Word of mouth marketing “has been identified as the most valuable form of marketing,” says Forbes contributor Kimberly Whitler. A Nielsen study of 30,000 internet respondents in 60 countries found that 83 percent believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of marketing.
Despite 64 percent of marketing executives indicating that word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing, 6 percent say they have mastered it, according to the American Marketing Association. This reflects how marketers focus more on “collecting” instead of “connecting.” “Brands are too caught up in collecting social media fans and they are forgetting to actually connect with them,” Whitler says.
Marketing professionals need to recognize and act on this powerful strategy.
Understanding Word of Mouth Marketing
Word of mouth marketing is the process of influencing and encouraging organic discussions about a brand, organization, resource or event, according to user-generated content marketing platform Yotpo.
Word of mouth works by creating something worth talking about, and then capitalizes on it by encouraging people to talk about it. Consumers trust friends and family, and they even trust online reviews because consumers know that others are not afraid to be honest.
- 66 percent of consumers trust online opinions (Nielsen)
- 85 percent of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations (BrightLocal)
- 73 percent of people say that reading a positive review makes them trust a local business more (BrightLocal)
From the customer’s perspective, word of mouth marketing is genuine. It’s difficult or impossible to fake personal recommendations or a trend of positive online reviews.
Effective Word of Mouth Advertising Strategies
Create Something That Will Exceed Customer Expectations
Word of mouth is triggered when “a customer experiences something far beyond what was expected,” Entrepreneur says. But businesses shouldn’t depend on customer service, because it’s sporadic and “deep down, customers know service comes from an individual, not from an establishment.”
Physical, nonverbal statements are the most dependable ways to trigger word of mouth advertising, according to Entrepreneur.
- Architectural statements: the erupting volcano outside the Mirage in Las Vegas, a glass-bottom floor or the attached playgrounds at McDonald’s buildings, which have “worked like magic for more than 20 years,” Entrepreneur adds
- Kinetic statements: tossing fresh fish at Pike Place Market in Seattle or the skills of knife-wielding tableside chefs at Benihana restaurants
- Generous statements: an expensive restaurant offering guests a free dessert or a jewelry store becoming known for replacing watch batteries at no charge
Have a Good Founding Story
Customers enjoy relaying stories about the background of companies. “You want to feel a personal connection, and if there’s a story you can relate to, you’re more likely to recommend them,” word of mouth marketing consultant Brad Fay told Vertical Response.
Marketers can use the power of storytelling in business to craft an inspiring story.
Be a Part of the Community
The local community is a natural place for getting word of mouth recommendations. “Be neighborly, frequent local community events, participate in neighborhood functions, go to your kids’ soccer games, host a potluck, organize a block party, etc.,” says Business Collective in Inc. “Simply being out there can actually result in some of the best networking opportunities.”
Whitler emphasizes the “connecting instead of collecting” mantra in social media communities, which offer word of mouth opportunities. “Having 100 really passionate fans that love your brand or product is exponentially more effective than having 10,000 ‘fans’ who signed up just to win a free iPad from you,” she says.
Niche social networks like Quora may appeal more to some audiences than a network like Facebook, HubSpot adds.
The effectiveness of word of mouth marketing strategies depends on customer’s trust. “You have to earn enough merit to become a worthy topic of conversation,” Forbes contributor Paul Jankowski writes. Maintaining truth through all marketing channels and communications is essential.
Make It Easy for People to Leave Reviews
“One of the worst things you can do in a word-of-mouth campaign is make it difficult for consumers to leave reviews, recommendations and communicate with one another about your brand,” according to Entrepreneur contributor Brian Sutter. Marketers should implement links to review sites, as well as in-person call-outs, to encourage people to share their experiences with others.
Connecting to Your Audience
Word of mouth may be the most powerful and compelling way for businesses to connect to consumers. Alvernia University’s online MBA provides students with skills in marketing, accounting, management, research and more to help businesses reach their goals. The program takes place in a fully online learning environment.