What is word of mouth marketing? And what makes it such a powerful tool?
Let's start with an example. Say you catch an ad on social media for a new product. It claims to be the best of its class and will transform your business. With such outsize claims, you're likely to dismiss the product as a sensationalized gimmick -- and you wouldn't be alone in thinking that.
Let's push pause and go back...
Now take that same product, but instead of an ad, you hear about it from a trusted friend or colleague. She talks animatedly about a cool new product that has made her work life 10 times easier. She even share details about the brand behind the product. Because it comes from a close and trusted friend, the claims become less sensationalized and more genuine. You start to want that product.
That is the power of a good word of mouth marketing strategy.
This kind of B2B marketing strategy is a strategic discipline that while around in an informal way for eons has surged thanks to the internet. In the words of marketing expert Joe Pulizzi, “Word of mouth marketing has always been important. Today it’s more important than ever because of the power of the internet.”
In fact, according to the Chatter Matters: 2018 Word of Mouth Report, 83% of Americans said that they were more likely to purchase a product or service if it was recommended by a friend or family member.
When asked in the same report what influenced their purchase decisions, under 40% showed a preference for company websites, television advertising, social media, ads or news articles. The former kinds of marketing strategy have been dethroned, replaced with more trustworthy sources, such as word of mouth.
But is this something we can control? To some extent, yes. The worst thing you can do is to leave it up to chance. Let's talk about some specific ways in which you can ignite positive word of mouth and use it to spark further customers.
8 Powerful Ways to Ignite Your Word of Mouth Marketing
1. Build Trust
Nothing builds a customer-company relationship faster or more solidly than trust. Yet, trust is a quality sadly lacking in many companies . In our me-first world, customers often get the short end of the stick. Whether it's hidden fees or a disappointing product experience, people have endured incredibly frustrating situations when dealing with some companies.
A wonderful way to prevent this and build trust is to do right by your customers. For example, did they receive a faulty product? Get them a new one as soon as possible and go the extra mile to make them not only satisfied but also happy.
When a company goes above and beyond to champions its customers, those efforts build confidence and loyalty.
Trust also depends heavily on your skill and competency. Create a reputation of unparalleled expertise. You want people to tell others, "No one knows the industry like this brand." You can build a positive reputation before customers even purchase your product. Through strategic content marketing and thought leadership initiatives, you can establish a solid foundation of trust with everyone who experiences your brand.
2. Create an Unbeatable Customer Service Strategy
Customer service is an area where many brands fail to hit the mark. When you hear about negative experiences, it's rarely during a sales pitch or initial install of a product. Usually, it's when something goes awry and people reach out to customer service.
What can you do?
First, make sure to have a solid and reliable team of customer service agents to care for customers. Make your agents available across all platforms, including phone, chat, and social media.
Second, train your agents on how to improve a customer's experience. Show them how to use an appropriate sense of humor, set customers at ease, resolve problems quickly, and leave customers feeling satisfied.
Such positive experiences will cement a customer's relationship with your brand. And when a customer shares those experiences, it will create a ripple effect.
3. Be Different
People don't talk about middle-of-the-pack brands. If you strive to be carbon copies of your competitors, nothing will distinguish you in your customers' minds.
Differentiate yourself in simple ways, such as the language of your marketing. Don't use the same language as every other company in your industry. Strike out on your own and individualize your messaging. Think of words that describe your product in new and engaging ways. From your website to your email marketing campaigns, make your messaging reverberate.
But be balanced. Keep the differences relevant to your brand. Remember, not every attention-grabbing stunt or message will create positive conversation. It could ultimately distract from your brand and its core messaging.
4. Encourage a Rich Brand Culture
Nowadays people don't just want to know about your products and services -- they want to know the brand behind the scenes. What do you stand for? What causes do you support?
Such a rich culture helps your customers to relate to your brand. If you have the same values as they do -- and act on those values -- customers will begin to see you as a relatable brand, not a cold enigma.
Create a clear vision statement that portrays your values. Then act on those values. If you are advocate equal rights in the workplace, introduce your employees on social media so that your customers see your diversity and recognize that your organization supports equality. Endorse related causes and share those causes with your audience on your website and social media.
When people understand that a brand shares their values, they're more likely to feel a kinship and bond with it.
5. Find Passionate Advocates
Across every brand there are passive customers and then there are advocates. Advocates are those who are loyal and passionate about your brand. They keep coming back -- whether it's to use your again or upgrade to a new tier of services.
Look for individuals who are...
- Well-connected across online and offline networks.
- Credible among friends, family, and colleagues.
- Willing to share opinions in a sound and shrewd manner.
- Knowledgable in their field
Once you identify potential advocates, create a system where they will best be able to advocate for your brand.
6. Give People a Platform
Not many people will spread the word about your brand if you don't give them the opportunity.
You might include a link on your site or an email that encourages customers to leave a review. This could be as simple as Did we make your day? You can make ours by leaving a review below! Keep it light and conversational.
If you know of an especially positive experience a customer has had, you might even reach out for an even more in-depth review or a case study about their experience.
Otherwise eager and happy customers may not know how to support you and let others know of their wonderful experience. It's best to give them several options, across different online platforms.
7. Incentivize Your Audience
Some of your customers may need some motivation or incentive to spread the word. Somebody might love your brand, but not do much else about it unless they have a push in that direction.
How can you solve this? Create a loyalty or brand advocacy program that rewards audiences for different levels of engagement. Everything from following a brand on social media to retweeting a post can all be rewarded.
Some companies have even started to use gamification -- a point system that rewards users, just as a game would do. They may reward points every time someone posts something about them on social media or other sites. Once someone accrues enough points, he or she qualifies for rewards, such as discounts or prizes.
Could you use an incentive programs for your brand?
8. Be Enthusiastic
My final words of advice: Love what you do. Enthusiasm is contagious. If you have a great product, love what you do, and do it well, others will be naturally attracted to your brand. And these enthusiasts will tell others about you who in turn will tell others and on and on.
A last word of warning: A word of mouth marketing strategy can at times be a fickle friend. There are no guaranteed recipes for success. Every industry has its own quirks, so it's important to test and discover what matters to your audience. It won't happy overnight, but with enough effort you will find the right formula that will get people talking.
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