In this article
A wise man once said that there are many reasons why restaurants fail– but the main one is that their food is just bad.
And it's a similar story with word-of-mouth marketing. To really win at it, your product just has to be good, otherwise it won't be worth of the attention of your audience or customers, and you won't experience any word-of-mouth praise.
But let's take a step back for a minute.
Why would you even bother with word-of-mouth marketing? Is it really that effective of a marketing technique? Aren't we supposed to focus on the online stuff instead? You know, things like Facebook, SEO, AdWords, and so on?
Let's find out.
Here's the data supporting the effectiveness of word-of-mouth marketing:
All signs indicate that word-of-mouth marketing is currently the most valuable form of marketing in use.
Neilsen: 92% of consumers trust WOM recommendations over advertising
According to one of many studies done by Nielsen, 92 percent of consumers believe recommendations from their friends and family over all forms of advertising.
And it really makes perfect sense when you think about it.
For example, who would you rather believe; your mom when she gives you the number to the best cleaning service in town, or a standard billboard by the highway with "best cleaning service" written on it?
Marketing executives and sales people have started to notice the power of word-of-mouth marketing too.
WOMMA & AMA: 64% of marketers acknowledge that word-of-mouth is most effective, but only 6% claim to use it effective
According to a study done by Word of Mouth Marketing Association and American Marketing Association, 64 percent of respondents admit that word-of-mouth indeed is the most effective form of marketing.
Interestingly though, among the same group of executives, only six percent say that they have mastered word-of-mouth marketing and use it effectively in their businesses.
So let's look into this topic and see how we can all integrate some good word-of-mouth marketing into our operations.
Advice from entrepreneurs – "What is your #1 method to accelerate word-of-mouth marketing?"
To deliver some true quality advice that's coming from real world experiences, I invited six experts to share their input and answer the above question.
Here's what they had to say and what you can do to put their advice into practice.
Tactic #1: Start small and make an impact in your niche
"My number 1 method for accelerating word of mouth marketing is to try to dominate a space, an idea or a tactic; there are other methods, but I've found this to be most effective.
At a point I was guest blogging on every notable blog in my niche and I was constantly advocating guest blogging; due to this, people started to associate me with guest blogging, some even tagging me "the king of guest blogging" or "the grandfather of guest blogging". I dominated the idea of marketing my business with guest blogging.
Needless to say, this resulted in a lot of direct mentions of me on other blogs, and to people in real life interactions; I had a lot of people contact me due to my reputation with guest blogging, and I got a lot of business as a result." - Bamidele Onibalusi of Writers in Charge
"The key to Lulu's early success in the US was winning big in a small area. The WSJ called this "Lulu's sorority playbook".
When first launching Lulu, we targeted a small group of key influencers -- college sorority leaders. These users then promoted the app to their friends, and Lulu quickly spread across the campus. In fact, within just a few weeks, 40% of girls and 60% of guys on campus were on Lulu.
Once we won these early influencers, we were able to grow organically across the country to other campuses, and into other ages and demographics." - Alexandra Chong of Lulu
There is no business out there that went for full global domination right from the get-go. Even Facebook started small, and then expanded to other areas and audiences later on.
Do one thing exceptionally well
Ultimately, doing one thing exceptionally well is always going to be more noticeable than doing a lot of things so-so. Andy Dunn, the CEO of Bonobos, wrote about this in his essay, Get One Thing Right.
"It’s a paradox: even if you make two great items right out the gates, just by having two you make it harder for the customer to know what job to hire you for." – Andy Dunn, Bonobos CEO
It's a much better strategy to focus on making a name for yourself or your product in a smaller pond, so to speak. If you want your customers to be talking about you with their friends, you need to differentiate your offering and dominate a small niche first.
So, revise your marketing materials, tackle small niches first, make sure that the thing that makes your offer unique is 100 percent clear and that your marketing materials convey this message effectively to the customers.
Tactic #2: Surprise your customers with unexpected gestures
"One thing that has worked well for word-of-mouth is surprising customers by giving them premium products for free.
For example, we've partnered with Mixergy to give trial users a normally paid course on sales, free of charge. We don't announce it anywhere, it's just something we surprise them with during their free trial.
This sort of thing has been huge for word-of-mouth."
–Ruben Gamez of Bidsketch (the client proposal software for freelancers)
"Delight your customers through unexpected gestures.
Small things such as adding a link to something a customer has written on the newsletter, or randomly sending t-shirts without them having to ask, or writing thank you notes, or phoning them quickly when they send a support email, or sending them a preview of something you are working on."
–James Deer of GatherContent (content collaboration tool)
Over-deliver on your promise
What Ruben and James are saying really strikes home here. It's been a known fact in business for years that it's always better to over-deliver than over-promise.
Giving your customers something extra can go a long way in terms of making them happy and willing to share their positive experience with other people.
So here's how you can implement this strategy in your business.
Identify specific little benefits for your customers
First, look into your main offering and try to find specific, small elements (additional services or products) that your customer could benefit from immediately after buying your main thing.
Those can be either materials on how to use your product more effectively, or some bonus offerings that put icing on the cake.
For example, if you're selling guitars, you can include a set of 50 free guitar picks with every new order. This doesn't cost much and yet makes the customer feel special.
Note: Focusing on bonuses that don't cost much yet bring actual value to the customer is key here.
Reach out personally to your power users
To improve your results even further, you can identify your power users and reach out to them with individual tailor-made messages.
You can offer them something special, ask about their opinion of your product, and effectively make them part of your development process. Those users will feel like they are needed (and they are), which will make them even more keen to talk about you.
The above strategy is exactly what Annika Helendi is doing with Toggl:
"In general the best strategy is giving a great product to our users and offering lots of extra value, but I understand that it's not exactly the method you are looking to learn about.
So one of the main methods we are using right now is identifying our most vocal power users and sending them Toggl branded gifts. We also experiment with the gifts - every batch of swag kits that we send out are a bit different." Annika Helendi, Toggl
Tactic #3: Provide exceptional support
"We are putting all our effort on our customer service. We want to have happy customers. Having happy customers is the best way to accelerate word-of-mouth, and to be sure they will recommend you to their friends.
Having a great product is nothing without an awesome support."
- Jonathan Buttigieg of WP Rocket
Jonathan seems to be taking a page out of Zappos' book here, and for a very good reason. Zappos is known for their excellent customer support. It's been the core of their whole business for years.
In one of his presentations, Tony Hsieh - Zappos' CEO - even shared that the employees of Zappos are encouraged to talk with customers on the phone for as long as it takes, all as part of providing great service to them. And that's even if the call doesn't result in a sale!
While most businesses can't afford to provide such level of interaction with their customers, there's always something that can be done.
Here's a handful of ideas:
- Make it a habit to send onboarding messages right after someone buys from you.
- Follow up with your customers after a while just to check how they enjoy using your product.
- Ask them about the challenges they're facing. Offer your help.
- Ask them if there's anything you could do to make your product better.
- Give them an incentive to interact with you. Maybe a small bonus or something ... similar to what you've offered them right after the initial purchase.
Your action checklist for accelerating word-of-mouth
Just to summarize, let's list the most crucial elements that go into accelerating your word-of-mouth marketing:
- Surprise your customers by offering something they don't expect. Be it a small bonus or anything else that provides them with immediate value in relation to what they just bought from you.
- Make sure that your customer support is exceptional and that it actually solves problems.
- Start small by focusing on doing just one thing really well.
- Dominate a small niche with a great product. Be known for that product first (before expanding).
And lastly, whatever you do, just make sure that your food is good. Don't try to trick your customers with clever marketing and then under-deliver in the product department. That strategy will be short-lived.
Read next: How To Get Word-of-Mouth: 40+ Successful Examples To Learn From