For many companies, word of mouth marketing is (and probably always will be) the most cost-effective and productive way to generate new leads. In a world that’s grown increasingly tired of traditional forms of outbound marketing, the recommendation of a friend or customer can be far more compelling than a banner advertisement or TV commercial.

Word of mouth marketing (WOM) is a natural part of the buying cycle, and in an era where customers are more likely to search for information online when making a purchase, it’s also one of the most reliable ways to build loyalty for your company. In fact:

  • 74% of customers consider word of mouth to be the key influencer in their purchasing decisions
  • 88% of people trust online reviews just as much as recommendations from personal contacts when choosing what to buy, and who to buy from
  • Around 91% of B2B buyers are influenced by word of mouth marketing

The question is, how can you make WOM work for you?

How Does Word of Mouth Advertising Work?

Think back to the last time you bought a superior product or had an above average experience with a company. Chances are that you, in some fashion, shared that moment with someone—whether in a one-on-one conversation or publicly on social media.

When something good happens to us, we naturally want to share it with other people. The more we share, the more exposure a certain brand or company gets, improving their incoming traffic and enhancing opportunities for new leads.

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Word of mouth marketing is an organic way of spreading information and experiences across both online and offline channels. As well as actually talking to people about what happened, you might also tap into some of the other tools that facilitate WOM in today’s hyper-connected environment, like:

  • Social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc)
  • Review platforms (Amazon, Yelp, HealthGrades, etc)
  • Blog posting and article writing

Because word of mouth advertising encourages customers or prospects to share authentic and engaging marketing messages on your behalf, it’s one of the most cost-effective and powerful promotional solutions out there. In fact, a little WOM can improve the overall impact of your marketing campaigns by up to 54%.

What’s more, word of mouth marketing doesn’t stop with a single interaction. Instead, ideas, pictures and comments continue to spread through a natural chain of interaction, making WOM an amazing tool for distribution and exposure.

How to Use Word of Mouth Marketing for Your Business

So, how can your brand benefit from word of mouth?

The simple answer is that you need to build stronger connections with your customers, rather than simply talking “at” them.

Word of mouth marketing is a byproduct of loyal employees, devoted customers and eager fans. The more you can convince people that your company is worth their support, the more likely you are to expand your company reach.

As ad-blockers continue to become more prominent online, banner blindness plagues the world and customers search for new ways to ignore more obvious selling tactics, word of mouth advertising could be the key to unlocking an ever-growing audience.

1. Start with Your Employees

Who better to promote your brand than the people who know everything there is to know about your business?

Employees are the lifeblood of any thriving company, and one of the easiest avenues through which to start your word of mouth marketing efforts. If your workforce is happy working for you and understand what your company represents, then they’ll be happy to share their thoughts and feelings through social media and other mediums. All you need to do is help them take the first step.

2. Provide Something Worth Talking About

While you’re updating your employees on their advocacy options, make sure they know exactly how to interact with your customers to inspire other forms of word of mouth marketing. In general, people are more likely to share experiences that are positive. After all, no-one wants to talk about an “OK” experience.

If your employees are constantly providing amazing customer service, then your clients are more likely to respond by generating reviews and referrals for your brand. At the same time, remember that research shows people on Facebook are more likely to share content that reinforces a certain image of themselves or makes them look good. Consider how you can tailor your customer interactions to make them more shareable.

3. Generate an Emotional Response

One of the main reasons that word of mouth advertising exists, is that people enjoy sharing their thoughts and experiences with other people. With that in mind, it makes sense that creating an emotional response in your audience would be more likely to provoke WOM sharing.

According to research from the Keller Fay Group, brands that inspire higher emotional intensity in the connections they have with their audience receive 3 times as much word of mouth marketing as their less-emotional counterparts. The key to positive WOM is ensuring that the emotional reactions you inspire are as positive as possible.

4. Engage (Be Part of the Conversation)

Want to make sure that your customers are constantly talking about your company? Then become a part of the conversation. Engage with your audience, and listening to what they’re saying in your industry. Make sure you’re a presence in your fans’ lives. For instance, @NikeSupport is a great example of a company frequently connecting with their customers.

Remember, people want recognition from their time on social media. Around 66% of respondents in one study said that they were more likely to give a referral after they were acknowledged by a brand. So, seek out your audience, speak at events where they’ll be attending, and approach them on their favorite social channels.

5. Empower Employees and Customers

If you want both your employees and your customers to become word of mouth advocates for your brand, then you need to make the process as simple and straightforward for them as possible. While some brands prefer to incentivize the sharing process with the promise of free vouchers and gifts, you can just as easily make WOM more likely by simply making it easy for people to talk about you.

Give people different ways to share their feelings, by providing links to a review form in emails, or encouraging people to tell you their thoughts on social media. When someone posts a comment on your blog, have a social button in place that allows them to share that comment through their networks too.

Sometimes all it takes to encourage a referral is a little simplicity. Don’t be afraid to simply ask your employees and customers to take part in the conversation too.

6. Establish a Referral Program

Finally, if you want to give your word of mouth marketing strategy an extra push, then why not start with a referral program? Seeing as 79% of people say that the main reason they choose to “like” a brand’s social page is in hopes of getting more discounts, offering people a reward when they share positive information about your brands with their friends is a great way to boost your brand.

While you shouldn’t have to consistently bribe people to say nice things about your company, a referral program can make the idea of WOM more appealing to both your customers and your employees. For instance, from an advocacy standpoint, you could tell your staff that once they’ve achieved a certain quota for referring people to your brand, they’ll get a free meal or gift.

When it comes to motivating your customers, you can simply tell people that they’ll get a discount, credit for their account, or something else that they’d consider to be appealing whenever they refer a friend.

Word of Mouth Marketing Statistics You Should Know

Word of mouth marketing has only recently begun garnering enough attention to generate statistics that showcase the power of recommendations and referrals to your overall marketing strategy. Here are a few of the most noteworthy numbers:

  • 88% of people trust online reviews written by other consumers as much as they trust recommendations from personal contacts. (BrightLocal)
  • 68% trust online opinions from other customers and places online as the third-most trusted source of product information (Nielsen)
  • 84% of consumers say they either entirely or somewhat trust recommendations from family, colleagues and friends about products and services. This makes these recommendations the highest ranked source for trustworthiness. (Nielsen)
  • 72% say reading a positive customer reviews increase their trust in business. (BrightLocal)
  • 58% of consumers share their positive experiences with a company on social media platforms. They also and ask family, colleagues and friends for their opinions about brands. (SDL)
  • 84% of consumers reported they took action based on personal recommendations and 70% said they did the same of online opinions of consumers. (Nielsen)
  • It’s been shown that word-of-mouth marketing has improved marketing effectiveness by up to 54%. (MarketShare)
  • Word of mouth was listed as the No. 1 influencer among millennials in their purchasing decisions about packaged goods, clothes, financial products and big-ticket items. Baby boomers also said word of mouth influenced them the most when it came to their purchasing decisions about financial products and big-ticket items . (Radius Global)
  • 43% of users on social media report buying a product after sharing or favoriting it on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. More than half of these purchases occur within a week of sharing or favoriting and 80% of purchases resulting from social media shares occur within three weeks of sharing. (VisionCritical)

Word of Mouth Marketing Plays a Large Role in the B2B Landscape

Source: BrightLocal

  • 56% of B2B purchasers look to offline word of mouth as a source of information. This number raises to 88% when online word of mouth sources are included. (BaseOne)
  • 61% of IT buyers report that colleague recommendations are the most influential factor when making a buying decision. (B to B Magazine)
  • 91% of B2B buyers making buying decisions are influenced by word of mouth marketing. (USM)

Making the Most of Word of Mouth Marketing

Whether you’re hoping to improve brand awareness on a budget or you simply want to expand the reach of your company, word of mouth marketing could be the most powerful, and cost-effective way to achieve your goals. If you take the right approach to WOM, you can encourage everyone from your loyal employees to your most valuable customers to tell other people about your organization, and increase your chances for extra sales.

In a world that’s now more digitally and socially connected than ever before, word of mouth advertising is the key to low cost and high-reward lead generation. If you can capitalize on this strategy, then you could set your business up for success in the long-term while effectively outshining your competition at the same time.