As you get ready to enjoy a new episode of your favorite TV show, you are bombarded with commercials that try in every way imaginable to get people to buy products. And although you may remember, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there” for the rest of your life, you may never have State Farm Insurance because you know the often exaggerated promises are coming directly from the State Farm Marketing team. On the other hand, if you’re talking to a co-worker about what type of insurance they have and they attest to State Farm’s customer service claims, you will be more likely to consider it. From this idea comes the birth of word of mouth (WOM) marketing. The purpose of WOM marketing is to encourage people to talk about your brand and/or its products. To understand the power this can have, take the cable show turned phenomenon, Breaking Bad, as an example. AMC introduced this show in 2008 with ratings so low the show could have been cancelled. Due to the quality of the show, it grew rapidly in popularity with little paid promotion. If you are starting a business and lack a large marketing budget, consider the following word of mouth tactics to get the right people talking about your business:
1. Target Opinion Leaders: The people that spread information to various target audiences are known as opinion leaders. They can be bloggers, journalists, trendsetters or anybody else that your target consumers look to for information. With the increasing popularity of social media, it is easy to look at Twitter and Facebook for opinion leaders. You may want to look further and surf the net for popular websites and blogs your target customers interact with. For example, if your business is a car detailing shop you can begin to interact with bloggers on autogeek.com. Share the techniques you use and what products you swear by. It takes time to build relationships with opinion leaders and it is important NOT to bombard them with self-promotion. Instead develop a dialogue that eventually evolves into a trustworthy mutual relationship. The purpose of WOM advertising is to offset the skepticism that consumers often feel with paid advertising. The readers must feel as though they are learning about the brand without being pressured to buy its products. Another way to find opinion leaders is to encourage interaction on your social media accounts. Those who are the most interactive are going to be significant ambassadors to your brand.
2. Generate Buzz: Find out what is unique about your product and get people talking about it. For example, unlike most doughnut shops, Krispy Kreme serves its doughnuts right out of the oven. In order to further involve customers, they developed an app that lets people know when each batch of fresh doughnuts is ready. That way customers can enjoy the product and stay connected to the brand. There are countless success stories where companies have generated unpaid publicity by doing something unexpected and unprecedented to benefit their customers. To continue with the auto detailing business example, there are countless ways to generate buzz for your business. You can take one of your top of the line cars to a summer car cruise and let people know who you are. Create a demonstration, pass out flyers, stage a car theft (just kidding), etc.
3. Build Your Social Media Presence: Be your own opinion leader. Post relevant information and articles about your industry. Give people information they care about and share industry insights. For an auto detailer or even a restaurant, post demonstration videos on YouTube and link them to other accounts. Post tips, recipes, favorite products, etc. As you gain a social media presence, make sure your followers know who you are and what you do.
4. Be Honest: A WOM relationship is built on trust. Your audience trusts that you are not giving them a sales pitch and therefore are more likely to listen to you and interact with you. If your audience thinks they are being lied to or manipulated then your word is no more powerful than a commercial or print flyer.
According to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends or family more than paid advertising. The increase in online connectedness has given small businesses a powerful and cost efficient alternative to traditional advertising. Take advantage of it.