Word of mouth marketing (lovingly nicknamed WOMM) can make or break your biz. It can build you up and tear you down faster than an OC socialite. Do word of mouth marketing right and you’ll have (almost) no need of an ad budget; customers will share stories of your sublime service at dinner parties across the country, and that’s better than any billboard.
The popularity of sites like Yelp and Angie’s List, and even Health Grades for the medical industry, show how important the old Word o’ Mouth is. While anonymous online word of mouth is plentiful, savvy users are aware of how reviews can be manipulated and faked, which is why person to person WOM is still the most powerful form.
The WOMM wombat shares it’s opinions with friends
Word of mouth marketing is, at its heart, using happy customers to promote your business. The aim in word of mouth marketing is to provide customers with such an unbelievably amazing, life-affirming product or service that they can’t help but share their experience with friends, family, co-workers, and the random dude who sits at the bus stop every day with his exotic parrot.
Imagine it: customers doing your marketing work for you! Well, they’ll need a bit of help, especially in the online era when word of mouth marketing has evolved quite a bit. Traditionally, word of mouth marketing refers to verbal endorsements: good word of your business, exchanged vocally via your pie hole. Today however, word of mouth marketing can be found in:
And, of course, old school chatter
Word of Mouth Marketing Statistics
I don’t think we really need to explain why word of mouth marketing rocks — it’s kind of a cornerstone of marketing. But in case you need to convince coworkers and friends, here are some word of mouth marketing stats taken from a study done by Lithium.
- 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family more than any other form of advertising. [Lithium]
Only 10% of consumers trust brands. [Lithium]
70% of consumers read online customer reviews when considering a brand. [Lithium]
81% of consumers are influenced by their friends’ social media posts. [Lithium]
These numbers make a pretty solid case for word of mouth marketing. So how can you take a bite out of the prize? Let’s take a look.
5 Steps for Improving Your Word of Mouth Marketing
Word of mouth marketing isn’t a magic philosopher's stone to quick-fix your problems; it’s a long journey with a big payoff, assuming you can make the trek. Begin your incredible journey with these five steps. After that, just keep walking!
Step 1. Amazing Service, Amazing Staff: Give People a Reason to Rave
Word of mouth marketing is most successful with brands that are working really hard to do right by their customers. This means a great offering partnered with exceptional customer service. Obviously your product needs to be strong, but it’s just as important that the staff interacting with customers and clients is top-notch.
That is one happy staff [Image via reedigitalphotos.net]
Honestly, it’s the positive human interactions most people get excited about; consumers often encounter so much lousy customer service that in contrast, great service is a minor miracle for most.
Step 2. Be Unique: Let Your Freak Flag Fly High!
One way to generate word of mouth is by making your business truly note-worthy. You can do this a number of ways, such as with:
a one-of-a-kind product
unique company culture
Take Old Spice as an example. They generated a ton of word of mouth marketing with their “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” marketing strategy, which we’ve talked about before in regards to successful YouTube advertising. Sometimes it works to be a little weird.
Whether you’re a freak or a geek, it pays to be different. Well, not so much in high school…
While it’s cheap to be strange just for strategy’s sake, if your business has a unique company culture or bizarre brand identity, be loud and proud about it! People appreciate what’s out of the ordinary, and you’ll gain fans and word of mouth attention simply for walking to the beat of your own drummer.
Step 3. Become an Industry Thought Leader
Want to get people talking about you? Establish yourself as an industry thought leader! This requires considerable effort on your part — you’ll need you to engage in dialogue with existing industry leaders and power players while staying up to date on the latest industry news. Once you really know your stuff and feel confident, make your own predictions and inferences based on industry trends. Just make sure you can back up your theories with hard evidence!
It’s not the easiest route to take, but the long-term benefits of becoming an industry leader are worth your sweat and toil. When people start looking to your brand as a thought leader in your field, you’ll soon end up with more word of mouth marketing than you know what to do with.
Step 4. Create a Good Name for Yourself
People appreciate businesses that are honest and fair. No slimy tactics here. Grow your reputation by being respectful of your customers and treating them right. Don’t try to fleece your customers, and they’ll thank ya kindly for it.
Don’t try to trick your customers
Step 5. Active, Engaged Social Community
You can also foster word of mouth marketing through a tight-knit social community. Community can be developed by:
organizing events (online and offline)
The best word of mouth marketing power brands convince consumers that by buying their product, they’re making a personal statement and joining special ranks. Die-hard devotees may even refer to favorite brands as “family” as certain products or services become part of a customer’s identity.
Great communities help users identify themselves. It’s why fans of TV shows love giving themselves nicknames (e.g. Bronies, Fannibals, Trekkies). It’s why you can’t enter a Starbucks without seeing a swarm of white Apple logos and why Soylent drinkers think they are the superior humans.
Original Comic Con photo by Scott Sebring
This kind of devotion isn’t easy to come by, but achieving such loyalty is the ultimate marketing hole-in-one. So how do you get there? Well, in order to develop an intimate community there needs to be some sort of exclusivity. A community is formed not just by who is in the group, but also who isn’t. This doesn’t mean you should immediately bar the door; there’s a balance to consider. You want to be welcoming towards all, but embrace only the few. Your community probably shouldn’t appeal to everyone, it should cater to a niche group.
Some brands have done an incredible job capitalizing on the ‘community’ aspect of their product. Let’s examine a few top-notch word of mouth marketing examples from brands hitting it out of the park.
Word of Mouth Marketing Examples
Some brands manage to develop a near cult-like following. Why do folks love them? How do they do it? Let’s take a look.
Jeep has made themselves into THE car for adventure lovers; the car for those who would rather not worry about something as small and inconsequential as “roads.”
Even more remarkably, Jeep has managed to market themselves as the brand for true Americans. As Globe and Mail (ironically, a Canadian news site) notes:
Jeep is appealing to the deepest, most powerful drivers of the American psyche. Americans like to believe they possess qualities that set them apart – that they are rugged, and tough, and individualistic, and resourceful, capable, straightforward and indomitable. It [Jeep] speaks directly to what Americans most like and admire about themselves, believe to be true about themselves…Jeep is just so American.
Spotted on the street while writing this post. Note the American flag. Case in point.
Most people who drive Jeeps truly identify with this subculture of carpe diem tough guys and will unabashedly explain why Jeep trumps all.
Zappos is another company with an extremely devoted following. If you ask Zappos superfans why they love the brand, they’ll probably say something about Zappos’ exceptional customers service.
Zappos trains their call center workers to be responsive, helpful, and noticeably human. They pride themselves on providing free 24/7 customer service via American call centers. It may not sound revolutionary, but this kind of service is hard to come by. Just think about the last time you had to call Comcast (I know, I know, it’s OK, sorry for bringing back those memories. Take a deep breath and throw back that Xanax).
There are incredible stories about Zappos workers going above and beyond for customers. One story tells how one worker, after discovering that a return shipment of shoes was delayed because the customer’s mother had passed away, sent flowers to the home in lieu of an invoice. It’s this kind of demonstrative concern for customers that has made Zappos the brand it is today.
Zappos also knows that happy workers breed happy customers, which is why even low wage call center employees are treated to company perks. We could all learn a few things about how Zappos incentivizes workers and tries to make the office a 2nd home for employees. Zappos demonstrates how good company culture naturally breeds word of mouth marketing.
Craigslist is probably the most incredible word of mouth marketing example. For one, the website is as barebones as it gets, with a startling lack of bells and/or whistles. Craigslist doesn’t even have a logo. Oh, and the advertising budget? $0. Zero dollars. It’s so basic, so primitive, that the design alone leads the apprehensive to mistrust it, wary of its resemblance to scammy old Angelfire-style sites from the internet’s primordial ooze.
Instead of focusing on revenue and ROI, Craigslist has everything focused on the customer. As CEO Jim Buckmaster notes, "All we do is try to respond to what users are asking for. That's how we set our priorities. Users aren't asking us to run ads, so it doesn't come onto our radar." From a business perspective, this is bordering blasphemy, but it earns Craigslist great admiration as it stays true to its mission statement to “connect the world for the common good.”
As a result of keeping it old school, Craigslist has managed to make themselves a household name, racking up over 50 billion page views per month while relying on word of mouth as its sole source of marketing. While Craigslist is an exceptional success story, it’s true that redirecting energy and resources towards building up word of mouth marketing (as opposed to regular advertising) can benefit any brand. Businesses that develop strong word of mouth marketing often don’t have to spend as much money on advertising. They’ve built themselves a self-sustaining perpetual marketing machine.
Etsy has powerful appeal as an alternative to the mass market consumerism that plagues most of our purchasing prerogatives.
Just one of the adorable things you can buy on Etsy
They market themselves as a shopping alternative for folks who are looking for one-of-a-kind items that reflect their own uniqueness. This strategy thrives off a growing trend in which individuals are looking to distance themselves from the collective kitsch. Like Craigslist, Etsy prefers to rely on WOMM rather than ads. CEO Rob Kalin notes:
"When you have a service that people feel enthusiastic about, they spread the word and pass it on. If we were to take out big glossy ads in magazines or do television commercials, then that changes how people perceive what your company is."
This isn’t to say you should immediately go dump your advertising budget in the river, but it does remind us that a certain balance is vital. Your business will go much farther devoting attention to customer experience and building community than it would were you to simply plaster ads all across the web.
Folks rave about JetBlue because of the way they treat their flyers. While other airlines penny-and-dime passengers for in-flight entertainment, refreshments, and food, JetBlue offers the same amenities gratis, all while maintaining an upbeat attitude and solid customer service.
Sometimes it’s the little things that count, and JetBlue has gained a ton of word of mouth marketing traction by providing small acts of kindness towards their passengers.
Word of Mouth Marketing: The Power is Yours!
Word of mouth marketing is a powerful tool, but for some businesses, it can be tough to wield. Getting customers enthusiastic about your brand requires stellar service, a unique identity, solid reputation, and a thriving community. Above all, put your customers first and deliver above and beyond what you promise. Surprising clients with your awesomeness will ensure they spread word of your biz all across the land.