When you want to buy something, be it a product or a service, what do you usually do? In all likelihood, you ask around. You ask your friends whether they know of any right products or businesses like the one you need. You go online to find reviews from real, paying customers. You look at the social media ratings of the activities you’re interested in. All this information you acquire about the experience of others with a product, store, or company is called “word of mouth” (WOM).
Now, imagine you could build a strategy that will get you more clients, more partners, and, therefore, more money by creating better information for your contacts to share. The WOM principle is simple. Instead of looking for ways to get new customers or strategic stakeholders through your door yourself, you convince your existing network that you’re the go-to place within your industry so that THEY do the publicity for you. That sounds brilliant!
So, how do you put that idea to practice? The first and most important thing you need to understand is that WOM marketing places emphasis not on prospective or potential publics, but on the person walking through your door at any given time. That’s the most critical person in the room, and you want them to leave your business with a positive experience. A positive experience means a lot of useful information for them to share with the people they know.
Another crucial point to remember is that people won’t usually go around talking about your business unless someone actively asks them to do so. Sure, they might mention that they went to this excellent store downtown or bought that new product, but that’s about all the exposure you’ll get. Instead of waiting around, hoping for a friend of theirs to ask them for recommendations or praying that they leave a positive review on your social media, you can encourage them to talk about you.
How do you do that without sounding annoying or desperate? That’s simple. If you own a brick-and-mortar store, this can be done during the check-out stage. Start by asking how their overall experience with your business was and whether they have any complaints. Then, casually mention that you’d appreciate it if they subscribed to your social media or left you a review. That’s all! Most people would be more than happy to do it, assuming that they’ve had a positive experience.
In an online setting, there are several ways you can get customers to engage with your business. You can ask them to rate the products that they’ve already bought. You can point them towards your social media accounts. You can even include a short survey at the end of each transaction, asking them whether they enjoyed using your online store or whether they would recommend your business to someone they know. The point of this process is to create as much user-generated content as possible, which will serve to prove your worth in the eyes of a passer-by.
You see, businesses today don’t become successful because they have endless budgets to spend on advertising or because they get exposure by celebrities or influencers. They become successful because they manage to build large, vibrant online or offline communities around their name, and that’s an option available to all businesses, no matter how big or small.
Shoving advertising down your customers’ throats has long proven to be highly ineffective and potentially damaging to your reputation. Creating a sense of belonging and togetherness, on the other hand, can be very powerful in attracting buyers and spontaneous influencers. Sharing useful information or offering perks to loyal customers shows them that you appreciate them and care about them, and that creates trust between your business and your customer base. Rest assured that if your customers trust and value your brand, they will talk about it.
Research has shown that WOM marketing is almost foolproof, with over 90% of the people trusting the recommendations that their friends or acquaintances make. An equally high number of people used to believe in reviews and social media comments. However, that percentage has been slightly impacted by the surge of paid user-generated content over the past few years. Still, the statistics are conclusive: WOM can be an invaluable tool for your branding strategy. What’s more, it can be successfully combined with other customer acquisition strategies such as marketing of influence to maximize your profits.
©2020 Roberto Martins, author of The Journey of Branding – Align With the Best Global Brands