The power of word-of-mouth (WoM) is no stranger to the world of marketing. People are quick to take the word of a friend or colleague when it's time to make a purchase decision. That's why, given how popular social sharing is today, understanding how to effectively implement word-of-mouth strategies is the difference between an average marketing campaign and one that consistently attracts new customers.
But there's one problem. Misconceptions about word-of-mouth promotions still exist. Whether it's seeing WoM as a communication tool instead of something that happens naturally between people, or believing that WoM requires little to no work, these misconceptions can hurt your business.
We've found three of the most common misconceptions marketers face and look at what you can do to encourage word-of-mouth promotion and grow your customer base.
Myth #1: Word-of-mouth promotions are “market-y.”
When thinking about word-of-mouth promotions, the first thing to come to mind might be influencer marketing. Influencers have a large network of followers who trust them and are willing to take their word when they promote products and services. You partner with an influencer, pay a fee and watch new leads flock to your website. This isn't word-of-mouth marketing.
Word-of-mouth promotions aren't meant to be “market-y.” WoM occurs naturally and is the result of nurturing your current customer base so that they feel compelled to genuinely share their experience as a customer.
In the image above notice the types of roles that help with WoM: Social Strategist, Customer Service and Social Operations. These are teams that have direct interaction with — or impact in some way — customers. The better the job they do, the higher the chances of naturally occurring WoM happening.
The key to WoM is to create opportunities for customers and brand advocates to share about your brand’s products and services. For example, encourage customers to write a testimonial and share it on your website. Or use social media and ask customers to share about a time your product helped them solve a problem.
The point here is to create convenient ways for customers to share about their experience and your product.
Myth #2: WoM is reserved for revolutionary products.
Word-of-mouth promotion is a powerful way to get your product in front of as many of your target audience as possible. The more people who see your product on a consistent basis, the better the chances are of them becoming a customer. However, having a strong product or service isn't enough. Yes, they give you a solid foundation to grow from, but this doesn't guarantee WoM will be effective.
Let's look at an example. Roku is a leading provider of streaming entertainment devices. They have a loyal customer base with 25% of their customers coming from a friend or family referral. You'd think that their product would be enough to drive word-of-mouth promotion from their customer base, but that wasn't the case.
To increase brand awareness and revenue, Roku launched a social referral program to reward sharing a few years ago. In the first six months of the program, Roku increased its customer-based referrals by 30% and drove $250,000 in revenue. All of this growth was a direct result of simply giving customers a reason to spread the word about Roku.
Advocates had the option to share the referral program through Facebook and Twitter at the time. There were also other sharing methods available and the option to customize the referral message, which combined made it easy for advocates to participate.
Keep in mind that the key to success doesn't just depend on your product. It'll get you into the market, but in order to keep your audience excited, think of ways to encourage sharing by your customers.
Myth #3: WoM is a replacement strategy.
As marketers, it's common to test different strategies in order to find what combination helps you meet your goals. When it comes to customer acquisition, strategies might include a combination of email, referral and social media marketing.
This line of thinking also refers to your efforts to encourage word-of-mouth promotion. There's no doubting how effective WoM is, but it's not meant to replace other attempts you make to acquire or retain customers.
Russell Sparkman, co-founder and CEO of FusionSpark, came up with an analogy during last year’s Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s conference (WOMMA). While referencing the link between content and WoM and their similarities compared to a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, he said:
“… content is the core, the substance … the peanut butter,” he explained in a blog post. “Word-of-Mouth is the chocolate-y shell that carries and transports the content.”
Simply put, you can't rely on only word-of-mouth promotion to help you meet your goals. Instead it fits in with your customer interactions to complement the marketing strategies you use to attract new customers.
Word-of-mouth promotion ain't easy
It’s crucial to note that WoM doesn’t catch overnight. It is, at its heart, a process that is inherent to people — not business. And that means it’s going to take some time to work its way into your messaging. As long as you fulfill a need and don’t try to force opinions, today’s modern vehicles of conversation will assuredly carry advocate-based appreciation far and wide.
That said, it is also important to note that WoM is inescapable. It absolutely thrives online. People are going to talk whether or not you want them to, and that means having a mindset that accepts this and access to tools that inspire positive conversation.
To learn more about developing an effective WoM marketing program, check out our 2018 Referral Best Practices Guide today.