Imagine if you didn’t need to spend money on marketing at all? If you could just concentrate on making the best product or delivering the best service and buyers just magically came to you?
It sounds like a fantasy doesn’t it? But there is one, very real way to achieve this seemingly impossible feat, and that’s through word of mouth marketing.
Now, as well as being free, word of mouth is generally recognised as being the most powerful of channels with today’s buyers turning more and more to peers, friends, family and influencers for advice and recommendations. (By influencers I am talking about industry pundits, media and the like and definitely not celebrities on Instagram who live for likes.) According to HubSpot research, 81% of people trust their friends’ and family’s advice over advice from a business.
There are whole businesses out there that survive and prosper on word of mouth; businesses that never seem to do any marketing and yet are always busy. Tradespeople are perhaps the obvious example – that builder who is always busy, the home hairdresser with too many clients, the plumber you can never get hold of. But there are also many B2B businesses that do very little marketing and yet thrive from year to year.
While it is definitely a bad idea to give up all the time you spend on marketing and cut the budget, isn’t it worth considering how you could create more free and powerful word of mouth marketing for your business? Here’s how to do it.
Step one – do a good job
You cannot expect anyone to recommend your product or service if they are not happy with it. And obviously, they are more likely to tell everyone if they are very happy with your product or service. So step one is to do a good job. Make sure that your offering is the best it can be. Ensure your product or service excels at what it is designed for. Iron out any issues or bugs and run a programme of continuous improvement (also known as Kaizen.)
This one should be easy, because you are doing this anyway, right?
Step two – do what you say you are going to do
Equally important is to always do what you say you are going to do. Never let a customer down or disappoint them.
Now I don’t mean never make a mistake – that would be an impossibility – everyone makes mistakes. It’s more about how you handle an issue when one arises, how you communicate when things do go wrong.
Always be honest and straight with customers – always keep them informed of any errors you’ve made, any mistakes, delays or other issues. Make a plan for rectifying them, communicate that to the customer and ensure you carry that plan out.
Customers will generally forgive you almost anything – as long as you let them know what is happening and don’t lie to them. Think of it from their point of view – as long as they know what the real situation is, they can make contingency plans and work around the problem.
This is very important to engender trust. Trust is one of the most important elements in marketing. It can take a long time to establish and seconds to destroy. If a customer isn’t kept informed about what is happening or they feel like they are not being told the truth, then they will lose all faith in you and selling them anything in the future will be an uphill struggle.
Try going that one bit further – doing the unexpected extra thing. When it comes to customer service, go the extra mile. Try and surprise and delight your customers with your service. Because that is something they will remember and talk about.
Step three – give them something to share
This point is crucial and takes advantage of today’s Internet-connected world. If people want to tell their peers, colleagues or friends about your business – they need to show them something. The great thing is, this is made incredibly easy by the nature of the digitally connected world. Your satisfied clients are directly connected with potential prospects via social media, chat, email and business forums.
So what can they share? Well, this is where you will have to do aa little work and spend some money, as you will need to create content that can be linked to or passed on. You will need to create stories that are engaging, videos that are informative, relevant case studies, inspiring interviews, helpful guides and more.
Big events are great ways to generate content that is memorable – creating experiences attendees will share. Make sure you offer plenty of unusual photo opportunities for social media sharing.
Supporting charitable causes is another way to create stories that customers might want to talk about or share.
And if a customer just wants to pass on your contact details – make sure that it’s easy – make sure those details are everywhere on your content, on your website and on your emails.
Content marketing has its own benefits and lead-generating power, but it is also essential for word of mouth marketing.
Targeting word of mouth with Talk Triggers
In their book about word of mouth marketing, Talk Triggers, Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin talk about creating a unique story for your business – a Talk Trigger. According to Jay, “A Talk Trigger is a strategic, operational differentiator a business adopts to create conversation and a marketing advantage.” It is something a company deliberately creates or specifically develops to stand out, to be talked about. It could be as simple as a free beer with every delivery, or it could be a lifetime guarantee.
It has four key components:
- It Must Be Remarkable. If it’s not worth remarking on, it’s not remarkable.
- It Must Be Relevant. Doing something just to get noticed is not a Talk Trigger.
- It Must Be Reasonable. A Talk Trigger is remarkable enough to be a conversation catalyst but reasonable enough to be trusted.
- It Must Be Repeatable. A Talk Trigger must be available to every customer, every time.
Given that word of mouth is such a powerful form of marketing, it makes sense for a company to put some thought and energy into a specific strategy to maximise its potential.
- Market to niches. The more specialised and unique your product or service, the more likely it will stand alone and be recommended to others. Clearly, if you are the only company making a particular item, yours is the only company name that will spring to mind when people are asked about a supplier. Within a small market niche, it is easier to be the best, most popular, most well-known supplier – and therefore maximise the word of mouth marketing generated.
- Involve clients. The more you can involve your clients in your business, the more likely they are to become ambassadors for you. Get their advice on new products, talk to them about their needs and issues, get them to guest blog for you or write introductions to eBooks or talk at seminars. This will have a whole range of additional beneficial effects but will also increase their loyalty to your business and their tendency to recommend you to others.
- Encourage user-generated content (UGC). Set up customer forums where customers can share experiences, help one another and make suggestions. Encourage customers to post to your social media pages. Run competitions and organise events to facilitate user-generated content.
- Instigate a referral programme. If appropriate to your audience, create a referral programme. This can be a low-key, relatively modest affair, offering a minor perk, or it could be a full-blown discount or added value programme.
- Cultivate professional influencers. Find those industry pundits or influential websites and get them on your side by offering them information, exclusives, tours and the like.
- Ask. If you know you have a satisfied client – it’s fine to politely ask for a testimonial you can use in your marketing, or you could prompt them gently, to post about it on the appropriate social channels.
Word of mouth is one of the oldest forms of marketing but in this digital age of social media, peer review sites and general mistrust in advertising, it has become magnified both in importance and power. Recognising this and having a strategy in place to take advantage of its potential will reap significant, cost-effective rewards. If you do this in partnership with a comprehensive content marketing plan, then you will have an unbeatable marketing combination.