How to Leverage Word-of-Mouth Marketing in 2020


What is word-of-mouth marketing?

Word-of-mouth is the natural passing of information from person to person—whether they’re telling a story, sharing a piece of news, or recommending a product or experience. Word-of-mouth marketing, on the other hand, refers to marketing initiatives that actively influence and encourage word-of-mouth discussions about your brand, company, or products.

Why is word-of-mouth marketing effective?

Trust: The modern buyer is increasingly skeptical of traditional marketing tactics for obvious reasons. For this reason, it’s much more influential when a friend recommends a product because they do so without an ulterior motive.

In fact, customers are 92% more likely to trust their peers over advertising when it comes to making purchase decisions.

Social currency: As a business concept, social currency refers to the perceived value of a brand or product based on the level of conversation surrounding it. For example, if two of your friends constantly talk about a specific clothing brand, that brand has a large amount of social currency among your group. As a result, another friend who doesn’t own any clothes from that brand may feel inclined to purchase some—because they perceive the brand to be valuable and they don’t want to miss out.

Subconscious triggers: The impact of word-of-mouth is often subliminal. Let me explain through an example—say your friend buys a new electric grill and raves about how efficient it is. Two months later, your grill breaks. While shopping for a replacement, you see the electric grill your friend recommended and decide to purchase it. Even if you didn’t consciously remember the conversation, word-of-mouth influenced your purchase decision.

Any combination of these factors may influence a purchase decision. But it’s important to understand each concept on its own—as there are specific ways to leverage each one in your word-of-mouth marketing strategy.

Tips to Leverage Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Word-of-mouth may seem purely consequential—you sell great products, so your customers talk about you to their peers. But, marketers can take a more active approach to generate positive buzz.

1. Encourage online reviews

Before the rise of the Internet, word-of-mouth spread through conversations between friends, family members and colleagues. Now, a person can log into their computer and see hundreds of product reviews. And, these reviews matter!

In fact, 72% of customers don’t take action until they have read reviews about a product.

Rather than sit back and hope for positive reviews, marketers can take certain steps to increase the number of reviews their business receives online.

Make it easy: Include a review option on each of your product pages. And, include a call-to-action in your emails to customers so they don’t have to seek out a method to leave reviews on their own.

Ask at the right time: Ask for customer reviews shortly after they receive their order or product. You want their (hopefully positive) experience to be fresh in their minds so they feel motivated to take the extra time and leave feedback.

Consider all review channels: From Yelp to Glassdoor to G2 Crowd, there are so many platforms your customers can use to leave reviews. When you send review requests, alternate between these channels so you can generate a more comprehensive collection of reviews across the web.

2. Leverage user-generated content

User-generated content (UGC) is content created by your audience, for your audience. UGC is an effective tool to boost word-of-mouth on social media and other digital platforms—as customers trust and engage with content from their peers more than they do with traditional marketing content.

Encourage your customers to create UGC by offering an incentive. For example, contests and giveaways are a fun way to boost engagement among your users. From Instagram posts showcasing your product to video reviews on YouTube, UGC will catch the attention of other users and facilitate organic conversations about your brand.

3. Connect with influencers and thought leaders

A customer who praises your product to a few online peers won’t spark widespread conversation. An established influencer, on the other hand, can make a massive impact simply by commenting on your brand or product.

The power of influencers speaks to the concept of social currency we discussed earlier. The influencer’s word is more authoritative than the average user’s, so when they recommend a product, their followers perceive that product to be highly valuable.

Remember: an influencer’s total number of followers won’t necessarily indicate the level of word-of-mouth they’ll generate online. Target influencers whose content speaks to the needs and interests of your ideal customers.

And, while you might simply pay an influencer to create content, I recommend you partner with influencers who genuinely enjoy using your products. That way, the word-of-mouth they generate will appear more sincere and natural.

4. Establish a referral program

Customer referrals are the most direct form of word-of-mouth marketing. Referrals transcend casual conversation and involve a customer facilitating a potential deal between your business and a peer.

It’s no secret that referrals are effective—in fact, people are four times more likely to make a purchase when referred by a friend.

But, you can’t simply wait for customers to refer your products to their peers. Instead, develop a referral strategy to motivate and incentivize your customers to give referrals.

Even when referrals don’t result in new customers, they still benefit your company in terms of brand awareness and recognition. Referral programs motivate your loyal customers to spread the word about your business, both online and in their day-to-day lives.

5. Generate buzz on social media

In order to boost word-of-mouth online, you have to give people something to talk about. But as simple as that sounds, generating buzz doesn’t happen by accident. Here are a few ideas to spark more conversation about your company on social media.

Tease upcoming products: Teaser campaigns give customers a sneak peek at products before they’re released. Teasers build anticipation and curiosity—so when the release date arrives, your audience has already been talking about the product.

Run a contest: Online contests are a great way to engage with your audience and generate buzz. Not only will your followers jump at the opportunity to win a prize, but they’ll also talk about the contest and potentially get their friends involved. You can even run a contest that facilitates word-of-mouth by requiring contestants to share something about your brand on social media.

Use branded hashtags: Unique hashtags will help you curate the conversation around your company on social media. When someone first discovers your brand, they can immediately find other users with just a click of your hashtag. And, branded hashtags allow you to easily monitor and measure the word-of-mouth surrounding your brand on social media.

Of course, there are many more ways to generate buzz on social media and across all marketing channels.

Don’t be afraid to step outside the box and get creative. You never know which unconventional idea will catch on with your audience.

The right marketing strategy can help you generate word-of-mouth business. But, the best way to get people talking is to deliver exceptional customer experience. When your business exceeds expectations at every turn, your happy customers will want to share their experiences with their peers.

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