How often have you investigated a new brand, product or service because someone you’re connected to has raved about it? Personally, I don’t even see a movie in theaters or eat at a restaurant without checking reviews anymore. This is the power of word of mouth marketing, and all of us have examples of its influence in our daily lives.
Word of mouth marketing (WOMM) spreads information and advocacy organically through human interaction both digitally and in person.
Word of mouth has always been a powerful influence on consumer behavior and ultimately, a business driver. In fact, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising. The influence of word of mouth extends beyond friends and family members though, 91% of 18-34-year-old customers trust reviews online from other consumers as much as they trust recommendations from their inner circle. While this may sound like a huge opportunity for businesses, only 33% are actively seeking out and collecting reviews.
The key ingredient to word of mouth marketing
Trust is an essential element of word of mouth marketing. WOMM comes down to this one fact about all humanity- people trust people more than they trust advertisements. Having millions of followers does not mean you have your customer’s trust. More brands need to take on a “connection-first” approach to consumers for word of mouth marketing to generate any measurable benefit.
We all scream for ice cream
Coconut Bliss, the organic, vegan, and kosher ice-cream product brings in over 7 million dollars in revenue a year and invested in very little traditional advertising or other forms of marketing. Instead, they focused on building relationships with their customers and having those customers market their products for them. The founders set up at-home tasting parties in local communities to foster a sense of personal connection and asked customers who were fans of the brand to convince local grocery stores to carry their product. The brand continues to focus on sustainable production and fair-trade ingredients and has won several awards for their initiatives, only deepening the trust their consumers have with the product.
How to nail word of mouth marketing
There are a million ways to generate word of mouth, through events, influencer marketing, social media, interactive experiences, and even just rock-solid user experience. Each of these shares a few key elements.
Focus on quality
Word of mouth depends on creating highly positive experiences that are so buzzworthy people want to talk about them. Positive experiences stem from quality first, be it quality in product or service, or interaction.
Coffee goliath, Starbucks, spent little on print or television advertising at the beginning, and instead invested a lot on the quality of resources. Starbucks put a focus on bringing in naturally processed coffee beans to the US (a largely foreign concept up to this point) and creating communal spaces out of their cafes that people felt comfortable spending time in. Baristas greeted coffee drinkers with enthusiasm and built personal relationships with customers, who not only kept coming back but also kept spreading the word.
Provoke an emotion
People tend to discuss and share experiences if they’ve either had a very positive effect or a very negative one. We are provoked by emotion, which is why it is so important to focus on creating a positive emotional response. This can be done by attaching your brand to a cause people connect to, or even simply by creating joyful, memorable human interactions at events, pop-ups, customer service calls, or even on social media.
Have clear, two-way engagement pathways
In order to generate a measurable impact from word of mouth, you want to direct people to a place where they can continue the conversation with your brand. Reviews are an excellent example of this. It’s one thing for a customer to share their experience by writing a review, but another thing entirely for the brand to personally respond to said review. This added touchpoint deepens a sense of trust and brand loyalty and acts as confirmation to consumers who have yet to interact with your brand, how much you really care about your customers.
Even though we live in a digital era and the principles of relationship building may have changed slightly, this doesn’t mean that you can discount how powerful word of mouth can be as a tactic in your marketing arsenal.