For quite a while I have been a member of an online Word Of Mouth marketing company called BzzAgent. At first I joined, got a free book, enjoyed the book, told people about the book but never reported this back to my BzzAgent. You build "points" for the amount of bzzing you do (or something similar). From then on in I have not been able to join many campaigns (albeit a lot of them are for U.S. Residents only).
I love the concept of the site and I know that people like Seth Godin has enlisted their services to get some balls rolling. I also happen to think it's effective, powerful and cool. So, what's the point of this Blog entry? It shows that you can harness something as powerful as Word Of Mouth marketing and port it to the Web (unlike a lot of other mediums) - the challenge is in having a product, service or offering that's exciting, immediate and cool enough to get the "sneezers" to do their job AND report it back. Your own "Word Of Mouth" used to come with no strings attached and it certainly never had homework. You could just say, "listen, this book rocks... buy it" and your job was done. I can't see it being as much fun for an individual if they have to track it or have to report it back. Same thing goes for sites like Ryze or LinkedIn - I like seeing all of the people I'm connected to but I'm a little overwhelmed to take action.
Lessons? Too many choices = no choice will be made. Ask me to spread the word without me willingly joining the concept and you've lost me.
When it's as simple as just telling people because they need to know what you know - that's where the rubber meets the road. Where in your offerings is that evident and are you capitalizing on that immense power and sales potential? Because that, at its core, is where you can see Word Of Mouth Marketing working as strong as a third-party testimonial/referral. It's the best kind of business.