Remember that classic TV commercial, "If you tell two friends about Faberge Organics shampoo with wheat germ oil and honey, they'll tell two friends, and so on ... and so on ... and so on?"
That's an example of word-of-mouth marketing at its best. And today, buzz agencies, dedicated solely to getting the word out about new products and services, have grown exponentially.
Click here for a list of buzz agencies where you can register today to get involved in their word-of-mouth marketing campaigns.
In 2008, $1.82 billion will be spent getting the word out by getting people talking, according to PQ Media. That means ample opportunity to receive free products for anyone willing to lend their opinion on new stuff.
Big bucks marketing. Big brands know that people are at least twice as likely to give a product a try if they've heard about it from a friend, so it makes good business sense to help get that conversation started.
Women are the major drivers of these word-of-mouth efforts, and there are now hundreds of thousands of women and men who register online with buzz agencies to be word-of-mouth marketers. These people agree to give their very candid opinions on products to the companies and, if they wish, spread the word to friends, family, co-workers, social network pals and others.
What's in it for the talkers? Free stuff and a loud voice in the marketing and purchasing patterns of some of the biggest product launches ever. They're often first on their block to try out the latest products -- sometimes before they're on the market -- for free. Plus, they can use their voices to influence purchasing decisions among their circle of influence, which is exciting for many people.
Full disclosure. Most buzz agencies say they highly encourage participants to be upfront about their connection to the company. After all, the ethics are questionable when a friend raves about a product, but doesn't clue you in on his or her connection to the brand. But these companies also say that they don't tell people exactly what to say, instead, leaving that decision in the hands of each participant to decide how he or she wishes to handle it.
The companies do, however, give people fact sheets with highlights and "wow facts" about each product. It's at the discretion of recipients if or how they opt to reference those pointers.
There are several high profile examples where buzz agencies say they're achieving big success by getting tongues wagging.
Philips Sonicare Essence. Boston-based BzzAgent sent a $70 toothbrush to 30,000 of its marketers, each of whom agreed to be part of this campaign. BzzAgent asked them to try out the toothbrush and -- if they liked it -- share coupons with their friends.
By tracking those coupons and using polls and other data, BzzAgent claims their 30,000 marketers each told an average of 9.4 people. Those 282,000 people then told an average of 4.14 others, reaching a grand total of 1,449,480 people about this product. BzzAgent says the Philips toothbrush benefited from a $2.5 million sales lift that they directly attribute to this word-of-mouth campaign.
BzzAgent attributes these figures in part to a Northeastern University study on word-of-mouth marketing relay rates.