Over the next few days I’m going to tell you all about word of mouth marketing, you’re going to learn about the importance of word of mouth marketing in business and how to encourage it. You’re going to learn how to incorporate it into your social media, email and even mobile marketing efforts. To start though, I’d like to talk a little about what word of mouth marketing is and how it works.
The concept of “word of mouth” (or WOM as I call it), the simple act of one person sharing something with others, has been around since the dawn of business. Word of mouth marketing is an attempt to influence and encourage this phenomenon, getting consumers to talk about a brand and recommend it to their friends.
Studies have found that 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends over any form of advertising, so it’s not surprising that many businesses put great effort into word of mouth marketing. With the advent of social media that allows a single person to potentially share things to with millions, the possible rewards of a word of mouth marketing effort are in many cases astronomical. Having a marketing message “go viral” has, in fact, become the holy grail of advertising.
How Word of Mouth Marketing Works
There are many ways to get consumers talking about a brand. Generally in word of mouth marketing terms, there are direct and indirect approaches.
A direct approach is a “hands-on” attempt to spread the word about a brand, focusing on retaining control of the actual message. An example would be hiring people to join online forums to talk about the brand in a positive light. This can be very effective when successful, especially for a new business that has very little brand recognition to start with, but it also has the chance of backfiring if consumers spot the attempt. Usually it is not taken to kindly, and can actually cause a lot of damage to the brand. Another example would be a referral program that rewards consumers for recommending the brand to their friends.
The other, indirect approach is very common these days. A quick visit to Youtube is all it takes to see this approach in action; fun or controversial videos can be a great vehicle to get consumers talking about a brand. Generally, an indirect approach leaves the brand with very little control over what consumers are actually saying. This can actually be a good thing, as it ensures the discussion is authentic and there’s no chance of the campaign backfiring.
What are the advantages of focusing on it?
The main advantage of word of mouth marketing is obvious: a brand that can harness its power successfully will enjoy a steady stream of new customers simply through referrals from their friends. Since these prospects are somewhat pre-qualified (they already trust and like the brand), they’ll also be easier to convert into customers in many cases.
Another advantage is that a highly successful viral campaign, designed to increase “buzz”, can potentially take a new brand from completely unknown to a worldwide household name in just a few days. That is a rare outcome of course, but even a campaign with much less reach can benefit a brand greatly.
We can expect word of mouth marketing to keep increasing in popularity in the coming years, as it’s a way for brands to break through the noise and reach consumers in a non-intrusive way. As consumers get increasingly blind to regular advertising, directing effort towards word of mouth marketing may be the smartest strategy for a brand to focus on.
In the next few articles, I’ll be talking about how to incorporate word of mouth marketing into the various marketing strategies such as email, social media and even mobile marketing. In addition, we’ll discuss when word of mouth is less useful, what makes an advertising campaign WOM friendly and how to measure the results of your word of mouth marketing efforts.