Complete Guide to The Modern Word of Mouth Marketing

Word of mouth is not a new concept; it has existed since the dawn of time.

Even in ancient times, renowned doctors, architects, merchants, and craftsmen were sought after and paid extra. They got the majority of their business via recommendations or if you will say it’s via “word of mouth”.

This kind of promotion has persisted up until modern times. We have much more trust and confidence in people who are recommended by our friends and family. In fact, around 90% of people will seek out a specific professional recommended by their friends.

Here are some interesting stats regarding word-of-mouth marketing or WOM:

  • Consumers are 4 times more likely to buy a product or a service that was recommended by their friends
  • The concept generates twice the sales of paid ads
  • 62% of people will check online reviews before buying a product or a service

Importance of modern word of mouth marketing –

So obviously, this is something that works. But how well does it work and what differentiates it from the traditional word of mouth?

Strangely enough, modern WOM is more important than it was during previous decades. This is mainly due to ad oversaturation.

In a world where everyone’s investing in ads, people have become less and less trusting. We have become accustomed to recognizing ads and due to this bombardment, we are increasingly less inclined to buy from companies that are aggressively advertising on the web or TV.

Instead, we focus on brands that are recommended by people close to us.

Today, word of mouth is done via the internet. It is an ideal platform as it is more personal than TV or radio, it allows numerous consumers to share their opinion presented in their own voice, and promotion happens in an instant through simple link sharing.

Here are some of the main differences between the two:

  • Unlike traditional word of mouth, WOM is meant to provide results. It is a purposeful action that is performed through stages where ultimately people will like your product and start sharing it with their friends
  • Word of mouth marketing can be measured, analyzed and if necessary, changed to meet our company goals
  • Modern word of mouth presumes initial investment. Companies will give their products to influencers and other interested parties who will test them. Alternatively, they can pay influencers to promote these items for you but the best results are achieved when impartial consumers are reviewing your products or services

The whole process starts by having a premium product or a service. Unless you’re certain you have one in your hands, it is much better not to start a campaign. In one of the following chapters, we will explain how to create a product that will attract enough attention so make sure to stick around

While there are numerous things we can control, we can’t do anything about people’s reactions and how they pass a message on. This is the biggest advantage and flaw of the whole process.

What are the biggest WOM advantages? 

Word of mouth marketing is similar to other marketing forms in the sense that it provides brand loyalty and increased exposure. However, it also has certain advantages of its own:

  • Expenses are different compared to other types of ads. You can create a big buzz with a one-time investment. You need the initial buzz that will continue in perpetuity compared to standard paid ads where you continuously have to invest to stay on top
  • The focus is on real people and real experience instead of artificial feelings and messages
  • You can accomplish higher brand loyalty faster with less investment 
  • Word of mouth marketing has much better potential in terms of exponential growth
  • It can have better targeting compared to other forms of ads. Sending your products and services to the right influencers can allow your message to reach their followers who are likely to be interested in the same thing
  • This kind of promotion is focused on building a community. That same community will be a good brand ambassador for years to come
  • By giving your product to impartial users, you can quickly detect potential issues that it has and which you might’ve missed during manufacturing

In a nutshell, WOM can create a more personalized customer experience. It is also much better than traditional or even modern ads where most companies “spray and pray”.

But is everything as great as it seems?

It might be; it all depends if you do it the right way.

What are the biggest WOM disadvantages? 

As you can presume, there are quite a few disadvantages to this approach and in general, it boils down to the lack of control.

 Here are some of the main obstacles you might encounter along the way:

  • As already mentioned, the company doesn’t have the same level control as they would have with other types of online ads
  • The precise type of message or impression will vary from person to person. Even if your product has lots of benefits, people might praise it for different things while also omitting some of the benefits you initially wanted to promote
  • It can backfire big time if done improperly. It might even become anti-commercial
  • Time frames are a bit skewered compared to traditional advertising where you know when and how your ad will be shown to potential users
  • The promotional process has to do with the product review as it has with your relationship with the reviewer. Sometimes, you might get a bad review because you didn’t manage to establish a proper relationship with an influencer

Like with everything else, we suggest that you hire a reputable marketing agency that has experience working on these projects. This will help you mitigate some of the risks while also maximizing the benefits.

Should you still consider other marketing strategies? 

Based on all the data we have so far, you can easily tell that WOM marketing is head and neck in front of other marketing strategies. But as I mentioned before, it does have its flaws.

If you ask any economist for advice, he will tell you that you can never invest enough in marketing. While this is true, you need to make sure this money is properly distributed.

In this modern digital society, it is very important to create messages that are sharable and can be used on any platform. This is the greatest thing about WOM as its form always changes. It is not a video but it can be; it is not a review but it can be. A simple line of text can be used to convey the message to other people thus increasing the popularity of an item.

So, what are the other marketing strategies that can go well with word of mouth marketing?

  • Search engine optimization – Some of the reviews will be posted on your site so it makes sense that improving your position in Google will bring in more exposure thus making your word-of-mouth strategy more effective
  • Social media marketing – In a way, WOM doesn’t work that well without social media marketing. Yes, you can share your message with influencers and focus on your site reviews but ultimately, most of these people will want to interact with others. That place should be your Facebook page (or a page on some other platform depending on the industry)

Why did we only mention these two marketing channels?

One of the main reasons why you should use WOM is to create an organic, personal experience. If you use Facebook or YouTube ads or if you advertise in Google, you will lose one of the main benefits that word of mouth brings.

Even if you’re investing money in promoting your items, customers shouldn’t know that.

This is especially important nowadays as people hate companies that are stuffing ads down their throat. Young people love products that are cool, hip and most importantly, ones that other young, hip people are using.

7 Tips that will help you create an awesome Word of Mouth marketing strategy

While the creation of any marketing strategy is not easy, there are certain ways to make it less painful. Here are some of the best tips and tricks that will help you implement word-of-mouth:

  1. 1. Put a focus on users’ content 

As already mentioned, one of the biggest advantages (and also risks) of WOM is the fact each user will create their unique response. However, it is also a necessity.

For a campaign to succeed, it needs to feel as organic as possible.

The best way to do it? By stimulating reviewers to create their own content!

Here are some numbers to back it up:

  • 84% of people say that user-generated reviews are the best way to “figure out” a brand. They can also be strong indicators of quality
  • The same content can increase your sales by 20% (if a review is positive of course)
  • Young people have more confidence in user-generated posts than posts created by the company itself

So, how can you incentivize users to create such posts?

The best way is by giving more free stuff. Whoever creates such posts can be given additional products, discounts or vouchers. You can then post these reviews on your site to gap the bridge between potential customers and your brand.

  1. 2. Create special sections where you can showcase reviews

You have to remember that it’s not enough for users to create their own posts and reviews; you also need a platform where you can share them.

Where can you put them then?

We suggest that you create a special section on your site for such reviews. A lot of brands are also opting to showcase them on their homepage but it is also good to put them on your Facebook or other social media profile.

Perhaps the most underrated aspect of these reviews is the fact you can use them on the product page itself! People who land on these pages have a high interest in what you’re offering so the best way to close them is by providing an additional incentive in the shape of happy customer reviews.

How impactful are these testimonials?

According to studies, 79% of people trust them as much as they trust a direct recommendation from their friends!

  • 3. Showcase ratings

Some people don’t like spending time in reading or watching reviews. Instead, they will simply settle on a numerical or star rating of a product.

These numbers give you a piece of instant information regarding a product or service and how it compares to similar things on the market.

Ideally, you should have these ratings on your site. As soon as a person leaves a review, the comment (together with the rating) will remain on your pages for everyone to see. While this gives more transparency and is especially great for good products, it can backfire for bad services and items.

Here is how site reviews can help your company:

  • 63% of people prefer buying from sites that have a review system
  • They lead to 18% sales increase on average
  • People trust them 12 times more than the descriptions provided by the company

Although reviews have their drawbacks and some entrepreneurs might be reluctant to add them, they are very important for building a bridge between you and your customers.

  1. 4. Incentivize people to post reviews

As your company grows older, it will get more and more reviews.

Unfortunately, it looks really bad when you’re a new company and there is nothing written on your pages.

If you have the rating option and there are no reviews, this can be a sign that no one is buying your products. Alternatively, this might indicate that no one cares about your brand. And to be honest, it is even better to get mediocre reviews than no reviews at all.

To jumpstart your project, we suggest that you begin your WOM campaign by incentivizing people to post reviews.

This can be done by providing small gifts or discounts. These discounts can also be a good way to force a person to remove their negative reviews. You would be surprised how many companies are micromanaging their rating systems this way!

If you want to take things even further, you can start a referral program.

What is so great about it?

  • It reduces your initial investment costs
  • It allows you to spread your company’s message quickly and easily without too much micromanagement
  • It is good for both sides ensuring that the commercial goes on and on
  • People working within the referral program can give you data regarding the product allowing you to perform a thorough analysis without high expenses

Keep in mind that the creation of a referral program itself takes some time and effort but after that, it is smooth sailing.

  1. 5. Incentivize people to share these reviews as well as your message

Getting an individual review is great but you need to scale the process.

How do you do it? By asking people to share it!

Keep in mind that people love sharing anything interesting which also includes reviews. Now, if a reviewer posted a bland post saying that “Your product rocks!”, then don’t expect it to go viral. 

However, if someone took the time to write a valuable critique or praise of your item, then incentivize people to share it. This is especially true when it comes to funny posts which people usually like to show their loved ones to make them laugh.

It is a cheap trick but effective.

You can incentivize people to share by simply posting this review on your social media.

Avoid being direct by asking people to share it but instead, you can say something like “Check this fun post that one of our fans left on our wall!”

  1. 6. Place focus on influencers

Web influencers are probably the best possible ambassadors for your brand. No wonder they are getting free stuff all the time as this strategy definitely works.

When a person becomes an influencer, he or she will have a substantial following of people who trust their every word. That being said, if an influencer decides to praise your product or service, you will experience a significant increase in sales.

This is word-of-mouth marketing in its best form!

Getting an influencer to work for you can be hard. They are getting lots of free stuff and the product has to be really impressive for them to promote it. However, the benefits are worth it:

The very fact that most companies have a special budget for influencer expenses tells you how important this marketing category is but it also talks volumes about the effectiveness of word of mouth marketing.

  1. 7. Differentiate your product from the competition

If someone is constantly reviewing items and services, it becomes increasingly harder to impress them. That’s only natural!

Because of this, you will have to create something unique that will draw their attention.

Keep in mind that we’re not necessarily talking about the uniqueness of the items but the experience itself. This can pertain to packaging, the way you initially contacted the person or some other perks that go with it.

Needless to say, your product will always remain in the center of attention but you need to find a way to make an impression by using it.

Make sure to analyze other brands that are using WOM marketing before you start your own campaign. See what works with influencers and what they hate. Only then will you be able to present your product the right way.

How to create a winning product and presentation?

Given that word-of-mouth marketing often revolves around influencers, it is safe to say that your product has to be top-notch.

Why is that?

Because influencers are constantly exposed to new items!

It might sound a bit strange, but these guys are getting so much free stuff every month that they have become accustomed to recognizing winners and losers. This is especially true when it comes to certain products such as clothing, cosmetics, and food.

In order to make the right impression, your product has to be completely different from everything they’ve previously seen. 

How to accomplish this? By simply satisfying one of the following requirements:

  • The item has to possess at least one unique feature that hasn’t been seen anywhere else. This might refer to fast or free shipping or extra accessories that go with it
  • Packaging can make a difference, especially when dealing with influencers. While a handwritten letter might not be enough to impress a person, you can experiment with your product’s package or add an interesting message that goes with. If you want to go a step further, you can send one of the company’s higher-ups to deliver the item himself. It is a big show of appreciation
  • If an item is part of a product line, you can impress an influencer by sending the whole line instead of just one item. They will get much more than expected which will likely have a positive impact on their subsequent review
  • Give a direct incentive to an influencer. You can try by giving them money but keep in mind that people will figure you out if the product is not as good as the influencer promised it to be. Again, it all comes down to having a good item on your hands. Alternatively, you can offer people some discounts which they can share with their followers. So, not only will an influencer promote your product but he or she will pass it on thus spreading the message

Always think about your product in terms of user experience, not about its features.

While item’s features may be awesome, people are much more affected on an emotional level; they need to relate to a product in some way to give it a positive review.

Sometimes, you can even have a mediocre product that is very similar to everything else on the market, but if you get to the right brand ambassador your message can increase several-fold!

How to manage customer reviews?

Although we have placed a lot of emphasis on influencers and all the ways they can use to spread your message, reviews are an even bigger part of WOM marketing.

Basically, anyone can write (or create) a review thus providing information regarding an item or a service. These reviews give quick feedback to potential customers affecting their purchasing decision.

But if managing influencers was hard, just imagine how hard it can be to manage hundreds or thousands of customer reviews.

Depending on where a review was posted, you will have more or less control over the process. For example, if it’s on your site or profile, you can take it off at any time. However, if you do it constantly, you might get into trouble. 

We suggest that you deal with the critique and even showcase it so that the others can see it.

Managing online reviews on third-party sites and platforms is much harder. Here, you need to find the individual behind the review and politely ask them to take it down or change it into a positive one. This can be a fatiguing process which is precisely why you need a marketing company to represent you.

So, what do you do if you get a negative client review?

  • First and foremost, make sure not to panic! A lot of people will blow this situation out of proportion seeking extreme ways to remedy the situation. Keep in mind that no matter how good your service or product is, there will always be people who are dissatisfied with it. Just check some popular YouTube videos: there are always a lot of people who are disliking them for some minor reasons. So, while reviews are a good way of measuring performance and they can tell you how well your product measures up, one negative review (even if it’s extreme) doesn’t tell the whole story
  • Remember that even if you’re willing to give your clients free products, you won’t be able to eliminate all negative reviews. There are various reasons why a person will post negative feedback. For example, they might be working for the competition or they might do it out of envy. The bigger and more popular your product gets, the harder it will become to eliminate all these malicious comments and sometimes, attacks. You shouldn’t be preoccupied with this as it is only a sign that you’re becoming more popular
  • Always use a direct approach. First, make sure to track the reviewer. Next, try to find his or her email address or social media profile. You can engage directly and try to be as polite as possible. An aggressive approach will only backfire. You can ask them about their issue and how you can fix it for them. If possible, try to offer some sort of compensation or simply try to make things right
  • Deleting posts can work in a smaller dose but try not to overdo it. Not addressing complains will cause them to pile up and you will have lots of disgruntled users at the end of the day. You should even look at these critiques from a positive perspective: they can tell you what needs to change and how to improve your product and processes 
  • As your company grows bigger, there will be reviews in unexpected places. This is why you will have to get one of the numerous mention tracking tools. This software is crucial for all those who are into brand reputation management

Hiring a marketing company to monitor the process if your best bet.

Word of mouth marketing takes time and all these reviews will have to be monitored throughout the process. Even when you decide to stop the campaign, it is advised to have a person who will remain active on social networks as well as the web in general.

Conclusion

Regardless of what kind of product or service you have, there is a good chance that WOM marketing will be the perfect solution for you.

It can work well for lots of different products especially those that people can receive in the mail and review online. Of course, you don’t need an influencer to use this strategy. You can do a lot by simply managing positive reviews and asking people to share their opinion on various platforms.

Ideally, you should hire an experienced marketing company to perform this task for you.

And remember: while one word of mouth campaign can provide awesome results, it’s always advisable that you use this approach constantly.

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Udit Goenka
Articles: 91
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