“Satisfied customers who will spread word of mouth are the most powerful assets you have.” – Andy Sernovitz
Customer word of mouth advertising is possibly the most desired and favoured ‘type’ of advertising for any company. Loyalty, customer trust and the hype that is generated by a company’s customers through speaking well of the company, is unbeatable. Of course, the onus to generate the customer word of mouth lies with the company. Stellar customer service, high quality products, super brands and other initiatives will ensure customer delight to the point of them becoming happy and willing brand ambassadors.
Companies spend millions and exhaust other resources on advertising in a bid to attract the maximum number of customers. However, as discussed previously too, the percentage of customers that would trust the word of the brand is very low – only 10% as revealed by a survey. However, some other companies hardly spend anything on marketing and advertisements and yet are able to win over customers. Not only do these companies attract customers, they also manage to retain them, which in turn results in customer word of mouth advertising. Another study reveals that at least 92% consumers are more likely to buy a brand if their friends, family or associates have recommended it. Customer word of mouth advertising therefore is one of the top ways to influence prospective customers and attract more business. No other form of marketing or advertising is close enough – even search engine advertisement (according to the survey) is a mere 59% and all other forms severely lag behind.
The other great benefit of customer word of mouth is that companies are not wasting time in conveying the benefits of their offerings to the prospective customers. When their friends or family has recommended the offerings, the interest and conviction is in place and only the actual task of purchasing remains. At least 20% to 50% of all buys result from customer word of mouth endorsement. There is no doubt that customer word of mouth is extremely potent and powerful and the companies that understand what goads and encourages their customers to speak well of them can gain unsurpassed success. Actually, it should be predictable that this kind of advertising would garner the maximum support. It is all about having a personalized approach by connecting with a small yet influential set of customers that display their trust and loyalty by letting their friends and associates know about your company and its offerings.
So what would drive and act as a catalyst for customer word of mouth? How does your company ensure that it is able to garner the maximum support from customers? We believe it is about simply understanding the customers. Human nature dictates that whether we admit it or not, we do care about the opinion of others. Customers want to ‘show off’ their valued associations that would make the ‘look good’. Sharing – valuable information, entertaining content, information about high quality products and services, makes customers appear smart and intelligent. Speaking of great deals and upgraded service allows customers to ‘show off’ the value a company attaches to them. Companies that endeavour to make customers feel like they control the business or have been part of ‘creating’ some new product, customers are more than happy to spread the word about it. Sparking this need to feel valued and important is a sure shot way to customer word of mouth advertising.
Companies must focus on connecting with their customers on an emotional level. It is a known fact satisfying emotional needs is one of the main reasons for customers to buy. A company’s ability to ignite and satisfy these emotions through stellar service and great products will ensure customer word of mouth. The other main reason that people would buy because of a referral is imitation – people love to imitate others especially if the act will get them the same kind of praise and recognition. People are influenced by others – this is social proof of the efficacy and benefit of something that makes people desire the same products and services. Customer word of mouth is that social proof and hence carries a lot of weight as a medium of advertising.
People share ideas, products and other information with whom they care about in a bid to help them. If a company’s products and services would be of value to the customer and or their friends and associates, it is natural for them to pass on this information. It is therefore the job of the company to ensure that the value and utility of their offerings are properly highlighted and the benefits made transparent. It is not hard then to get customer word of mouth advertisement.
The other set of people who can be as effective in spreading the good word about your company is your employees. This is a combination of providing great service to customers, doing their assigned tasks well, consistently providing ideas to enhance innovation and creativity, investing in self-development and speaking well of the company in person and through other channels of communication. This internal positive reinforcement sends positive signals to the customers, who in turn would be more than willing to share these ‘great insights’ with others. As part of this effort, the leaders of the company must invest time in explaining the benefits and value of customer word of mouth. In addition, when employees exhibit behaviours that are consistent with great customer service, they must be appreciated and rewarded, in order to cement the value of customer word of mouth advertising.
Customer word of mouth advertising must remain consistent and an indispensable part of your company. This means that companies must make it easy for customers to express their concerns and compliments and it should be effortless for them to share their positive experiences with whomsoever they want. The fact is that customers are always busy and in order to get referrals or testimonials a company must reach out to them and ask. They would be more than happy to provide these but they do need to be reminded. It is imperative to follow up a great referral with a note of thanks and appreciation – this reinforces the behaviour and they are more likely to do it again.
Make it extremely easy for them to provide these referrals and testimonials, whether it is on your company’s website, social media sites or even referral providing formats in person. Provide links and call to action buttons in email communication such that they are immediately encouraged to pass it on if they find the content and information interesting and ‘valuable’ enough. Offering incentives for every referred conversion is also another way to spike the interest in customer word of mouth advertising – everyone loves a freebie or ‘special bonuses’.
When managed right, customer word of mouth will ensure that your company does not spend additional resources on advertising or any other methods to score top position in SERPs. Customers will choose to speak well about your company if all the efforts are directed towards making their lives easier, making their business more profitable and making them ‘look good’ before their friends and associates. Nurturing and enhancing the relationship with customers is a critical part of growing the business and gaining sustainable success. Despite the digitization and automation, it is still extremely important for customers to know that your company cares about them – do this consistently and you are sure to gain repeated customer word of mouth.