures. This is easier said than done. Most marketers do not think about Super-Geos this way.
But when you play with this lens yourself, you’ll quickly develop a new relationship with data.
So, how do you find Super-Geos?
The Super-Geos you are looking for are not continents or even countries.
What you are looking for is data at the state level. And not just state, but city. And not just city, but zip code. Or, digitally speaking: not just the platform (LinkedIn), but a group of users on the platform (LinkedIn Group).
For example, most companies have sales data by geography.
They can see that they sell more in zipcode A vs. zipcode B. But what they often fail to do is normalize the data by converting it into a per capita metric. You can then take other per capita metrics (Super of 1 = Super of 9) and see what weirdness you can find.
Here’s the detailed 10-step recipe:
Take your data by geography at the most granular level you can. (State, city, DMA, zip code, zip + 4, etc.)
Convert it into a per-capita metric. If you have total category consumers from a 3rd party source (Nielsen, IDG), then great. If not, using the total population by that geography can be good enough. Make sure you adjust it for gender, age, etc.
Compare the per capita metric to year-over-year sales growth in that geography. What do you see? Do you find that sales growth is slow on very low per capita metrics, jumps really high with moderate per capita metrics, and then slows again with high per capita metrics? Congratulations, you just built yourself your category S-curve!
Append your dataset to other per capita metrics, using geography as the common denominator. Get as broad of data sets as you possibly can.
Now compare the per capita metrics to other per capita metrics. Competitors in your category. Adjacent categories. Random categories you would not think have any relationship to yours. This is your data potluck!
You can find the rest of the Super-Geos recipe, and ways to tip your word-of-mouth marketing in those areas, in our mini-book Category Science 101.
And remember, look for the weird.
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