Generating WOM for a New Product or Service that Doesn’t Yet Exist

By Bob Troia

new-productHow do you get people excited (and talking) about your great new product or service while it’s still in development? Here are five tips that have proven successful:

Tip #1: Motivation

If you are truly starting “from scratch,” with no existing customers (let alone an existing CRM system or even an email list), you’ll need to think about what will motivate a group of consumers to want to learn about your new product or service. Consider the use of an incentive to attract a group of prospective consumers. An incentive could be tangible (free T-shirt, entry into a sweepstakes), or intangible (the chance to help test out a new product, the opportunity to interact directly with product developers and like-minded consumers). Think about the type of consumer you are trying to attract and what they would value (what would wealthy middle-aged men care about more – a free T-shirt, or some frequent-flier miles?) You can build an experience around your product or service by providing an exclusive online community to allow these like-minded consumers to interact and share in the experience.

(Note that at this point you are not “rewarding” word of mouth; the up-front incentive is simply a way to get consumers to “hear you out.” They shouldn’t be obligated to do anything beyond this step. The consumers who stick around are the ones who truly want to learn more, be engaged and become product experts.)

Tip #2: Education

Discovery is a key element in triggering conversations. People want to be “in the know” – education provides them with “social currency,” since they will have valuable information/knowledge that their peers do not. Education also allows you to articulate your key selling points and better ensure that they are accurately passed along. Quizzes are a great way to engage and interactively educate your consumers. If you have a prototype/beta version of your product, provide a set of testing instructions and solicit feedback through the use of surveys.

Tip #3: Co-creation

The best way to develop an emotional bond between consumers and your brand is to involve them in the process as early as possible. Activities such as providing feedback on packaging and marketing materials, helping come up with names and taglines, or submitting photos documenting brand interaction or product use are just a few examples. Provide ways for consumers to show off (and share) their creativity and newfound passion, and gain recognition for their work. Encourage them to make it “their” product. Consumer-generated content is a valuable by-product of co-creation and can build awareness for your product or service months in advance of any traditional advertising initiatives.

Tip #4: Anticipation

As you approach product/brand launch, you should have a group of passionate consumers who have developed a strong emotional connection to your product (in some cases, without having actually used or experienced it!). Continue to feed their passion – continue to involve them in product testing, chats with product managers and developers, first-look sneak peeks and insider information. The trick is to release information in “bite-size chunks” – enough to feed their enthusiasm over a period of time and reinforce your selling points, but not so much as to overwhelm them.

Tip #5: Recommendation

Congratulations – your new product or service has launched! This passionate group of people you have fostered are no longer “consumers” – they are your customers. Treat them well; they are your early adopters and evangelists. They will be the ones sharing their enthusiasm for your new product or service (chances are they have already been doing so for quite some time).

Publicly acknowledge and provide these customers with special status in your customer community since they have been with you from the beginning. Be on a first-name basis with these customers. Invite them to special events. Send them birthday cards.

Lastly, don’t consider this the end of your WOM “campaign” – consider it the beginning of your long-lasting WOM program!