They say a happy customer will tell four others about her/his experience, while a disgruntled one will tell twenty. Nowadays, it is a safe bet to assume that these numbers have multiplied manifold with the popularity of social media networks. Ergo, there is hardly any other marketing tool that is as powerful as Word of Mouth Marketing.
Let’s face it; you can say all you want about the quality of your services or products but if a customer says otherwise, it’s a disaster. On the other hand, you don’t need to say much at all if your customers are doing the marketing for you by “spreading the word.” This is not rocket science.
Unfortunately though, it’s a fact that is frequently forgotten or neglected. Brands often don’t pay attention to what customers are saying about them or neglect to build on the good stuff that’s being said. Dismissing a public discussion, say on Twitter, about a bad experience is simply no longer an option, and failing to ask someone for permission to add their praise to the company’s “testimonials” page is a missed opportunity.
So how exactly can a brand capitalize on the power of word of mouth marketing? First of all, the brand needs to listen and respond as appropriate. Companies must have accounts with all popular social media networks and monitor discussions or posts that talk not only about their brands but also about their industries. By doing so, they can not only defuse negative comments that could potentially spread like wild-fire, but also detect valuable business opportunities. In many cases, and we’ve actually seen this work before, someone who is very outspoken against a brand can be converted into a valuable advocate. How? Simply by listening to their issue with an open mind, dealing with it (if need be on a single-case basis), and demonstrating that the brand genuinely cares. The next post will not talk about the bad experience, but about the great customer care that was just demonstrated.
Engage trendsetters; there are always individuals that set the trend within their communities. These people are usually very popular within their circles and strongly influence what’s “hot” or “in.” To nurture word of mouth marketing, a brand needs to get on these people’s good side. How? By engaging them. And by that, we don’t mean offering them financial rewards for bringing their friends in for lunch. (This borders bribing, which will have the exact opposite effect.) The proprietor could however invite that person for a one-on-one talk over lunch, and assure them that there will always be a table on standby for them and his friends. People like to be treated in a special way, and before you know it, the trend setter will become a regular customer who drags many others along.
Also, word of mouth marketing is very important with the media. In essence, this is exactly what a press release is all about; a credible and well-liked reporter writing an article about a brand, product, or service. Reporters are usually bombarded with requests to publish press releases that have been prepared by the company. Although this technique works, it is not necessarily the best approach. Reporters are always researching latest trends, numbers, etc. A great way to convert reporters into an “advocates” is to frequently provide them with fresh and important information, thus positioning the brand as a source of knowledge. What works really well is when the reporters write an article about a given subject, and refer to the brand as a “source” of information. The brand becomes a “figure of authority” in the subject matter, which works wonders for its credibility and trust.
Word of mouth marketing is not a science. It is an art and has many elements that are necessary to make it a successful strategy. Value, honesty, alertness, and responsiveness are a few amongst those. But when handled well, a brand can build a great buzz and a viral social marketing campaign that positively impacts recognition, recall, trust, and reduces the need to invest in paid-for marketing programs.
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