The Word of Mouth Manual: Volume II

by Dave Balter

The Word of Mouth Manual: Volume II

The Word of Mouth Manual: Volume II is the second book by Dave Balter, the CEO and founder of BzzAgent, a Boston-based word of mouth marketing company. While it’s not a how-to book of WOM, it is an exceptionally well-written book, employing humor and a number of excellent examples. Balter divides the book into three sections: What You Should Know (In Theory), What You Probably Know Already (Unless You Don’t), and What You Must Know (In Practice).

In the first section, Dave discusses the difference between “pure” WOM and what 99% of the rest of us have (”regular” WOM), including the 4 key features of pure WOM. He also explores the Top 40 phenomenon, including how a product gets on a person’s Top 40 list, how that list is altered, and how it comes into play in people’s daily lives. Using the horrid HeadOn commercials to illustrate his point, Dave talks about frequency, and the shift from mindless repetition to meaningful engagement on the part of consumers. There is also a bit on the Post-Purchase Effect, using the first-generation iPhone as an example, and a discussion about how WOM translates across cultures.

The second section makes a strong argument for the importance of human connection. I admit, I found the section a tiny bit biased (as one would expect, considering the book’s author and his “day job”), but that doesn’t make the points any less valid. Dave exposes some of the misconceptions WOM newbies have and mistakes they make, like untargeted samples, how to deal with “liars” in a WOM network, rewards vs. cash, and the concept that only losers have time to join a WOM network.

The most important point, and the focus of the last section, is that there are no shortcuts in WOM. Though he makes the point in the first section that good WOM cannot be deliberately created and controlled, the last section underlines the fact that WOM takes work. (Here, Dave contrasts the viral Numa Numa video and the resurgence of the Lacoste brand to illustrate this very effectively.)

There is a lot of talk in the book about how WOM is still considered to be an “unproven” method of advertising, compared to traditional methods, and the difficulty in proving its worth financially versus traditional media costs. (There’s a particularly funny story about one of “those people,” the ones who are just out to hate WOM, no matter what, in the second section. As Dave rightly calls it, how ironic that marketers, of all people, are calling out WOM as a con game. Have they taken a look at their “traditional” methods lately?)

I have a lot of respect for and curiosity about the work BzzAgent does – WOM is an aspect of advertising I haven’t been able to implement in my day job, but it is an area I thoroughly enjoy reading and learning about. Aside from this book being a fun, quick read, it peaked my interest by being a study in WOM itself. There’s some very interesting insight into how BzzAgent works, including how they subject themselves to the same standards and experiments they would employ for any client. This book’s BzzCampaign is part of that practice. Rather than being sold solely as a printed book, you can download the book as a PDF (for free) from a number of sources. (If you want, you can buy a hard copy of the book, too, don’t worry.) To download the book, go here. If you want to read a bit more about the book and the WOM campaign behind it, there’s an article on the Harvard Business Publishing website and another on the WOMMA website.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve been a BzzAgent since 2007. I reported this review as a BzzReport for the book’s campaign. If you want to learn more about how BzzAgent works and what BzzAgents do, visit

This review was originally written for BoDo: Business of Design Online.
Reprinting allowed with permission of author.