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Interview with Sam Decker

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I had a nice email chat with the always-insightful Sam Decker this weekend.

He’s just left Dell to join Bazaarvoice, a word-of-mouth start-up based in Austin, Tx. And like any respectable word-of-mouth marketer, he turned to blogs (like mine) to get the word out.

Q. How does Bazaarvoice encourage word of mouth? Is it just viral email campaigns, or do you consult with businesses to make them more talk-worthy?

A. Our company and full solution details are still in ‘stealth mode’, but I can say we provide managed technology, services and analysis to put word of mouth on eCommerce web sites. We don’t do buzz or viral campaigns. We’re 100% focused on putting a system in place that enables customer conversations about our clients’ products. Which we think is the ‘bullseye’ of word of mouth.

Q. How do you track results?

A. Since the customer conversations occur on the client’s web site, they can monitor activity and correlate it to web analytics, customer information, and financial data. We have live clients and they are seeing higher conversion and average order value. We also believe there are benefits in customer satisfaction, loyalty, and reduced returns.

Q. Companies that offer a great experience naturally get word of mouth. Companies who aren’t being talked about probably aren’t all that interesting. So wouldn’t a word of mouth campaign backfire unless it was done for a company that doesn’t need it?

A. You’re absolutely right. Great companies naturally get word of mouth. By putting a system in place to enable and encourage customers talking, they will accelerate even faster. Companies that have ‘opportunities’ can also benefit from word of mouth because by integrating the customer voice closer to the brand, within their customer experience, then word of mouth is now part of operations. It’s the most tangible form of feedback and its visibility necessitates attention and improvement. Keep in mind there are companies that carry many products. An online retailer is a perfect example, which carries products that are great and not so great. It is in their best interest to let the natural selection of word of mouth help the best products succeed.

Q. What kind of companies are you looking to work with?

A. Our first clients, and most obvious, are online retailers and service providers. Our system can work for any industry vertical. For the reason you mention above, the next best clients are online manufacturers that are confident in their products, company and employees. As you say, great companies naturally get word of mouth. Our solution helps customers build their business.

Q. Why Bazaarvoice? Might there be confusion with ‘bizarre’ when heard & not seen?

A. Ah…you’re the first to ask, but probably not the last. Bazaarvoice means ‘voice of the marketplace’. The meaning was inspired by Cluetrain Manifesto (see Chapter 4 ). Bazaars were the earliest forms of markets, where customer-to-customer conversations influenced what was bought and sold. By bringing the voice into today’s open, online marketplace we believe companies will win. And, yes, there is a double meaning. Many companies will find it ‘bizarre’ to put customers in charge, making their opinions and voice part of their brand. Cluetrain was written in 1999, and it seems just now companies are starting to wake up to its idea. By the way, bizarrevoice.com will redirect to our site. See the full story of our name on our web site.

If you want to comment on this subject, I’m sure Sam will be happy to join the fray. If you’re interested in Bazaarvoice’s services for your company, you can contact Sam directly at sam @ bazaarvoice dot com.

Jennifer Rice is the founder of Mantra Brand Communication. She has extensive experience in brand/marketing strategy, market/customer research, integrated marketing communications and channel support.

Jennifer also writes theWhat’s Your Brand Mantra? blog which offers musings on branding, marketing and the ecology of business.

Interview with Sam Decker
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