Word-of-mouth marketing is a crucial part of online marketing strategies.
More than half (64 percent) of marketers believe that it’s the most powerful tactic there is. It can turn customers into advocates and increases both trust and engagement.
Historically, word-of-mouth marketing wasn’t easy for brand managers to control, making it hard to measure.
Once a marketing initiative went live, much of it was out of marketers’ hands. It relies on brand marketers connecting with customers and customers connecting with their friends, so analysis became difficult across potential digital and in-person points of contact. It might seem impossible to tie the budget allocated to this tactic back to results, proving return on investment.
These challenges of old shouldn’t stop today’s marketers, however, but rather be encouraging. Mastering the potential of word-of-mouth marketing gives brand managers a substantial competitive advantage.
How does word-of-mouth marketing work?
Word-of-mouth marketing is the art of connecting with your customers at scale with the help of modern marketing tools such as referrals, social marketing analytics, social content and marketing automation.
These tools can connect you with consumers and encourage them to spread positive information about—and recommendations for—your organization or client. This inspires their friends and followers to buy from you and increases your reputation and visibility.
To work effectively, word-of-mouth marketing must involve connection. Brand managers must establish relationships with their customers so they feel empowered toshar e messages with their friends and family.
The tactic also relies on customers being incentivized to share, whether it’s done because of their passion for a brand or a monetary benefit.
Using social media to get consumers talking
Think of word-of-mouth marketing on social media platforms as a filter. We’re bombarded every day by advertising messages. They’re everywhere, from traditional media outlets to newsfeeds to native ad campaigns. We’re so accustomed to it that we end up blocking almost all of it out.
In this environment, it’s incredibly hard for brand managers to get noticed—people trust messages from their friends.
If your friend says something positive about an organization, they’ve already done the filtering for you. They’re speaking based on their experience—and that gives their recommendations much more weight.
Their recommendations are not only more trustworthy, but also cut through online marketing clutter. Consumers take word-of-mouth messages seriously, and social marketing delivers that trust to many consumers at once.
Here are five tips to work with brand advocates and ensure word-of-mouth success:
1. Understand word-of-mouth marketing principles. Every good word-of-mouth strategy should be honest, respectful, credible and measurable.
Don’t be dishonest or force your customers into doing something without their consent. That could backfire.
Although word-of-mouth marketing thrives on positive referrals, even negative referrals can be a good interaction for your business, because someone has referred you and passed on the offer.
2. Enhance the customer experience. Think carefully about all of the ways customers connect with businesses. Each interaction should be polished so it’s easy, effortless and satisfying.
Today’s consumers have an endless supply of options at their fingerprints, so their experience with your organization must be both flawless and memorable. You want to create experiences they want to share with others.
Think of it in the context of going viral: This will enhance the reach of your referral marketing and ensure positive chatter.
3. Reward your customers who spread messages. Don’t just rely on customers having a great experience for word-of-mouth marketing to work.
Instead, offer them incentives to promote your organization—a refer-a-friend program, discounts or early access to new products and services.
This will make them feel valued and strengthen their relationship with your organization. Show them you care, and they will reciprocate.
4. Use the right tools. Great word-of-mouth marketing relies on having the leading tools. Next to your overall strategy, the right platform is one of the best investments you can make.
The best way to find the right word-of-mouth marketing platform is to look at your existing marketing channels and determine how you can best optimize them.
For instance, if your organization or client thrives on positive customer experiences, a review platform such as PowerReviews might be the right fit. If you want more social brand awareness, you could probably benefit from an “influencer” marketing platform. If you want to optimize your existing brand advocate program—or improve customer acquisition and retention—a referral program is right up your alley.
Leveraging consumers as brand advocates is quickly becoming one of the most effective strategies for continued, consistent customer acquisition.
Brand managers that incorporate word-of-mouth marketing into their social media strategies will have a consumer list that is constantly refreshing itself, along with a customer base that becomes more loyal with every recommendation and referral.
Matt Roche is the CEO of Extole.