Word of mouth marketing is the most effective type of marketing. It’s so effective because your customer is putting their reputation on the line. Your customer has nothing to gain from their recommendation but the appreciation of their friends and family. Ideally, as people talk about good products and services, word spreads to more and more people. They not only speak out on behalf of the product, but also share their experiences with it which creates trust.
In a 2017 article, Forbes reports:
In a recent study, 64% of marketing executives indicated that they believe word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing. However, only 6% say they have mastered it.
In the digital age, word of mouth marketing is more important than ever. People are constantly connected to social media channels making it easier than ever to share their opinions. Business owners naturally want their customers to recommend them on these social media channels.
One of the reasons word-of-mouth marketing is the holy grail of business building is because it’s viewed as being free. That’s just not true. Word of mouth marketing is not free, you’re just not paying to advertise (a.k.a. deliver) the message.
When you’re not paying to deliver the message, you also cannot control the message.
Word-of-mouth marketing is powerful
So while word of mouth marketing is powerful, it also can be dangerous. If your product or service doesn’t live up to its promise, word of mouth marketing can turn and become your worst nightmare. Often, those with the most passionate about spreading the word are unhappy customers!
In the days before social media, we would tell our advertising agency clients that a happy customer will tell 3 friends while an unhappy customer will tell 10. These figures were based upon research done by TARP for Coca Cola in the 1980s.
Word-of-mouth marketing in reverse
Today a single dissatisfied customer can post their complaint online and reach hundreds if not millions of people. The average Facebook user has 338 friends, but that’s small potatoes for a creative content creator. A dissatisfied customer with the gift of storytelling or song can tell literally millions of people about your terrible product/service if their effort is entertaining enough to go viral. For example, an uncredited author created” Buying a PC With Dell: My Journey Into Hell.” Posted July 17, 2021, the YouTube video was featured on Digg and garnered almost a half a million view in less than 8 weeks. To add insult to injury, the video was embedded on the back to school page on the HP website.
However, this is child’s play compared to David Carroll’s creative customer service complaint. The songwriter wrote a song “United Breaks Guitars” which he composed in response to his customer service problems with United Airlines in 2009. The video has over 20 million views and has launched Carroll’s career into the stratosphere. According to his Amazon profile, He is now a highly sought after professional speaker and a published author. He is frequently commissioned to write songs for other people and organizations.
This is why I say you shouldn’t spend a PENNY on advertising until your current customers are happy. The importance of customer retention can’t be overstated. Customer satisfaction plays a critical role in marketing.
How can you trigger word-of-mouth marketing?
The first step to creating positive word-of-mouth marketing is to focus upon delighting your current customers.
Many businesses focus more on acquiring new customers than delighting current customers. The long term value of a customer is far greater than their initial purchase. Existing customers are the source of word-of-mouth marketing .
If current customers aren’t referring new customers to your business, there’s a reason why.
Few of my clients are aware of how intertwined customer service is with marketing. Many small business owners want to leverage the power of word of mouth marketing without recognizing that exceptional customer service is the key to tapping into that elusive goal of word-of-mouth marketing nirvana.
Every time a customer comes into contact with your business, you and your employees either add or take away from that relationship.
The first symptom that your customer service may need work is not an avalanche of complaints, but rather a lack of word-of-mouth marketing.
Step outside the box to trigger WOM marketing
It often takes more than just good customer service to generate word-of-mouth marketing. You need to step outside the box. Go above and beyond. Deliver a unique experience.
For example, a chiropractor in Stuart, Florida she gets a lot of new patients through referrals. This is unusual in this profession. So what’s behind her word-of-mouth marketing success?
It’s probably not what you think. While she does provide exceptional patient care, that’s only part of the picture. She’s exceptionally kind and caring too. But that’s not the only reason why she’s tearing up word-of-mouth marketing in her community.
She did two things to step outside the box that really caused her practice to explode. First, she practices what she calls “gentle chiropractic.” She uses this term to describe the dramatically different treatment modalities she uses which are more “gentle” than traditional chiropractic care. She also brings her dog to the office. Patients love William the Shih Tzu and he loves them.
When patients refer others to her practice, they say something along the lines of, “She’s really great and she brings her dog with her to the office.”
The presence of an office dog is the “hook” patients use to carry the message. What hook are you providing? What are you doing that’s different and unexpected?
At Moe’s, their “hook” is the employees yell “Welcome to Moe’s” in unison as customers walk in the front door. At a local jewelry store, they’ll replace the batteries in your watch for free. A local resort offers Micro Kickboard scooters for children of guests.
What’s your hook?
In order to generate word-of-mouth marketing, you must stand out from your competitors. That happens outside the box.
When you choose your hook, keep your target audience in mind. It wouldn’t be wise to offer electric scooters for children if your target audience is business travelers.
Before you begin any marketing or advertising campaign, take an internal check first of your customer satisfaction amongst CURRENT customers. Remember, satisfied customers will tell 3 or 4 people about your business while dissatisfied ones will tell many, many more.
Once you’re delighting customers, give them something to talk about. Make word-of-mouth marketing easy by making your business unique.
Editing for content: October 22,2021