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Guide to Positive Word-of-Mouth Marketing_blog

Events — 01 Aug 2022

Guide to Positive Word-of-Mouth Marketing

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  • Positive Word-of-Mouth Marketing: Its Benefits and Challenges

Positive Word-of-Mouth Marketing: Its Benefits and Challenges

Ever made a purchase after hearing a friend’s recommendation? Or opted to see a movie because the user reviews were just so convincing? What about signing up for a subscription service because half your Instagram feed was raving about it? 

Positive word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) is a critical strategy that is quite a bit more complex and multi-faceted than it might first appear. Acting as both a promotional tool and a survey of consumer sentiment. 

The power of positive reinforcement is an undeniable growth asset. But how exactly can businesses harness it? In this article, we’ll discuss the concept, its benefits, and the common challenges it presents marketers both in-house and agency side.

product-purchase
Source (zuberance.com)

What is word-of-mouth marketing? 

Word-of-mouth marketing encompasses positive reviews, comments, and discussions consumers have regarding a business’s brand, products, and services. 

The process can take many forms and have varying degrees of impact on a business, both positive and negative. However, word-of-mouth communication has largely been a fantastic means of changing perceptions around a brand while consistently driving new traffic to websites and online platforms. 

WOM marketing involves customers and brand advocates alike doing your marketing for you. It makes personal social media profiles, specialist forums, and review aggregator sites  promotional battlefields. People aware of your brand promote its benefits and their personal experience straight to their network, making word-of-mouth marketing a valuable source of not just leads, but also brand loyalty. 

How digital marketing has changed (and the current state of play) 

In the last decade, digital marketing has gone through a dramatic shift in nature and prominence. 

Marketers and consumers alike now operate in a world where mobile users outrank traditional desktop users, brands spend big on content development to improve organic search rankings and creative approaches to digital PR have transformed the landscape of news coverage. 

Social media has become a mainstay in our everyday lives, dictating daily narratives and acting as central hubs for the online experience, being as influential as even affecting our purchase decisions. The platforms themselves have also gone through dramatic evolutionary arcs, such as Instagram’s transformation from digital photobook to fully-fledged ecommerce outlet spawning influencers who are dominating mainstream culture. 

With this, customer needs and how brands engage with these consumers has changed. B2C brands have almost become sources of security and entertainment for loyal consumers, while a sales enablement app and similar software create an immediate source of conversation in extended B2B purchases. Regardless of the sector, these leads will largely be generated online through marketing, of which positive word-of-mouth is a crucial factor. 

Why is positive word-of-mouth so important? 

Positive WOM stands out as a successful method largely due to the high level of trust it instills in the customer. In a marketing environment where data accumulation and management rules, simple recommendations still wield massive power. 

Typically, word-of-mouth recommendations come from a small circle of people close to the potential customer:

  • Their friends
  • Their family
  • Their colleagues
  • Their social media contacts

88% of American shoppers expressed higher trust in a brand that’s been personally recommended to them by their friends or family. The prominence of online platforms has only served to increase this, amplifying the words of the average joe and giving them more weight. 

There was once a feeling that only discounts, limited offers, and manipulative calls to action could drive customer decisions (even if it sacrificed long-term brand loyalty). word-of-mouth marketing has proven both easily attainable at a low cost. 

With each retweet, blogger comment, and share, word-of-mouth marketing carries the potential for exponential growth within your brand.

consumers method of learning
Source (sproutsocial.com)

Examples of positive word-of-mouth marketing

Word-of-mouth marketing takes many forms. Fortunately for the testing advocates amongst us, there are lots of ways to experiment with how your brand is viewed and discussed online. 

The styles of word-of-mouth marketing can largely be distilled into two categories—amplified and organic

Amplified word-of-mouth marketing strategies are generally tied to a more traditional marketing campaign, making them easier to track. Some common examples include: 

  • Influencer campaigns
  • Referral programs 
  • Brand ambassadors
  • Social media contests (that require sharing for entry) 
  • Affiliate programs 

Alternatively, organic word-of-mouth marketing occurs out of the business’ control, without direct promotion. While this makes it harder to track in the traditional sense, it can usually be found triggered by particular customer experiences, such as a free gift or shipping promotion. This offers a thread to work back towards. Some examples of organic growth include: 

  • Spontaneous social media content/link sharing
  • Customer reviews and testimonials
  • Sharing of products and promotions without prompting
  • Discussions about products in specialist social media groups/forums 

Word-of-mouth marketing can be a conscious effort on the part of your marketing department or something you latch onto later. What’s important is learning how to track these evolving methods through social listening tools and customer surveys.

online review readership
Source (99firms.com)

Strategies for word-of-mouth marketing

Word-of-mouth marketing can be a relatively straightforward marketing strategy to get started with. 

It requires few digital tools, less time to dedicate towards trawling through data, and an open mind towards the perception of your brand. To start monitoring and building upon it, here are some key strategies. 

Make your service customer first

How well you treat your loyal customers can determine whether or not your business succeeds. 

There’s no better advertising tool than a satisfied customer. So give them something worth talking about. 

However, the only thing a customer is more likely to talk about more than a good experience is a bad one. So you need to ensure you’re providing the kind of service that puts customers first. That means getting every step of the customer experience right, from initial interaction to product presentation to follow-up. 

A consistent customer journey is essential and will help control the narrative around your brand. Whether that’s refining customer messages, building a flawless customer engagement platform, or ensuring they’re getting their order confirmations in good time, anything that can be done to show your brand cares about their experience will help. 

Some key steps to consider when developing this process include: 

  • Building a fast, safe, and easy-to-use website that doesn’t alienate first-time visitors
  • Selling quality products/services that reflect descriptions, imagery, and video
  • Simplifying the purchase/sign-up process (without sacrificing security)
  • Ensuring customer after-purchase care is thorough, even after they receive their order
  • Offering updates and news surrounding their purchase and your brand

These are all tips that not only leave the customer satisfied but give them something to talk about. They can rave about the slick user experience, the quality of your product page videos or the unique flourishes in your shipping. They might not use those terms, but the care and consideration demonstrated will stick in their minds.

consumers percentage
Source (websitebuilderexpert.com)

Inspire your employees

Employees are an often underappreciated and underutilized source of marketing. 

If you have a happy workforce that’s encouraged by the products and services they’re working on/selling, they’ll be more inclined to organically promote them across their personal platforms and to their family and friends. 

A simple push in the right direction coupled with a positive workplace can make your workforce a hugely powerful asset at the starting point for your word-of-mouth marketing efforts. 

Positive experiences in the workplace and genuine interest in the product/service can spur employees to speak publicly on platforms such as LinkedIn about how they value and believe in their workplace. This is ideal for business owners as these employees have a great knowledge of what they’re promoting and come with a sense of authority. This allows them to hit key talking points without direction.

Develop a variety of social and on-site content

It should be no surprise that content is still king. 

Phrases come and go in marketing, but that one still rings true, and may just be the secret weapon in your quest to harness positive word-of-mouth marketing. 

The key to content in this modern marketing environment is consistency and variety. While that might sound like a contradiction, we’re talking about consistency in production and variety in content style. To expand your reach and develop organic opportunities for word-of-mouth marketing you need to create content of all shapes and sizes, from informative blogs to fun behind-the-scenes videos. 

Content is a brilliant trigger point that can kick off important word-of-mouth marketing. With more content to enjoy, happy customers are able to see a new side of your business, learn more about the services you offer, and gain a deeper understanding of how your brand is developing. While they might not share the content itself, these become talking points and key aspects of your brand they’ll discuss with their personal network.

types of content marketers
Source (sproutsocial.com)

Encourage user-generated content

User-generated content is an incredibly simple concept that’s done wonders for brands all over the world. 

Ever wondered why Coca-Cola prints bottles with people’s names on them? Do a quick search online and see how many Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram posts there are of a user posting a bottle with their name on it. How much do you think this clever form of advertising cost them? Almost nothing.

Rather than investing millions into a campaign that might or might not take off, the user-generated content approach puts a business’s online presence in the hand of the consumer. Through a quick suggestion or clever branding technique, you can unknowingly convince consumers to talk about your brand online. This can take many forms, such as asking for customer designs for a new logo for the business. 

Best of all, this content is usually highly-shareable and because of its low effort can be run in the background while more expansive campaigns enjoy the limelight, diversifying your approach. A huge asset to small businesses looking to grow and established companies cementing their brand position.

coca-cola
Source (unsplash.com)

Harness the power of user reviews 

Customer reviews are a difficult nut to crack. 

Some companies shy away from them, afraid customers will focus on the negatives and paint an unenthusiastic picture of their carefully curated user experience. However, others have recognized how crucial a step they are in getting new customers (particularly more cautious ones) to buy into their brand. 

In fact, nine out of ten customers have been shown to check online reviews before purchasing a product. 

Websites such as Trustpilot, Yelp, and Google Reviews are where online word-of-mouth marketing really thrives. It’s why every search tool and website from AirBnB to Amazon (and social networks) puts prominence on star ratings and user feedback. 

Online reviews act as a first-hand account of how the customer experience and the many facets of it were for a customer just like them. They feel authentic, drawn from genuine feelings. Rather than avoid them, brands should look to encourage customers to leave online reviews, promote positive comments on social media and respond to bad reviews promising to address the issue.

people leaving a reviews
Source (99firms.com)

Build your social community 

Taking an active role in a social community can give a brand a genuine sense of passion, expertise, and welcome notoriety. 

Word-of-mouth marketing can be fostered by showing consumers and industry colleagues that their thoughts are valid and worth responding to. This can be developed through:

  • Organizing events online and offline (such as discussions on Twitter Spaces)
  • Engaging in conversations on leading industry forums, social pages, and podcasts (particularly those started by general consumers)
  • Hosting contests, and offering customer loyalty discounts as online exclusives 

A sense of unity around a brand can ingratiate consumers further, giving die-hard devotees a reason to rave about products and services without direction. The best leaders let online communities develop by themselves, organically generating promotion and discussion. 

Become an online thought leader

Want to ensure people are talking positively about you and your brand? Become a thought leader. 

While the aim of the word-of-mouth game is generally to let your customers do your marketing for you, developing a reputation as a thought leader requires a bit more effort. Business owners can make themselves key figures by offering thoughts on the latest news and developments. This can come in the form of blogs, appearances on leading podcasts, or creative video content. 

As long as the content is backed up by hard evidence, a new perspective, and a clear understanding of the industry, it can be a great way to give a brand a sense of expertise. 

Just providing a great, educated service grounded in expertise can make a difference. Take a growing industry such as Software as a Service (SaaS). The best SaaS websites aren’t just highly useable, but brimming with knowledge from employees that directly compliments helpful customer service. You can see why these businesses are thought so highly of and their key employees seen as tech leaders. 

Thought leadership can be a difficult route marked by refining of company image, persistence, and creative content strategies, but the benefits can see a brand transform their image and give their products and services and premium edge.

percentage of content that usually creates
Source (semrush.com)

The dangers of word-of-mouth marketing

Of course, as with any form of digital marketing, WOM comes with challenges, especially for businesses not fully prepared for them. Let’s look at a few drawbacks:

  • Lack of message control: When it comes to traditional advertising, businesses have greater control of the core messages of the campaign and how they spead to both new and existing customers. With word-of-mouth marketing, the customer defines the message. This renders the core messaging completely out of the business’s control. If this message is negative, incorrect, or informed by a bad personal experience, it can create a poor image. 
  • Uncontrollable pacing: In the same vein, the speed at which a customer-controlled message spreads can be detrimental for a business. While it can be advantageous for word-of-mouth marketing to spread during peak periods, businesses may want to refresh their branding and implement service changes. Poor timing can see a single bad experience come to define a company’s reputation and compromise branding efforts. Should that take off at a rate a business’s preferred messages can’t keep up with, it can present a significant challenge to combat.
  • Lasting negative effects:  In the event negative sentiments come to define a business, that negative can be difficult to reverse. Bad reviews, comments, and coverage are often permanent, with poorly managed attempts to respond to or rebuff them occasionally turning people further away from a business. Social media narratives can snowball quickly, especially if these sentiments present themselves as shareable content. 

Don’t be fooled into thinking word-of-mouth marketing is a low-risk, high-reward process anyone can jump right into utilizing. A contingency plan for negative feedback is just as important as any content you might be using to supplement it. 

Improve customer service strategies to prepare for negative responses online and over the phone, while ensuring your online presence is ultimately not burdened by negative feedback. 

Final words

Positive word-of-mouth advertising is a fantastic way to bring highly profitable, targeted traffic to a site, buoyed by the great referral of someone they trust. 

However, this isn’t a process that just grows with a business. Word-of-mouth marketing can backfire spectacularly if businesses lose control of the narrative. This is a process centered around building trust and cultivating relationships, and the more of that businesses can do, the bigger and more responsive a customer base you can build.

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Jessica Day - Senior Director, Marketing Strategy, Dialpad

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Jessica Day is the Senior Director for Marketing Strategy at Dialpad, a modern PBX phone system platform that takes every kind of conversation to the next level—turning conversations into opportunities. Jessica is an expert in collaborating with multifunctional teams to execute and optimize marketing efforts, for both company and client campaigns. Here is her LinkedIn.