Word of mouth marketing (WOMM) is persuasive, credible and of course free of charge. Used effectively it can help generate a multitude of sales for your business.
In the main, customers will recommend you to a friend, colleague or through online channels — sounds to me like the earliest form of social media!
Instagram is one of the best-known brands that has used it successfully to gain one million users in three months and is held as the go-to example of word of mouth marketing.
According to Steve Barton, president of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, the best way to get people to talk about your brand is to provide such a good service that customers are eager to tell people — and those people tell other people.
Setting this aside, as I feel this is a given in business, there are a few other ways to make it virtually impossible for customers not to spread the word.
1. Understand the influencers
Your normal groups of customers, business connections, friends and family are more than likely going to contain influencers.
Influencers are trusted, magnetic, respected and listened-to people — and very much the type of people that can support you with your marketing. Instagram had 25,000 sign-ups in one day thanks to Twitter boss Jack Doresy tweeting it out to his one million plus users.
Identifying the top influencers and starting a conversation with them before anyone else is a great way to gain profile for your brand and in essence it’s like free advertising. Having them start the conversation is like free advertising. They will help get the message out to otherwise hard-to-reach people.
2. Have something interesting to say
It might sound obvious, but WOMM works best if you have something to say that will prick interest. Not necessarily shouting about a new product, but perhaps discussing a new innovation on that product.
The key is to think about what will excite your influencers to create a buzz, rather than simply putting out what you want to say. One of Instagram’s most successful community marketing examples is ‘Dogs of Instagram’ which has more than 250,000 users who regularly share pictures of their furry friends with other users on the platform.
3. Connect, don’t just collect
Many businesses are guilty of spending so much time collecting fans and followers that they don’t actually connect with them.
Having 50 really enthusiastic engaged fans that love your brand or product is much more effective than having 500 ‘fans’ that follow you just to win a free product in a competition.
Previously my main focus for marketing to customers would have been on the four Ps (product, price, promotion and place), but now the new focus for getting sales is on the three Es:
- Engage (connect with customers)
- Equip (give them something interesting to discuss)
- Empower (give them easy ways to discuss it)
By getting these new techniques under your belt your business will be on the lips of all the right people all of the time — which in turn will lead ultimately to more sales.
4. Grab any opportunity for self-promotion
Use every possible channel to speak to customers in order to generate a word-of-mouth opportunity.
Send out interesting information about your business — a newsletter and blog are good for encouraging interaction.
Speak to your customers on online forums and invite them to preview new products and share the feedback.
Remember, if you do put yourself out there then you need to be sure that the words people are spreading are positive. If you have concerns that any aspect of your business or products might attract negative comments, address the issues in advance.
5. Have a clear strategy
To maximise your chances of customers talking about you and achieve long-term success, you need a strategy and a plan that goes beyond ‘likes’ on social media. You need deeper insight about your customers.
As John Moore, marketer for Starbucks says, “If people are not talking about you, they are forgetting about you.”
Be honest in your approach. Being creative with the truth will only generate negative outcomes.
Word-of-mouth marketing is a unique skill and very powerful but this is what makes it great.
People do change, generation by generation, but the principles will remain the same.
Trial and error is the best way to evaluate what will work for you and your business. Every product is different.
Above all, be creative, have fun and think about how best to get your customers excited — every time.
Note: The original version of this article was published in September, 2015.