How to make word-of-mouth marketing work for you

Three women and one man holding colourful speech bubble signs in the air

Asking a friend for an opinion before making a decision, and the concept of word-of-mouth marketing, isn’t anything new.

Talking to friends, family or neighbours to see if they know a good plumber, doctor, gardener or real estate agent is as common now as it’s ever been. The digital revolution hasn’t changed the power and influence of people’s opinions and word-of-mouth marketing. If anything, it’s added greater weight to the value to people place on genuine recommendations.

More and more, people are turning to those they know (and even those they don’t) to seek authentic and trustworthy recommendations.

Across the world:

So how can you harness the power of word-of-mouth marketing? Here are three keys to success.

1. Make people happy

Do what you say you’re going to. Seems pretty simple, right?

Ensuring customers have a positive experience with your product or service is without a doubt the best way to support word-of-mouth marketing.

If you’ve ever been either very happy or disappointed with an experience with a company, it’s likely you’ve told a few people about it.

Strong feelings about an experience with a product or service usually come down to the expectations of the customer. Have you promised more than you can deliver and failed? Have you clearly explained what you offer and met or exceeded your customer’s needs?

Determining your value proposition and proof points is key to establishing reasonable and realistic expectations.

By taking the time to truly understand what you offer, and how this meets a customer’s needs, you can craft effective and authentic messages and marketing materials.

  • What value or benefit can your product or service add to a customer’s life?
  • How can you prove what you say about your product or service?
  • If you can’t prove it, why are you saying it?

While it can be tempting to say you are the “best”, “biggest”, “cheapest”, “fastest”, you need to be ready to back up these statements and deliver on your promise.

Some companies take their value proposition a step further by putting their money where their mouth is and offering a better deal or discount if they don’t live up to their promises. Consider the fast food restaurant Domino’s Pizza, who’ve built their value proposition around affordable and fast pizzas. Enter the Domino’s Delivery Guarantee – pizza delivered in 20 minutes, for a small fee of $3, or your next pizza is free. Or even the price promises of Bunnings and Officeworks, who commit to the lowest prices or a reduction in prices to beat competitors.

While promotions like this don’t work for every company, the lesson is fairly simple: do what you say you’re going to do to build trust, credibility and integrity.

2. Learn to love and leverage user-generated content

Thanks to the growth of social media and user-generated content it’s never been easier to make your feelings known and visible about a product or service. Loved your brunch at a cafe? Post a review on their Facebook page. Had a terrible travel experience? Warn others by posting a review on TripAdvisor.

User-generated content is defined by Curata as “essentially any content created by an unpaid contributor”. It can span a range of sites and channels from review websites or tools through to the use of hashtags on social media.

Review websites and tools continue to grow every day. From Google ratings on business listings to industry-specific sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp, people love to share their opinion and read the opinions of others.

According to statistics compiled by Vendasta:

  • 92% of consumers now read online reviews
  • 40% form an opinion by reading just one to three reviews
  • Reliability (27%), expertise (21%) and professionalism (18%) are the most important attributes for consumers

If there are review tools and websites relevant to your company or industry, it’s critical to actively monitor and respond to reviews – the good and the bad.

How can you manage and engage with reviews?

  • Thank people for taking the time to write a review
  • Write a meaningful and relevant response to the review – don’t just copy and paste a generic answer
  • Act quickly – according to the 2018 Online Reviews Survey, customers expect a response within 7 days (if not sooner)

Even if the review is negative, providing a response is beneficial. Research by the Harvard Business Review shows that responsiveness to reviews increases the number of reviews received and impacts customer perceptions and ratings over time.

Testimonials or case studies are also an excellent way to showcase the impact of your company and to build trust and credibility in your brand.

Some powerful and affordable tactics include:

  • short videos
  • written case studies
  • content competitions to capture and share customer experiences

For more details on case studies, check out my previous blog on Pen For Purpose “How to craft a compelling case study”.

3. Keep the conversation going and be ready to listen

Engaging tools to enable customer feedback, suggestions and new ideas can support you to stay on top of emerging needs and trends.

Maintaining an active social media presence, and being responsive to comments and reviews, creates an opportunity for ongoing two-way communication.

Through social media you share what’s going on for your company, and just as importantly, listen to your customers. This active listening empowers you to make operational changes and improvements as needed.

eNewsletters are an accessible, low-cost option for regular communications with your customers.

There are a range of eNewsletter tools out there that enable you to design professional looking updates for customers. You can also encourage readers to send their feedback on the content of the newsletter or to share their experience in future newsletter editions. This guide by ConnectingUp provides some great tips on why and how you should start up an eNewsletter.

I hope this guide has been helpful in explaining some of the low-cost, high-reward opportunities available to your business by leveraging the power of word-of-mouth. What are your challenges in word-of-mouth marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments.

About the author

Over close to 10 years, I’ve worked within non-profit and community organisations to drive communications and marketing campaigns and initiatives. Telling great stories is a true passion of mine; and a passion I’d love to share with your organisation.

Learn more about Pen For Purpose, the copywriting, editing and content marketing services available to you, or simply get in touch to talk about your communications needs