“Word-of-mouth is the most powerful form of marketing.” - Scott Cook, co-founder of Intuit
How important is positive word-of-mouth to your business? Simply put, essential.
A strong recommendation from a trusted source can make the difference between a prospective customer deciding to buy your product or service—or head down the road to purchase from your competitor.
Eighty-four percent of consumers say they either completely or somewhat trust recommendations from family and friends about products – making these recommendations the information source ranked highest for trustworthiness, according to Nielsen’s 2013 Trust In Advertising report. And 74 percent of consumers identify word of mouth (WOM) as a key influencer in their purchasing decision, according to a study conducted by Google, TNS Global and Ogilvy & Mather.
Ninety-one percent of B2B buyers are influenced by WOM when making their decisions to buy, according to David Howell of UsefulSocialMedia.com. Fifty-six percent of B2B purchasers look to offline WOM as a source of information and advice, and this number jumps to 88% when online WOM sources are included, as reported in the 2012 Base One Buyersephere survey.
What are the factors that make consumers more likely to refer a business? According to a survey released by Search Engine Land earlier this year, 45 percent of respondents were more likely to refer a business if they felt the business was friendly and welcoming. Sixty-five percent were more likely to refer if the business was reliable and professional. Thirty-five percent appreciated a unique and original experience and 16 percent were willing if they were asked for a referral. And then, 45 percent of respondents were willing to make a referral if they felt the business was cheap for the price.
So clearly, no matter how effective your advertising campaigns have proven to be, in today’s marketplace, word-of-mouth still outranks them. This holds true for both B2C and B2B businesses.
Now is the perfect time to ramp up your word-of-mouth marketing campaigns, or, if you don’t have any created yet, to get started. Follow these straight forward steps to map out an effective WOM campaign to build your business growth.
A truly successful WOM campaign has its foundations in a business whose products, services, employees and leadership are awesome. Especially today, when online comments, reviews and posts can go viral in minutes, you can’t fake a good review. You can’t buy a genuine referral and you shouldn’t try. People will sniff out the fakery and you may find yourself farther behind than before you started.
Your business has to be going above and beyond, your customers have to be really satisfied and have had positive experiences so that they speak genuinely. If you have any reason to believe your work or products aren’t up to snuff, take the time to investigate and learn exactly where you need to improve, before you get started.
Say Thank You
We’re almost at the holidays, but there’s still time to pull up your customer database, identify your good customers and send them each a personalized thank you. Include a gift, if budget allows, but either way, get a sincere “thank you” out the door to each and every one of them. It’s a perfect time to acknowledge your gratitude for the people who fuel your business success.
If your database of really good customers is so large that a personalized thank you is impractical, make sure to send out a sincere email message and a message of thanks on your website’s home page. Neither of those tactics have the impact that a gift and personalized card have, but, they’re better than nothing, and will be noted.
Check with your employees. Do they have any good stories about your happy customers? How do they recommend you communicate with your happy customers?
Ask your customers what they think. Ask them to send you referrals. Ask them who they know that they can introduce you to. You won’t get as many positive responses, reviews, comments, shares in social media, likes or online and offline referrals if you don’t make a habit of asking for them from the outset.
Having said that? Be mindful of the tone you use in asking. Make sure you don’t overdo it, be certain you and your employees are polite and respectful in requesting, and express your gratitude for your customers’ support.
Pay attention to what your customers tell you. Also, listen closely to what your employees say. They’re on the front lines and are able to pick up valuable information from customers and prospects. Your employees often know the “back story” on what has made a customer feel really great, or as importantly, what has not worked and needs your attention.
Start monitoring keywords related to your business and that of your competitors, so you can listen for online mentions of your company, products, customer service, and competitive information.
Make it Easy
Whatever form your WOM referral program takes, try to make it easy. Make it simple for your customers to share their comments with you and with others. This can mean adding a link to your online newsletter that allows a customer to click into a landing page where they can quickly give you a positive review. Or, giving them a postage paid postcard they write on and drop in the mail (antiquated, but it works). Think about what you are asking your customers to do for you, from their perspective, and then figure how to make it as effortless as possible for them to help you.
Make it easy for yourself, and for your employees, to get the program up and running and to monitor and maintain it.If you’ve never run a WOM referral program before, do a little research and see what other companies have done successfully that resonates for your market and customer base. Start small. You can always increase in both budget and activity.
Where possible, create systems and automate the WOM campaign process. Once you’ve identified the range of your WOM referral program, the pieces and parts needed to promote it and the resources required to get it (and keep it) up and running, find a way to automate as much of it as possible. Whether you work with very simple tools like email and spread sheets or graduate to more sophisticated solutions like software developed specifically for WOM campaigns.
Monitor and track the results of your campaign and pay close attention to whether or not it’s working for you. You may need to fine tune your efforts, or go back to the drawing board and start anew. Tracking the results of your program, as well as the attendant costs and resources required, is an essential part of running a successful campaign; one that will help build business for you.
As your WOM responses start to roll in, make sure you promote them. With your customers’ consent, share those positive comments in email, on your website, and in your social networks. Use those words, videos, or audio plaudits to keep your staff enthused and to build awareness of just how well your company provides for its customers.
Promote your customers too. Pay attention to what they do, where they spend time on and offline, and what they share. Help promote their efforts, introduce them to prospective customers of their own if you can, and help them by talking about their companies in favorable ways.
Rinse and Repeat
As you work your way through the process, and through the months to come, you’ll start to see results. Those results will include an increase in new sales leads or sales themselves. You’ll notice increased mentions of your business name and top employees and you’ll even field calls directly from people who have been sent to you by your satisfied customers.
Pay close attention to what works, tweak what isn’t working, increase your budget and activity as you are able, and then rinse and repeat. Keep showing appreciation for the people who buy your products and services, for the people who work with you to make it all happen, and for the people they will be sending your way—the ones you haven’t even met yet.
Examples of Successful WOM Programs
Looking for ideas on how other business are conducting successful word of mouth campaigns? This post from wordofmouth.org showcases eight successful large brand campaigns. MarketingProfs.com lists a wide range of successful B2C and B2B word-of-mouth referral campaigns. A final example is the story of how Airbnb increased bookings by more than 25 percent in some markets with their word-of-mouth referral campaign. Very interesting post, with step-by-step descriptions of the elements of their program.