Before there were digital pay-per-click ads, social media marketing, and email campaigns–even before billboards and magazine advertising–there was word of mouth.
Word of mouth marketing, or WOMM, is simply the act of recommending something you love to your family, friends, and colleagues. And it’s proven to work.
Why is word of mouth marketing so superior? How have businesses converted it from an in-person benefit to an online revenue driver? What are the best ways to harness it in your online strategy for 2022?
Today we’re covering:
Let’s get into the power of word of mouth marketing.
What Makes Recommendations So Powerful?
Just like you’d tell a friend about your favorite new Netflix show, you might do the same for a local dentist, automotive shop, or veterinarian you like.
Hearing about a business from a trusted connection is one of the highest endorsements. In fact, it’s the very best way to show your business is trustworthy and fast track your sales process.
But don’t take our word for it.
Research shows that a whopping 90% of people are more likely to trust a brand that is recommended to them. This is true even if the brand is recommended by a stranger (we’ll go more in-depth on that soon).
In our super-online modern lives there’s a massive amount of information we need to wade through to make any consumer decision, whether to select a new pediatrician or buy the best set of windshield wipers.
We know from firsthand experience how confusing it can be to Google something and see conflicting advertisements from all sides. Paid advertising may get a front-and-center spot on your screen, but consumers don’t find it as believable. According to Nielsen research, fewer than 50% of people trust paid advertisements.
No one wants to get ripped off, left hanging, or stuck with a faulty product and with no customer service in sight.
Ultimately, every consumer wants to find a reliable, trustworthy company that is pleasant to do business with. Word of mouth is the best way to cut through all the noise.
Harnessing Word Of Mouth Marketing For Your Business
The heart of all marketing comes down to one thing: You know your business is one of the trustworthy ones. How do you communicate that to the market?
You probably have plenty of examples of loyal customers who have gone out and helped evangelize your brand to bring in more business from their families and friends.
That’s an awesome sign you’re doing all the right things in the way you run your business. Always be sure to thank those customers for their free advertising; A short thank you note or a small gift card never hurt!
While it’s great for your current customers to spread the word in person to their family and friends, there are plenty of prospective customers who aren’t part of your shared network.
So, how can you communicate your value to prospective customers in the same powerful way?
Bringing It All Online
This is one of the many times we’re grateful for all the digital tools at our fingertips. Just like you can see on Facebook how you’re connected to someone across the world through a friend of a friend of a friend, there are ways for your business to naturally tap into a new network.
As a busy business owner with lots on your plate, you need an easy way to get started. Luckily, taking word of mouth marketing online fits neatly into 4 top methods.
1. Gathering reviews to show who you really are
We mentioned before that even recommendations from strangers receive a high level of trust. Online reviews are essentially recommendations (or warnings) from strangers.
That’s why online reviews are the first thing nearly 87% of searchers will look at after Googling your brand. They’re trying to determine whether they should give you their business, based on the opinions and experiences of your previous customers.
Gaining more positive reviews is one of the best ways to boost your reputation and use word of mouth marketing online.
Which of these 2 businesses would you be more likely to trust?
To focus on generating more reviews, your whole team needs to be on board. Put a strategy in place to make sure you’re asking every customer to take a minute and write a Google review about their experience.
If you’re a retail business, you can remind customers at the counter right after they make a purchase. If you’re in the healthcare or dental industry, your receptionist can hand out a card with a link to a Google review form when patients leave the office.
As the Google reviews start coming in, you’ll see your company rise higher in the Google results page. Prospects who see you online will have lots of real-life recommendations to explore and believe.
Want to get more reviews fast and make sure your customers have a great experience in the process? Chat with our team at Swell to see how you can get 100 reviews in 100 days through automated text messaging.
2. Getting social with a side of real personality
You’ve probably encountered one of the brands known for hitting it out of the park in the social media landscape.
In the past few years, corporate social media accounts have gone from bland and formal to personable and sometimes even hilarious. Those social media efforts can boost trust and brand loyalty.
Wendy’s turned its corporate brand into a relatable, funny personality that clearly resonates with consumers. Their Twitter bio and follower count tell us everything we need to know.
For your local business, you have an easy opportunity to show up online in an authentic way without overextending your team’s valuable time.
Try sharing images and stories of real customers or even of your own team using your product or service. When customers share reviews, re-share them across your social media profiles.
In all your posts, focus on starting conversations. Try asking questions about how your customers use your products or what they liked about their latest visit to your business.
The more real comments you get and the more authentic your brand is, the better you’re able to mimic a real word-of-mouth experience that will drive sales.
3. Enlisting micro-influencers, the pseudo-real-life friend
These days, micro-influencers (people with a significant, but not massive, social media following) can almost feel like real friends.
We choose people to follow online because their words and experiences are relevant to our lives.
We want to know what’s going on in their daily lives. And that includes their purchasing decisions–including what products they use, which restaurants are their favorites, and where they decide to travel.
Each industry has relevant micro-influencers. If you’re able to partner with them, they’ll promote your brand to their followers, who are much more likely to trust them than an anonymous paid ad.
Dr. Ann Marie Gorczyca is a great example of a micro-influencer in the dental industry who followers rely on for advice and recommendations.
Start by researching micro-influencers in your local area who might have aligned interests to your industry. You’ll know they’re a micro influencer if they have a large following (think anywhere between 1,000 - 100,000 people), but still interact with their followers in a personal way.
Once you find a few potential partners, simply reach out. They may have a defined process for proposing a new brand partnership, or you may be able to send them a direct message explaining what they (and their followers) would love about your brand.
4. Running referral programs as a carrot for recommendations
A referral program is the most direct way to create word of mouth marketing. You give your customers concrete motivation to recommend your brand, and reward them when they succeed.
Go Ahead Tours offers a tourism industry referral program that allows customers to keep making referrals and building up their earnings over time.
Some referral programs even give the new customer a small reward, too.
These programs are so successful precisely because they use word of mouth marketing and trusted recommendations.
Referred customers are more likely to be loyal to your business. The American Marketing Association reports their average customer lifetime value is 16% to 25% higher than a customer who found your brand any other way.
Can you afford to pass up that ROI?
To start a referral program, first determine the bonus you’re comfortable giving out. It doesn’t have to be money–you could give a light discount on a service or a small free product.
Once you settle on a reward, set the other details. How long will you accept referrals? Does the person need to make a purchase within a certain amount of time? How will you keep track of your referrals and rewards?
Finally, it’s time to promote. Spread the word about your program as widely as you can. Share it on social media and encourage your followers to re-share.
As more people hear about your referral program and join in, word of mouth marketing will go to work for your business and you’ll keep picking up momentum.
If you see an influx of new customers, you might want to run the same referral program annually or even seasonally.
Conclusion: Word of Mouth Marketing in an Online World
Integrating WOMM, the most foundational type of marketing, into your online approach is an easy, natural, and affordable move for your business.
If you need help with your online approach, consider hiring a digital marketing agency like NP Digital, that offers services in everything from SEO to PPC and social strategy.
By collecting reviews, leading with authenticity on social media, partnering with micro-influencers, and investing in a referral campaign, you can earn a steady flow of new, loyal customers.
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