Some firms spend a fortune on paid advertising. They look at things traditionally and measure their marketing success by increased sales due to television, radio, and print advertising campaigns. That is how they have always marketed, and that is how they will continue to do so. Other firms have moved slightly further forward – they recognize the existence of the internet, and possibly add Goole Ads and Facebook Ads to their marketing methods.
However, these methods are by no means the only way that firms can market. Indeed, they are probably not the most effective ways for most businesses. In reality, the best type of marketing for many companies doesn't involve making large payments, or indeed any payments at all. Many firms have received their best marketing results from Word of Mouth marketing, and it is the most natural, organic form of marketing that you can do.
What is Word-of-Mouth Marketing and How to Use It?
What is Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM)?
Word of mouth marketing is one of the most organic ways you can spread the word about your product. It involves various stakeholders promoting the benefits of a product they like via multiple channels, rather than using paid advertising.
Therefore word of mouth marketing is quite wide-ranging. It can include referral marketing, influencer marketing, employee advocacy, and customer advocacy. Most of the articles we have published here at the Influencer Marketing Hub have described some aspect of word of mouth marketing, although we haven’t referred it as such.
Some sub-types of word of mouth marketing focus on targeting a narrow group of people, for example, referral marketing. Others, like influencer marketing, can target much larger audiences, depending on the niche.
No matter which type of word of mouth marketing you want to use, you first need to create something worth talking about. My biggest challenge, as a blogger, was writing a post to promote sewage plugs for RVs – not the most exciting topic to encourage discussion. Yet it was a useful topic for a tiny niche audience (many of whom probably bought my client's product).
Why is Word of Mouth So Effective?
The key to successful word-of-mouth marketing is establishing trust. Consumers trust their friends and family. They trust people they perceive as being similar to themselves. They generally don’t trust brands, however, and look upon traditional marketing as being a cynical ploy to extract money from them.
A 2013 Boston Consulting Group study found that for millennials, brand authenticity is second only to loyalty discounts in importance when choosing companies to support. Shoppers distrust large companies, and just 36 percent of shoppers claim to trust large companies to do what’s right. 84% of consumers value recommendations from friends and family above all forms of advertising.
Word of mouth marketing has the advantage of using the very people that most consumers trust to deliver a brand's message, rather than using “untrustworthy” corporate and official advertising means.
The other important feature of WOMM is that it can create a viral effect. One person can tell a message to somebody who can, in turn, pass it on to multiple other people. These people, in turn, spread the word in a snowball fashion.
Of course, the “unfortunate” side effect of this is that negative messages spread just as fast as positive messages, and brands have to be ready to deal with any unintended fallout. But for many firms, that is a price they willingly pay to gain access to potential customers via word of mouth marketing.
Typical Types of Word of Mouth Marketing
Buzz Marketing focuses on encouraging consumers to spread conversations about a product. For this to succeed, a company has to create a “buzz” about a product, building up product and brand awareness. Firms often work with influencers to help achieve this. If an influencer likes a product, they can create a buzz with their followers, who begin to take an interest in the product, often in high numbers.
Brands can also create buzz, particularly if they can come up with an interesting/exciting event or challenge. For example, the swingset company, Backyard Discovery, set themselves a challenge to build the longest swing set in the world. They achieved this, with the large item of playground equipment including components from 51 swing sets. At the end of the campaign, Backyard Discovery dismantled their "super swing set," and gave the 51 smaller sets to children in needy families.
Backyard Discovery didn’t have to do much conventional advertising for this World Record attempt. They managed to generate massive word of mouth promotion, with interested people telling their friends and families about the giant swing set.
Technically, blog marketing is a mixture of content marketing and influencer marketing. It involves a successful blogger creating content and making it available for interested people to read and share. Many famous bloggers are genuine influencers, either because of high readership numbers on their blogs or because they can successfully share content to large numbers of people via social media (possibly mixed in with a massive email list).
Many bloggers promote products or services via their blogs. Sometimes these are their own products – perhaps courses they have created or eBooks they've written. In other cases, they are somebody else's products. Sometimes the blogger promotes the product, using affiliate marketing, knowing that they will receive a percentage of whatever the blogger's fans spend on the product.
If a blogger writes a successful post where they promote some product, the blogger's followers are likely to talk about the product. They may share the post, write comments, or even create another post themselves.
Because the blogger's fans trust him or her, they are more likely to share information about the product, than they would be if they saw a paid ad for the same product.
A modern-day equivalent to a blogger is a vlogger, or indeed anybody who operates a YouTube or other video channel. They use the same techniques as bloggers, except they make videos, rather than write blog posts.
Indeed, audio marketers, who use a podcast as their primary way to communicate with their audience, also engage in word of mouth marketing.
Social Media Marketing
Many influencers don't have their own "home" from which to spread the message. Instead, they rely on social networks to spread their message. Some influencers have built sizeable followings on platforms such as Instagram, and this is the best place for them to focus their WOMM.
Successful social media influencers know that their content won’t be restricted to their followers. If people like something they see, read, hear, or watch, they will happily share it with their friends, who in turn share it with their friends.
Although many firms may not consider reviews to be marketing, they are an essential part of WOMM. The modern consumer places enormous faith in reviews, and many people will only buy from companies that can claim a four or five-star review on a significant review platform, such as Yelp.
If you are lucky enough to enjoy good reviews, you gain immensely from word of mouth marketing. People look for good reviews. They find yours and are happy with what they see. They then buy your product, use your service, and if they are happy they in turn give you another review. It continues as a virtuous circle.
In some niches, such as hospitality, good reviews can make a restaurant; bad reviews can sink one.
In can be challenging to survive a series of bad reviews, unless you can carefully handle the problem, and improve your product or service.
Tips to Maximize Your WOMM Potential
Create Content People Want to Share
For successful word of mouth marketing, you either need some form of buzz, or you need content that is of sufficient quality that people will want to share it.
You don’t want our content to be boring, run-of-the-mill material that's already plastered all over the internet. Unless your Seth Godin, the days of 500-word posts are probably over for most people.
John Morrow’s Smart Blogger is an excellent source of information on how to create valuable and interesting blog posts. You will find many other resources online on how to make videos if that is more your thing (or to be more precise, the “thing” of your target audience). Many of the posts on the Influencer Marketing Hub should also be of help.
Encourage User-Generated Content
User-generated content (UGC) combines very effectively with word of mouth marketing. If you (or your influencers) can encourage everyday consumers to create and share content promoting your content, then that has to be a win-win situation. It is probably more useful for brand awareness than for trying to make sales; however, it should increase the number of people who take an interest in your product.
Use Influencer Marketing for Your Content Distribution
Influencer marketing is in many ways, the ultimate in WOMM. Influencers are experts in a niche. They are the go-to people for their specialist topics. Assuming your products or services are of sufficient quality to interest them, they can be the best people to spread your message to your intended audience. You just need to ensure that you pick the right influencer with the right group of followers for your brand.
Don’t Ignore Your Existing Customers and Employees
Your employees probably know more about your product than anybody else. Therefore they make great brand ambassadors. Who else can spread the word about your product's useful features and benefits, than those who work with it every day?
Well, perhaps there is one group that may be even more enthusiastic. These are your best customers. You don’t have to convince them; they already love your product. Therefore, you should encourage them to tell the world about your product and why they love it.
Ask for Reviews
If you lack sufficient positive reviews, you can make a point of asking your customers to create some new ones for you. Many people don't even think about doing a review, or they get distracted and forget to do it. You could perhaps send a follow-up email to your customers asking for a review.
If you have an online store, make it easy for people to place reviews on your pages, so that potential customers can see them.
Once you have sufficient positive reviews, make them even more visible on your website, and also use them in your social media posts.
Building Your Word of Mouth Marketing Strategy
Because word of mouth marketing covers so many bases, it shouldn't be too difficult to come up with an appropriate strategy. As with all marketing campaigns, however, you first need to establish goals for your campaign. Your goals will help you determine your intended audience, and then you can work out the best way to deliver your message to these people.
You will need to create some form of buzz or share (using influencers and/or advocates) useful content that will be of value to the people you are trying to target.
It may be hard to create buzz (as I discovered when I had to promote sewage plugs). In that case, you need to think about your intended audience. What are their pain points? What can you do to make their lives easier or more interesting? Even sewage plugs might excite people with a full onboard sewage tank.