It’s becoming more and more challenging to generate sales. With the competition so fierce, having a beautiful looking website isn’t enough to make it stand out from the rest. Succeeding online takes more than just squeezing as much as possible out of small opportunities. But there’s a powerful strategy that often gets neglected by online businesses. Just ask us during our free webinar training — this strategy is very underrated, which is why if you can master it, you’ll be a step ahead of your competitors. It’s called word of mouth marketing, and it’s something that if done correctly, can skyrocket referral sales.
So what is word of mouth marketing? Before social media, word of mouth meant friends and family were telling other people in their circle. Even though word of mouth in the traditional sense still happens, now it has transformed into something more social on the web. Big Commerce explains it quite well below:
Word of mouth marketing (WOMM), also called word of mouth advertising, is the social media era’s version of simple word of mouth.
Traditionally, word of mouth marketing was spread from one person to another based on recommendation.
Modern word of mouth marketing describes both targeted efforts and naturally occurring instances where users share their satisfaction with a brand.
In today’s hyper-connected world, a single recommendation can have far greater impact – leading to word of mouth marketing (WOMM) or word of mouth advertising strategies to capitalize on the opportunity.
Many best practices and marketing tactics encourage natural word of mouth, but campaigns — particularly on social media — can have the explicit aim of promoting an online business’ social exposure.
According to Nielsen, 92% of people trust recommendations from friends and family over any other type of advertising. Even academic research into WOMM has proven its effectiveness in conversion.
In the International Journal of Market Research, M. Nick Hajili wrote:
“Trust, encouraged by social media, significantly affects intention to buy. Therefore, trust has a significant role in ecommerce by directly influencing intention to buy and indirectly influencing perceived usefulness.”
Money Crashers provides an excellent overview of the basic structure of many words of mouth campaigns. This should give you some ideas on what type of strategies might work best for your business right now.
Like traditional word of mouth, word of mouth marketing depends on vectors: product or service users who spread awareness to other potential users. Depending on the circumstances, vectors’ networks can include one or more of the following: friends, family members, coworkers, neighbors, social media connections, blog readers, business peers or competitors, and others.
Word of mouth marketing campaigns come in several different flavors. At a high level, most fall into these organizational forms:
Interpersonal Connections: Like traditional word of mouth, this model involves real consumers (vectors) providing suggestions and recommendations within networks. It depends on strong interpersonal relationships built on trust, and requires limited buy-in and investment by marketers themselves. A restaurant that includes a “Tell your friends!” message on its receipts and a landscaping contractor who asks satisfied clients to send new clients his way both benefit from interpersonal marketing.
Influencer Marketing: Influencers are ordinary people with outsize megaphones. They can be early adopters, prolific bloggers or authors, unaffiliated subject matter experts, celebrity spokespeople, and others whose profession or social status adds weight to their words and gets vectors talking. Influencers usually have ample social or traditional media followings, which marketers rely on to propagate their messaging to an even broader audience. Depending on the circumstances, they can receive monetary consideration or in-kind compensation (free products or services) for their efforts.
Network Coproduction (Seeding and Engineering): Network coproduction is the most complex form of word of mouth marketing. It builds on the influencer model, tailoring product- or niche-specific messages to individual audience groups. Seeding typically involves giving influencers early copies or samples of a product or service, then inviting them to spread the word through their networks. Engineering is even more hands-on, usually involving targeted messaging or talking points that influencers use to initiate and shape influencer-to-consumer or consumer-to-consumer conversations.
To get your audience to tell others about your site and products, first, you need to know your audience. That’s why Referral Candy Blog says it’s vital to take the time and learn everything there is to know about your audience. The more you know, the more you can identify with them through your website and products.
Being aware of your competitors is a necessary step to stay ahead of them. You need to understand your industry and the questions or issues plaguing it. It’s important that you determine what your competition has to offer in terms of answers and solutions to those issues.
What can you do to be better than them?
How are they different from you and how can you benefit from this?
Are there any weaknesses you can capitalize on?
By properly analyzing your competitors, you’ll be able to determine what they’re doing right and what mistakes they’re making. This allows you to strengthen your own word-of-mouth marketing tactics.
KISSmetrics has a particularly extensive list of competitor monitoring tools that should come in handy here.
According to Referral Candy Blog, another fantastic way to get your customers and potential customers reason to share your products is by offering them something exclusive such as a private sale and releasing something exclusive locks in an audience because it brings a sense of excitement. Only a limited group of people can get the product!
People want what they can’t have and that’s exactly what drives this strategy. Offering exclusive access to your product or service can be an effective method for implementing word of mouth marketing tactics. This has been successfully carried out by sites like Spotify and Gilt Groupe where people can access the service only through an invitation.
When introducing a product or service, consider inviting influencers to try it exclusively instead of making it available for everyone. These influencers can provide valuable feedback and invite their community of fellow influencers to help the product or service go viral.
These recommendations are good word-of-mouth marketing tactics for promoting your product or service. Being exclusive will create a demand for your product or service just from curiosity.
Forbes recommends adding reviews and testimonials on your website. Having upfront referrals on your website is a smart way to show potential customers that already you have loyal customers who are willing to back your products.
Testimonials and reviews can act as powerful word-of mouth-messaging. Posting testimonials or reviews can be a great way of pulling word-of-mouth recommendations onto your site or social feed. Look on websites related to your business for reviews or testimonials (e.g. see what people are saying about your hotel on TripAdvisor). Bring that content over to your site or social feed, and make sure to link back to the original review and/or identify the reviewer to help improve the post’s credibility.
Don’t forget to look for videos and other rich media posted by customers that you can repost to your site or feed, as well.
After you have a group of loyal customers, Referral Candy Blog says to reward this loyalty! Whether it means offering coupons, or setting up loyalty points, come up with ways to make your customers feel special. They’ll be more willing to spread the word on your excellent customer service and customer dedication.
One of the most effective word of mouth marketing tactics for turning customers into loyal brand advocates is by offering incentives. You could give customers special offers or exclusive content that would make them feel privileged and special. Capitalize on their loyalty by making them want to share their great experience with friends and family.
Hilton provides an excellent example of how providing loyalty rewards encourages recommendations. Hilton rewards its loyal members through its HHonors program with dining perks, free stays, and exclusive concerts. Below you can see how this program is generating positive word of mouth marketing from customers.
Convince and Convert explains what a talk trigger is and why it’s the key to getting everyone to refer your site and products:
These are the four characteristics of an effective talk trigger:
It must be REMARKABLE: The differentiator must be interesting enough to be memorable. It must be worthy of remark. It must be dynamic so that it becomes the spine of a story.
It must be REALISTIC: The differentiator must be big enough to be memorable, but small enough to be trusted. Talk Triggers that are too grand cause suspicion. You want to find the Goldilocks Zone for your differentiator.
It must be RELEVANT: The differentiator must relate in some way to the overall business, so as not to cause confusion and dissonance among customers.
It must be REPEATABLE: The differentiator must be extended and available to all customers. A “loyal customer discount” is not a talk trigger because it’s offered only to a few, special people. That’s a client retention program, not a word of mouth program.
Referral sales mean everything, which is why it’s imperative to figure out some strategies that work well for your brand. Please join us for our next free webinar training — if you’re new to word of mouth referrals and building a website online, we can help you reach your business goals!
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