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Why stimulate WOM

Free Advertising

By Brian Jud

What if there were a way to make your title known to every potential buyer--for free? There is, and it is called word-of-mouth advertising--people talking to people--the most inexpensive and productive way to spread the word about your new titles. Fortunately, there are ways you can stimulate word-of-mouth communication that will build your sales, reduce your costs and increase your profits.

People singing your praises removes the aura of commercialism and instills a sense of objectivity about their recommendations. However, you lose control over what they are saying because, through exaggeration or misunderstanding, people may distort your intended message. Since word-of-mouth conversations can be either positive or negative, you must make sure people are talking about your titles constructively. You can do this by stimulating word-of-mouth advertising through the copy on your book’s cover, your publicity and communicating on the Internet.

Stimulate word-of-mouth advertising with your cover copy

Use your cover copy to establish kinship with your readers. Jay Saffarzadeh did this when he changed the subtitle on his book Introduction to E-mail and the Internet from "For those of you who are inexperienced…" to "For those of us…" By changing you to us he affiliated with the reader.

Testimonials on your rear cover can also work in your favor, and there are several groups of people can start people talking better than others. One such group is commercial authorities, people (i.e., the author) who have demonstrated greater knowledge on a topic than the average consumer. In addition, celebrities have proven to stimulate positive feedback because their influence is attributed to prominence in another field. Connoisseurs have excellent credibility because of their authentic but nonprofessional opinion of the title or topic. These influential people serve particularly well with topics involving individual taste, such as cooking or art.

Similarly, the sharer of interest brings similar, credible significance to the topic. An expectant mother singing the praises of your book about pregnancy or the criminal investigator endorsing your murder mystery fit in this category. They are not experts, but are everyday people who have read the book and deem it interesting and informative.

Stimulate word-of-mouth discussions through your press releases

Publicity is an inexpensive and productive way to spread the word about your titles. And you have some control over how your story is told because in many cases the media use the copy in your releases verbatim for their articles.

One way to stimulate positive communication in your press releases is to give proof through your words and actions that you have your customers’ best interests in mind. For example, avoid the sense of urgency in your publicity. Shun terms such as, "buy now or lose this offer forever." In addition, make your message exciting, helpful and informative. In fact, understating your sales points may enhance the communication and instill a sense of kinship with the reader.

In addition, use the shock-of-difference approach, describing your title from a different, more compelling angle. Utilize this technique by offering a challenge (Can You Pass This Memory Test?). Or, make your story take an unexpected turn of events. For example, many press releases urge some form of positive, immediate action. Your headline advising the reader not to buy something (Don’t Buy Car Insurance Until You Have Read All These Facts) is an effective way to motivate personal communication. Finally, involve the reader by using verbal play. Use a sequence of words or sounds that provoke repetition through its rhythm or alliteration.

Stimulate word-of-mouse advertising on the Internet

Perhaps the fastest way to stimulate word-of-mouth communication is over the Internet. First, actively participate on a listserve, but remember that most moderated groups frown upon tactless commercialism. Instead, simply steer the discussion to your topic, reply to every question related to your topic and include a descriptive signature with your reply.

Secondly, motivate word-of-mouse advertising through the design of your web site. Create a site that is educational, simply designed, fast to load and easy to use. Provide better service, more timely information and advice so visitors can find answers to their questions or improve their circumstances in some way. Give visitors inside information -- something new and unique -- and tell them to pass it on to others. Also, suggest that people bookmark your site so they form the habit of returning to it.

Word-of-mouth communication can help you sell more books by urging people to tell others about them. And it is free! Stimulate people to spread the word positively and frequently by using your cover copy, press releases and Internet activity strategically.