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Word Of Mouth Advertising -- Can It Be Forced?

I'm a big believer in word-of-mouth marketing (indeed, a large share of our clients come in through referrals); I'm also deeply interested in new online advertising methods; and I'm a longtime fan of Seth Godin since Permission Marketing in 1999.

Through Godin's interesting new book, Small Is The New Big, I found my way to BzzAgent, a word-of-mouth marketing agency.

Intriguing! Can marketers "drive" word-of-mouth consumer awareness? I joined up to learn more. A sharp well-printed well-written welcome kit soon arrived in the mail (though the kit mentioned enclosed stickers, which my kit lacked). I particularly liked the BzzAgent code of conduct: "word-of-mouth isn't shill marketing", "word-of-mouth is real - honest - powerful", etc. Good stuff.

There's a gray area, however, between natural word-of-mouth and incented conversation. BzzAgent awards participants points for making product testimonials and taking surveys. These points can be redeemed for gifts and prizes. (By taking a few surveys, I'm at 18 points.)

Anyway, today's email brought these instructions from "Central Hive":

Greetings BzzAgent aprk,

By now you've probably had a chance to Bzz about Small Is the New Big to the people you see every day: your friends, coworkers, boss or anyone who needs some fireworks.

Now we need your help with spreading the word beyond your neck of the woods. That's right, we need you to amp up the Bzz around the World Wide Web, the blogosphere and to all corners of the Internet.

Why not write about Small Is the New Big on your personal or company's blog? Or how about using the handy "email this chapter to a friend" feature on the Campaign Homepage to send an excerpt to your friend across the world? Or, may we suggest logging on to Amazon.com or B&N.com and posting a Small Is the New Big review? The possibilities are endless!

Hmm. Of all authors, I find it ironic that Godin opted for this get-points-for-testimonials campaign. His stuff is so good he shouldn't need it.

Update: Just realized this post itself is buzz for Small Is The New Big... perhaps I'll submit it to BzzAgent. <g>

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