When it comes to marketing, few things are more effective than word of mouth. Perhaps one of the oldest forms of marketing, it continues to deliver results in this increasingly digital world.
Before the internet, television, (and even radio!), people would share their experiences with a product or service amongst their friends. You know the basics, one person tells two friends about an experience. Those two friends tell two friends. Continue this pattern and, before you know it, everyone is talking about that product.
With the arrival of social media, the number of people that can be reached by a single customer sharing his or her experience has increased exponentially. This is good news for online retailers looking to reach customers and generate leads in the spaces where they spend the time.
By leveraging the exposure of social media and word of mouth advertising, a well-positioned e-commerce business can increase brand trustworthiness, generate more leads, improve sales numbers, and grow a happy, satisfied customer base.
Here are some things to consider when trying to make word of mouth marketing work for you:
Benefits of Spreading the Word
Word of mouth marketing comes with a number of benefits. Perhaps most significantly, positive word of mouth marketing promotes brand trustworthiness and authenticity.
How important is word of mouth marketing? One Nielsen poll says that 92% of consumers trust recommendations from their friends and family above all else, making it an incredibly powerful way to stimulate sales and grow your customer base.
Customer reviews are known to build a sense of trust and authenticity in the minds of buyers who are on the fence about making a purchase. New visitors to your website, product listing, or social media pages use these reviews to research the factors that they find most significant. And because these reviews come from actual customers, they feel more real than a paid advertisement or a carefully crafted product description. Customer reviews provide the “real” information and social proof needed to convert a visitor into a buyer.
As a seller, you can use this trust in friends, family, and other consumers to increase both sales and brand recognition. The natural instinct to trust other consumers can be incentivized to both satisfy your customers and grow your leads.
Refer-a-Friend programs are one of the most powerful ways to do this. In this instance, you are using people who already use, and love, your product and rewarding them for doing what they are likely to do anyway, namely, recommending your product to the people they know.
By offering a future discount once a referral makes a purchase, sending branded swag when a referral signs up for a free trial, or whatever incentive makes sense for your business, you are fostering brand loyalty and repeat purchases.
When a customer recommends your product to people they know, they are investing their own time and reputation. Making this investment helps to deepen their relationship with you, making them more loyal and encouraging them to make future purchases.
Even if the referred party does not make a purchase right away, you are likely able to gain their email address, turning them into a lead that can be targeted for marketing down the road.
Social Influencers and Word of Mouth Marketing
Refer-a-friend programs take advantage of traditional peer-to-peer word of mouth marketing. Social influencers present another opportunity to create a conversation around your product. Celebrities and individuals with massive social media followings have incredible power to drive sales of your product. One positive mention or recommendation and your popularity could skyrocket.
Unfortunately, social media influencers can appear inauthentic from time to time. Consumers are aware that influencers are compensated for their work and so they do not always appear to have the neutrality that makes their recommendation trustworthy and authentic. But, on the flip side, influencers have to carefully consider their reputations and so they may be more likely to only endorse products that meet a specific set of quality standards.
While the appearance of inauthenticity posses a potential problem, it is important to remember that if your product is presented in a genuine way, you will see positive gains.
Social influencers are particularly well-suited to products that provide immediate results or value. Consider cosmetics products, for example. Cosmetics are perfect for before and after images and application tutorials. In these cases, social influencers are able to clearly display the usability, effectiveness, and value in your product. This visual affirmation, along with the commentary from the influencer will have a profound impact on the perception of your product and brand.
If you have a product that would make a good fit for an influencer campaign, it is worth serious consideration. It will help to get your product in front of a large, demographic-specific audience and reach many people you may not have been able to reach on your own with this level of authenticity. The largest risk of working with an influencer is that you have no control over what they will say about your product. But if you do your research in advance, you can mitigate this risk by matching your brand with well-regarded and relevant influencers, increasing the likelihood that you will see a positive result.
Social influencers and endorsements can be an expensive way to get people talking about your brand but, if done properly, you can see a massive return on that investment.
Understand Human Behavior
Word of mouth marketing is influenced by patterns of human behavior. It is an observable fact that people are far more likely to complain about a negative experience than they are to rave about a positive one.
This means customer service is imperative. Not only is it important to address negative customer experiences, it is important to avoid these experiences where possible by going above and beyond. If you can surprise buyers by exceeding their expectations, you will be able to garner the type of goodwill that will make them talk. Offering even simple extras like a thank you note when you ship your package, can be enough tip the conversation in your favor.
The more you do to satisfy your customers, the less likely they are to complain.
Carefully Monitor Your Social Media Channels
Your social media channels are perfect conduits for word of mouth advertising. Customers often use these outlets to leave comments, register complaints or ask questions. And just as often, they do these things in full public view.
These interactions between followers can work as a kind of passive, watered down word of mouth. The way you resolve complaints and address questions or concerns will help you steer the type of conversation that is taking place around your brand.
No one likes to see complaints or negative reviews. It can be a real turn off and, worse yet, deter a purchase. If you, as a company, respond quickly with a polite and helpful response, you can restore any confidence that has been lost while confirming your reliability, value, and commitment to your customers.
Remember, a thoughtful response to one customer will be seen by hundreds and thousands of others.
Your social media marketing strategy should include the three E’s: Engage, Equip, and Empower.
Engage: Engage means just that -- engage with your audience. Use the opportunity to showcase your personality and actively participate in the conversations that are taking place. Engagement allows you to become a real presence in the lives of your followers and gives them the sense that they matter to you.
Equip: Give your social media followers and your customers something to talk about. Whether it is excellent customer service, as mentioned above, sharing interesting, entertaining, or informative posts, or providing a superior product, there are lots of ways you can create buzz.
Consider what it is you offer your base that no one else can. Use this information to plan this part of your social media strategy.
Empower: Provide your customers with different ways to share and discuss their experience with you. Ensure that they understand how important they are to you and just how much you value their opinion.
Provide them with links at the point of purchase so they can easily share their buy on their social media channels. Include them in the process. Ask them what they would like to see from you. Anything you can do to help them feel like an essential part of your company, makes them feel stronger in their loyalty to you. This empowerment makes customers want to tell everyone they know how great you are!
Word of mouth marketing is far from new but in the age of social media, it has a whole new set of implications. Customers are no longer just speaking to their friends and family about your product, they now have the ability to speak to the entire world. By making use of the right social influencers, providing top-shelf customer service, and carefully monitoring your social media pages, you can foster positive responses and create a positive buzz.