Word of mouth drives most of our country’s economy.
Not because traditional marketing sucks, but because human beings, a species whose prime feature is its social nature, rarely do what they do by their own volition. The agent of decision making is interaction, not interruption. If we’re going to buy something, it’s because somebody we know already bought it.
The catch is, few silver bullet solutions exist for getting people’s mouths moving. All we can do is create environments in which word of mouth is most likely to occur.
Start with virality in mind. Marketing needs to stop being the last step in the process. As early as possible, build a base of people who want you, and only you, and are willing to pay for your product. Otherwise, if evangelism isn’t built into the process from day one, you’ll never reach critical mass.
Keep it short. Long form content is heavier to share. Be sure to keep your ideas brief. When necessary, break up larger pieces of content into a series with multiple parts. This encourages people to come for more, or, better yet, miss you in their past. Otherwise, it will be too much work to share your work.
Reduce the friction of participation. No matter how excited people are about your idea, if it’s awkward to talk about, they will hesitate to bring it up in conversation. Make sure your names, websites and other branded properties are pronounceable, understandable and don’t remind people of something goofy or embarrassing.
Divorce your ego. People like talking about cool stuff because it increases their status. Period. It’s not because they like your brand, it’s because they like their friends. It’s not because of their handy plastic card, it’s because they want bragging rights for being the first one to discover something awesome.
The point is, before you sell your wares, you have to serve the underlying social needs within the people who buy it.
The goal is to spark a conversation, not have the last word.