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Ultimate Guide to Word-of-Mouth Marketing in 2021

Word-of-mouth marketing turns customers into advocates for your brand. These customers have had positive experiences and are excited to tell their coworkers, friends, and family. Word-of-mouth can occur in many ways, including references, leaving online reviews, posting on social media, and more.

Ultimate Guide to Word-of-Mouth Marketing in 2021
Photo by Katie Treadway / Unsplash

An increasing number of consumers are growing tired of traditional marketing tactics. While online advertising, email marketing, and social media marketing have a role to play in any marketing plan, these strategies will only get you so far.

Marketers need to make the most of every opportunity, and there's one area of marketing that is still often overlooked: word-of-mouth. This guide looks at what word-of-mouth marketing actually means, reveals why it's so effective and describes how to build a word-of-mouth marketing strategy for yourself.

What is Word-of-Mouth Marketing?

Word-of-mouth marketing is the process of encouraging discussions about a brand in a way that attracts new customers. For example, when a customer is blown away by a company's customer service and tells their friends about it - this is word-of-mouth marketing in action.

Word-of-mouth marketing isn’t limited to in-person interactions either. With social media, word of mouth can travel fast and have immense potential for amplifying positive, or negative, customer interactions. Online review sites are another effective way for capturing the customer experience and are trusted as much as a recommendation from a friend.

No matter how a brand generates these discussions, it's a particularly powerful form of marketing because the conversations come from customers and not the brand. For this reason, the messages are more trustworthy and believable.

What Are the Benefits of Word-of-Mouth Marketing?

Word-of-mouth marketing offers several potential benefits:

It's Cost-Effective

Compared to print and online advertising, word-of-mouth marketing is extremely inexpensive or even free. Apart from laying the right foundations for your brand, it costs nothing when a customer recommends your product to a friend or leaves a review online. Ultimately, it's free advertising, triggered by a positive consumer experience.

It Builds Brand Awareness Quickly

Word-of-mouth marketing is a continuous process. When one person tells another person about your product, they will tell another, and so on. Not every referral will result in a new customer, but every recommendation quickly builds awareness of your brand. You can measure and manage your online reputation by looking at your reviews and ratings. Not every single review will lead to a new sale, but they'll make an impact by influencing your prospective customers over time.

It Fosters Trust

People are bombarded with ads from companies every day from TV shows and social media channels to billboards and storefronts. This has led to a growing trend: people are tuning out from mainstream advertising. Instead, they're turning to friends and colleagues for recommendations they can trust.

According to Pew Research Center, 72 percent of consumers get news via word of mouth from friends and family.

It Influences Purchase Behavior

Consumers are also more likely to buy a product or service after hearing about it from a friend or colleague. 71% of people are more likely to purchase if referred on social media.

It Boosts Customer Loyalty

When customers talk about your brand, they become your brand advocates. In reality, they could be promoting your brand for months or even years ahead. Generally, happy customers stick with brands they like, buy more over time, and provide more referrals.

Word-of-Mouth Marketing: Strategies and Best Practices

There are several ways to encourage conversations based on your brand. Use a combination of the following techniques to build your word-of-mouth marketing strategy.

Create A Memorable Experience First

You can only generate positive brand conversations if you lay the groundwork first. This is why it's so important to give consumers a positive experience whenever they interact with your brand. On the flip side, any negative experiences can lead to negative publicity. To maximize positive sentiment:

•   Highlight your brand's or product's unique selling proposition on your website and social media profiles. Why are you different from the competition?

•   Regularly promote new offers and share any news that people are likely to talk about.

•   Make sure your ordering process is straightforward and efficient.

•   Offer excellent customer service that customers don't get from other brands.

•   Respond quickly to any customer complaints and resolve issues quickly - on social media, in emails, and on the phone.

•   Provide helpful resources on social media. Almost 80 percent of brand conversations on social media are people looking for advice, information, or help.

•   Consider using a more original tone of voice in any marketing materials. A unique brand personality makes your messages more memorable and shareable.

Share Your Brand's Story

Use social media and your website to promote the story of your brand. How did the business come into being? What is your mission? Storytelling is a great way to connect with consumers on a more emotional level and encourage others to talk about your brand.

Attach Your Business to a Cause

You can also tap into people's emotions by sharing your company's values and promoting good causes. What social issues do you really care about? Can you partner with a local organization or charity to raise awareness and funds for a worthy cause? Consider donating a percentage of sales to a cause that aligns with your company's values and resonates with your target audience. It's a great way to get people talking about your products.

Regularly Engage With Your Audience

People appreciate it when they feel listened to. More to the point, consumers value businesses that listen to their concerns and take part in the conversation. By listening to your audience on social media and engaging with them, you'll stimulate conversations based on your brand.

Encourage User-Generated Content

Any content that is related to your brand and created by your customers or prospects is user-generated content. Whether it's a photo, a tweet, or a video, user-generated content is a powerful way to build brand awareness.

Encourage your social media followers to share their experiences of your business by offering incentives. For example, create a unique hashtag on Twitter and offer discounts to people who post the best images of themselves using your product.

Email marketing is another powerful complement to word-of-mouth marketing and can be used to help capture more user-generated content from your customers. Sending out a request for feedback or reviews, even linking to third-party review platforms, can help you accelerate your word-of-mouth efforts.

"Don’t be tempted to fake your user-generated posts or campaign. Audiences will quickly sniff out the false sentiment, which could seriously damage your brand reputation. Instead, always ensure that your UGC comes from one of three cohorts: your customers, brand loyalists, or employees." – Hootsuite 

Create a Referral Program

Offering rewards for referrals is a simple way to encourage happy customers to tell others about your business and products. In one study, 50 percent of respondents said they were likely to give a referral if offered access to an exclusive loyalty program.

Your referral program can be flexible too. Rather than using referrals to drive purchases, you can use them to drive leads via a subscription to your newsletter. In fact, many email newsletter software tools even offer this functionality in their core product. As you grow your newsletter via word-of-mouth, you can nurture these newfound contacts to purchase your product later on.

Whether it's a discount on their next order or access to exclusive product offers, people need a reason to spread the word about your products. When people feel like they're part of an exclusive group, they'll want to tell others about it.

"Referred customers have a positive perception of your brand because it was promoted by their peers. As a result, customers acquired through word-of-mouth spend 200% more, and make twice as many referrals." – Retail TouchPoints

The Bottom Line

Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways for marketers to generate new leads and build a loyal customer base. However, the most successful word-of-mouth campaigns stem from how consumers experience a brand in the early stages. This is why it's so important for marketers to get the fundamentals right.

By delivering unforgettable experiences to consumers from the outset, and using the various strategies outlined here, any marketer can spark conversations, attract new customers, and inspire brand loyalty. Ultimately, if you look after your customers, they will become your biggest promoters.

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