Marketers and salespeople have a pretty bad rep attached to their roles. You’re not well respected and seen as, from most cartoons tell us, a bit weasel-y. HubSpot found that just three percent of people consider you trustworthy.
But hey! At least you beat politicians!
Trust plays such an important role in building valuable relationships with your audience. People seek out information throughout the entire buyer's journey, and where they source their information makes a big difference.
Research shows that referrals carry a lot more weight than you may think. A lot of those qualifying referrals are from word of mouth marketing.
It turns out that recommendations and mentions from friends and social media can drive results for your word of mouth marketing strategy.
What Is Word of Mouth Marketing?
Basically, it’s the process of purposefully driving discussions about your brand in a natural way.
So, as a word of mouth (WoM) marketer, your job is to develop an idea that people will want to talk about, kickstart the conversation, and then, ultimately, entice others to talk about you and your company.
A common term used in word of mouth marketing is seeding. This is the process of putting a message out in networks where your audience engages in word of mouth discussions.
There are a few different models of this strategy.
The Network Coproduction Model
This model promotes conversations about certain products between customers online.
Using blogs and internet communities, you can release information on a particular product or service and then manage the word of mouth activity online.
The Engineering Approach
A more intentional model, the engineering approach is when you are constructing and crafting the conversations yourself.
The goal is to generate more buzz around your brand, which will in turn boost the number of conversations that can develop more organically.
The Direct Approach
The direct approach requires you to target a specifically selected group of consumers to sample your product or service.
Think along the lines of a focus group. These consumers will be able to offer their direct feedback on what you’re offering. Whether they give those results directly to you or post them online, it’s a great way to get the word out there.
But don’t just take my word for it. Word of mouth marketing has been proven to be successful.
Word of Mouth Marketing Statistics That Prove It’s Worth Your Investment
There’s plenty of data to back the value of referrals and generating word of mouth.
Who Trusts Word of Mouth
Like we saw before, consumers are much more open to product or service reviews from the mouth of another consumer than from a salesperson.
- 83 percent of Americans say that word of mouth recommendations from loved ones make them more likely to purchase a product or service.
- According to BrightLocal, 88 percent of people trust public online reviews as much as they trust recommendations from friends and family.
- 92 percent of users will use a local business if it has a 4-star rating.
The Power of Word of Mouth
There are solid numbers that share just how effective word of mouth marketing is.
- Word-of-mouth is the leading purchase influencer (top-2 box score) in each category among millennials.
- From Marketing Charts, word-of-mouth is the top influencer for financial and big-ticket purchases for Baby Boomers.
- Talk Triggers says that the most valued source of information is from personal experience.
Proof That Word of Mouth Works
We can see real results from word of mouth marketing taking place.
- Marketers rated the quality of a word-of-mouth lead to be 4.28 on the 5-point scale.
- 92 percent of B2B buyers are more likely to purchase after reading a trusted review.
- 58 percent share positive experiences with friends and family when they talk about brands on social media.
The Benefits of Building a Word of Mouth Marketing Strategy
It can be an uphill battle, seeding and stirring up conversations about your brand. This is why developing a word of mouth strategy is so important.
A well organized strategy can help in a number of ways.
You're Able to Allocate Enough Resources.
Developing more cost-effective marketing methods can help you reduce your expenses and yield higher profit in the long run. If you don't have a clear plan, you are more likely to divide your resources inefficiently and surpass your budget.
A marketing strategy is an excellent means of determining what resources – and how much of it – you'll need to allocate to what parts of your business. You'll be able to better determine what solutions can help resolve what problems.
Do you need to hire more staff to increase project development? How much can you allocate to that idea?
A well organized strategy can help you figure that out.
You Can Identify Opportunities for Building Social Communities.
In developing a word of mouth marketing strategy, you have to do some serious research on your audience. Through that analysis, you can identify where your consumers spend most of their time online, what content they consume, and who they share with.
Look for windows where you can insert your brand into the community and conversations. Not every community is the same and, in the same way that you want to target specific buyer personas, you want to identify which groups are going to assist your strategy the most.
You're Able to Adopt a Holistic Approach.
You should be as detailed and comprehensive in your word of mouth marketing strategy as possible.
Go in depth with your planning and audit your brand, looking at who your audience is, what channels your business uses, and the like.
After doing the research, you need to make your strategy as customized as possible. You don't want a generic, step-by-step guide that will provide the same baseline results to every person who implements it. You want a road map that will offer a specific outline to where you are trying to take your brand.
You Can Ensure a Competitive Edge.
Your competitors definitely have a plan in place to out-do you and the rest of the market. So if you don't have a strategy in place, you're already behind.
A good marketing strategy sheds light on what industry competitors are doing and how you can do better.
Refine your strategy to make sure it's going to propel your business forward and keep fine tuning it as you progress. If you're staying at the top of your game, then you're probably outpacing your competitors as well.
Your strategy will act as your blueprint for what to do and how to stay at the top.
3 Factors That Word of Mouth Marketing Impacts
A strong word of mouth marketing strategy will impact three crucial elements.
A good strategy provides space and opportunity for unaffiliated persons to generate buzz online for your brand organically.
There are different tricks you can do to increase the likeliness of this happening, but the end goal should be to have unpaid, unbiased consumers chatting about you and your company.
At this point, we’ve acknowledged that people trust other people more than they do ads. Fair enough.
If that’s the case, then leverage that trust by having trusted individuals recommend your brand. When word of mouth paints your company in a trustworthy light, new leads will have an easier time taking their next steps in the buyer journey.
Positive word of mouth keeps customers coming back and draws more customers in. It becomes a self-propelling cycle of loyalty and return that actually can minimize how hard you have to work to get your brand noticed.
It’s five times more costly to win a new customer than to please an existing one, so keep the word of mouth going so you don’t lose your own promoters.
5 Steps to Build Your First Word of Mouth Marketing Strategy
Developing your first strategy is exciting, but it can feel overwhelming when you consider all the moving parts. To streamline this process, follow these five steps.
1. Ensure You Offer Something Worth Talking About.
Before you can have others brag about your brand, you have to make sure there's something to brag about.
Being able to sell valuable products, deliver a high quality user experience, and provide excellent service sounds like a given, but you'd be surprised how easy it is to fall short.
Word of mouth is a great way to boost positive feedback, but it can work in the opposite direction as well. Don't give customers a reason to speak poorly of you and your brand. Make sure your service is worth being celebrated.
2. Build Customer Journey Maps.
Take the time to really understand your customer's journey, from the awareness stage to the decision stage. Build out customer journey maps to help your team visualize the entire experience your customers go through.
Keep a record of every interaction you have with them, even post-sale. The buyer's journey can vary with different buyer personas, so you want to make sure that you're well prepared to identify and engage with each one.
3. Gather Customer Feedback.
A pretty self-explanatory step, but probably one of the most valuable ones, you will want to gather as much feedback as possible.
What customers report to you, good and bad, is likely what they'll tell their friends and family as well. You can get a sneak peek of what word of mouth about your brand will sound like and adjust your strategy accordingly.
4. Create and Test Talk Triggers.
Talk triggers are strategic, operational differentiators that spark a conversation among customers. The trick to them is that they should be unique to your user experience and the same for each user.
Research a talk trigger that falls under at least one of the five types:
- Talkable generosity
- Talkable usefulness
- Talkable speed
- Talkable empathy
- Talkable attitude
Test its value by introducing it to a select test pool of customers (specific demographic, particular service or product, etc.). Measure its success by surveying at least 100 customers who have experienced the complete trigger.
5. Analyze and Evolve Your Strategy.
Perform different tests, like the one above, to get a clear measure of what's working and what isn't within your strategy.
It's important that you pay close attention to your analysis. You want to make sure that you're allocating your resources effectively.
Once you've got a comprehensive understanding of which ideas are going to yield the best results for your brand, implement them into your strategy and adapt it as necessary.
Tips and Ideas for Word of Mouth Marketing Strategies
Don't settle for less when you're building your strategy. You want to think outside the box. Need some inspiration?
Here are a few tips and tricks to get you started.
Get Employees Involved.
Employees essentially act as your first-touch audience, so who can speak to your brand's value better than them?
You may have never considered it before, but your team is an excellent avenue to start your word of mouth campaign.
Encourage them to start the conversation about your product or service. They'll be great talk leaders since they already know everything about your brand.
Develop a Referral Program.
Remember when we looked at how effective referrals were? To get those assets you'll have to have a program in place.
Incentivize positive word of mouth by offering discounts, credit, and other similar rewards to those who will share positive reviews and bring in more customers. It may feel like bribing your audience, but most customers are happy to talk about their favorite brands in return for a means to utilize your services even more.
A great referral program will boost your brand awareness and create happy customers at the same time.
Request Ratings and Reviews.
You can't expect everyone to send referrals to their social circles, so provide them with other means of leaving positive feedback.
Consumers today are becoming more picky about where they spend their money and actually take time to read user reviews on anything from toilet seats to restaurant service.
Make sure you're asking for reviews, first of all, and then display those reviews in as many places as possible. If you gather a lot of positive commentary and make them accessible for viewing, you'll have an easier time converting new customers.
Encourage User-Generated Content.
Consumers love when they can engage with their favorite brands. Make them feel like they're participating in your growth by encouraging them to post about you.
Promote a social media campaign asking your customers to post about their purchases and their experiences. People trust other people, so an advertisement from a consumer is much more valuable than an ad from the company itself.
You can even offer a prize to the most creative post in an effort to thank your audience for their investment in your brand.
Stay Engaged in Your Social Media Communities.
Social media is how the world communicates. If you're not present online, then you're likely not as relevant as you think you are.
By posting consistently, you'll stay in your audience's daily media feed, which is the same as saying you'll stay in their daily content consumption.
Be present in their minds and be engaging too. Answer tweets, questions, and comments directed at your company. Depending on the context of the conversation, you may inexplicably spark a WoM marketing strategy with only a pithy reply or an especially valuable social media post.
Provoke Emotional Reactions.
Leveraging emotional reactions has always been a great tool for marketers. It still applies in word of mouth marketing.
Impacting your audience's ethos can earn you a lot of shares online and get people talking about you with their friends and family. You can partner with a nonprofit that falls in line with your brand's ideals. You'll bring attention to not only your company, but to a cause you believe in as well.
Collaborate With Influencers.
Outside of their personal relationships, there's another branch of society that consumers trust wholeheartedly: influencers. An influencer's followers either respect the social persona or want to be them.
Either type can be pretty open to investing in a brand that the influencer endorses. Collaborate with influencers, big and small, to reach different audiences who may have never considered your products or services before.
Word of Mouth Marketing Examples
The best sources of inspiration are those who went above and beyond in their own word of mouth marketing strategies. Here are some successful examples to get ideas from:
A global sensation, Coke introduced the "Share A Coke" campaign where people's names were printed on the brand's bottles and cans.
Soda lovers embraced the idea, raiding grocery shelves to find their name and post it on social media, prompting their friends and family to do the same. Those who couldn't find theirs could order a custom can or bottle directly from Coke.
The influx of coverage on social media proved that word of mouth marketing was an effective means to get a brand's name in front of an audience.
Wendy's is a champion when it comes to generating word of mouth over social media. Whoever is in charge of their Twitter account understands society's obsession with likes and shares and leverages it well.
In May 2019, music artist Chance the Rapper tweeted about how he missed Wendy's spicy chicken nuggets, which had been sadly pulled from their menu.
Wendy's replied, challenging followers to get the tweet to two million likes in exchange for the nuggets to be made available again.
It was crushed in less than 36 hours.
If Wendy's had never responded to Chance's tweet, then the word of mouth campaign never would have happened. Fans of both the fast food chain and Chance, who has a pretty big following, were buzzing with the craziness of the whole interaction. It was a lot of free press for less than 280 characters.
Showcase's online store regularly performs giveaways and contests where customers are told to follow or like their brand's account, retweet their posts, or invite friends to join their subscriptions.
The brand sets a specific engagement goal, like 10,000 likes, to mark the end of the contest. Participants can win products, discounts, and other deals in return for winning.
All of those tweets, mentions, and follows on social media highlight the brand in a way that organic traffic may have never been able to. Contestants might invite their friends to participate as well, bringing in new prospects.
They partnered with Lilly Singh, aka iiSuperwomanii, a social superstar, encouraging creatives to submit their works for a chance to collaborate with Lilly.
Of course, contestants had to be subscribed to Adobe's Creative Cloud YouTube channel. The company posted information on their blog and other social channels, while Lilly spoke to her fan base directly on her own channel, Instagram, and Twitter.
Lilly and Adobe chose two creatives as winners and featured their work, provided behind the scenes footage, and encouraged the creative community to keep pursing their dreams.
The coffee giant markets in a variety of ways, but one of their most successful is actually built around secrecy. A secret menu, to be specific.
Starbucks fans have become hip to the knowledge that there are several different specialty drinks that aren't listed on the cafe's official menu. Since Starbucks can't, or won't, make them available, there have been countless blogs that are regularly updated providing names and ingredients for these secret sips.
There's a bit of controversy over how Starbucks employees feel about the trend, but the word of mouth strategy couldn't be more effective.
Those who consider themselves super fans share their theories and reviews on new drinks and flavors, generating conversations that Starbucks didn't even have a hand in touching.
Talk about free press.
TOMS became famous because of their One-for-One campaign. For every pair of shoes bought from TOMS, the company will donate another pair to a child in need.
Pulling on heart strings across the globe, the brand's sales skyrocketed as people raced to meet the needs of those less fortunate.
There has been a bit of a debate over the actual value of TOMS donations since there's a huge difference between their price point and low manufacturing cost, but the campaign did its job. TOMS continues to focus on the appeal of charity, generating tons of buzz and media acknowledgment.
IHOP momentarily ruled the internet when they announced that they would change their name to the International House of Burgers to promote their new burgers.
Consumers went crazy criticizing the rebrand. Most of the reviews were not in favor of the new name. Even other restaurants jumped on the train, bashing the decision on social media.
Ultimately, IHOP never actually turned into IHOB, but the media spin was on the public's mind for a while. In actuality, the restaurant was leveraging controversy to get the conversation going.
Sure, IHOP is a popular chain, but how often do you bring it up when speaking with your friends? While this frenzy was going on, probably at least once or twice.
Back in 2009, Foursquare proved its value at SXSW, an annual technology convention in Austin, TX. Non-local attendees were searching for places to hang out in the downtown area.
Dennis Crawley and Naveen Selvaduri, Foursquare's co-founders, were there to promote their new product. They saw the opportunity to plug their app and told visitors to give it a try.
The company's early success is attributed to this event since user numbers increased pretty dramatically over the course of the convention.
Everyone knows about Apple products, and it's not because of their commercials or billboards. It's their word of mouth that has turned the company into the giant it is.
Today, the Apple brand is so big that it has become a cultural trend to own one of their products.
There's a sense of superiority that comes with holding an iPhone or using a MacBook. There are even memes about the difference in user experience.
Whether intentional or not, people became Apple's greatest marketing strategy. Friends brag to friends about having the newest iPhone, prompting non-users to run to the nearest Apple store to buy theirs. Being a part of the brand is now synonymous to being with the "in crowd."
Now that's some powerful word of mouth.
Generate Word of Mouth Today
If we wanted to make it sound a bit lazy, then you could describe word of mouth marketing as a way of having your consumers advertise for you. But a success-centered salesperson knows that marketing needs to be a lot more intentional than that.
Get excited about the idea of working with your audience to generate business and start building your own strategies!