Effective Word of Mouth Marketing

“Real people will talk about you when they like you, your stuff, and the things you do. The word of mouth that they create is far more powerful than all the advertising in the world.” – Andy Sernovitz

Word of mouth marketing (WOM) – the three words that every company, marketer, and business want to experience. Word of mouth marketing is about influencing and encouraging target audience and existing customers to have discussions in a positive light about a brand, company, or even an event hosted by an organization. Today positive WOM is perhaps the top asset for any company / brand – it can make a business when present, and would have the possibility to destroy one with its absence. Within the business scenario today, market experts believe that companies that get word of mouth marketing right, have very little need for any other kind of advertising or marketing tactics. When happy customers begin speaking positively about a company / brand / product, it is the kind of advertising, which surpasses flashy, loud, and attention-seeking advertising efforts of a company. Research corroborates this – an increasing number of people are more prone to believe the reviews and comments of existing customers of a company, and would buy products / brand if the comments were in favor of the company.

Word of mouth marketing, in essence, is about driving happy customers to promote a company’s business. Before customers can reach a point of such ‘exhilaration’, the company would need to provide them with customer service and offerings that would be nonpareil both in term of utility and for addressing the needs of customers. Doing so consistently will ensure that customers would be unable to contain their excitement and happiness, and would want to share their experiences with the friends, family, business associates, and in general via social media. Word of mouth marketing is simply, marketing done by a company’s happy customers – the best form of endorsement. The great thing about technology becoming an inextricable part of the business world today is that customer endorsements of a company has gone beyond verbal advocacy and moved onto the online realm through highly visible platforms. Customers post testimonials via social media, company websites, their own personal blogs, message forums, online discussion ‘communities’, and of course social events.

Word of mouth marketing has become like cornerstone of all marketing activities, and is today, the most effective method for all marketers of gaining new customers and enhancing sales and profits. A whopping 92% customers today (as per studies) believe recommendations from their family, friends, and people they trust, way beyond what any other form of marketing and advertising can convince them. Even one delighted customer would have the potential to create a lot more business for a company, through sharing their positive and delightful experiences. Of course, word of mouth marketing is not a magic wand or potion, and neither are its effects something one can perceive overnight. It takes time, concerted effort, and resources on the part of the company before it can yield the ‘magical’ results a company would expect. Business gurus and marketing experts confirm that the payoffs of WOM marketing are worth every single effort and resource. Is your company adept at word of mouth marketing? Is it able to convert its happy customers into an ‘army of marketers’?

To start with, while it would seem obvious, a company must know itself, its offerings and brand thoroughly and in-depth, before attempting to use the word of mouth marketing tactics. A company must know what core values it follows, the culture it upholds, and how both these would prove beneficial to the business and the company’s customers. Obviously then, the better a company knows its mission and long-term vision, the better it would be able to convey the same to customers, and present its offerings in a way that reflects value for the customers.

The most able ‘partner’ and support of word of mouth marketing is the customer service a company gives its customers. Today, service excellence tops the list of priorities of customers, and without it, even the best products can prove futile. Service to customers from the company goes through the employees, and hence it would be essential for a company to hire and train their employees such that every interaction with customers is memorable and delightful, to the extent that customers would want to share those experiences.

In addition to self-awareness, it is extremely important for a company to remain aware of its closest competitors, in order to stay ahead of them. Knowledge of competition and the industry is quintessential for a company’s success – the better a company understands the market and competitors the more equipped it would be to offer solutions, service, and products that would be better and more potent than what any other market player may offer. Additionally, a company would be better able to assess its own shortcomings and remedy them before they prove to be a liability. Assessing the mistakes and weaknesses of competitors would enable a company to use them to show customers why your company would be the better choice. The knowledge of all these factors would add ‘fire’ and accelerate the word of mouth marketing efforts of a company.

Just like with any other business imperative, understanding and defining the target audience is essential to the success of word of mouth marketing efforts. Getting close and forming relationships with customers and prospects would enable a company to understand what they want, need, like, dislike, and their pain areas. A firm grasp on all these aspects would enable a company to define its strategies, service, products, and other efforts around the customer’s preferences. We have spoken earlier about ‘segmenting’ and defining ‘customer personas’ – doing so enables a company to ‘break down’ its large customer base in to specific and smaller groups based on similar needs, expectations, and preferences. It would be a lot easier for a company to ‘provide’ for the particular niches in a more personalized and customized manner, and provide top class service to each group depending on preferences. Doing so, consistently and well, will ensure that the customer groups be more likely to recommend your company and its offerings to others.

Everyone loves to feel special, and believe that what they have is exclusive, unique, and belongs only to them. As part of the word of mouth marketing tactics, companies need to leverage on this ‘need of uniqueness’, and consider ‘inviting’ a select group of customers (preferably the most profitable and loyal ones) to experience some exclusive offerings before any other customer group would have a chance to. The feedback from these valuable and influential customers would then be helpful to convince others to buy from the company on a sustained basis.

We have mentioned the importance of social media today for companies to build a strong base of loyal brand advocates from amongst their customers. These customers are an essential part of the word of mouth marketing tactics today for any marketer. It would be necessary for a company to know which set of customers are most active on which particular social media platform, and communicate with them accordingly. Being where the customer is and ‘speaking their language’ form a critical part of successful word of mouth marketing.

The hard part for companies is that customers are more likely to share their poor experiences with a business, as opposed to the good ones. It takes several pleasurable and delightful experiences before customers would engage in word of mouth ‘marketing’. It therefore, means that companies must make concerted and consistent efforts to delight their customers each time, such that every interaction becomes reason for them to share it with others. This is what top class word of mouth marketing is all about.

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