Imagine a scenario where everyone is buzzing about your product, and you didn’t have to break the bank to get them to do it. They’re snapping selfies with it, hashtagging their picture-perfect life into oblivion while using it, and telling their friends, “Have you heard of X? Because you have to buy X.” They’re so loud and passionate, the room shakes. And there you are, getting all of the love without the P&L heartache.
Word of mouth is the holy grail of marketing because it provides two ultimate forms of brand validation — social proof. People buy from people and trust the recommendations made by people. Customers who have purchased your products and raised their hands as a virtual vouch are signaling to others that you’re worth their hard-earned dollars. Word of mouth also lays the foundation for brand loyalty, an anomaly in our fickle, choice-paralyzed times. And it’s free.
Word of mouth is that marketing unicorn that impacts every stage of a customer’s path to purchase. Consumers want to hear about the experiences of people like them. Nearly 95% of people read reviews before making a purchase decision. Your ratings and reviews can be the clincher when it comes to getting a prospective guest past the evaluation stage to purchase. According to a Podium study, 3.3 is the minimum star rating of a business consumers would consider engaging with.
According to Statista, 45% of people rely on customer reviews in their search and discovery process, second to Google search.
A seminal McKinsey study revealed that word of mouth influences 50% of purchase decisions throughout the customers’ journey, generates more than 2X the sales of paid media and is the most disruptive to consumer decisions.
You could be doing all the research on the level of forensics about a particular product, but if a trusted peer interrupts with a story about how your product did nothing more than take up space, believe that they’ll move on to the next.
While managing your product detail page’s ratings and reviews should be a high priority, don’t neglect Google, Yelp, or Facebook — especially if you have brick and mortar locations. Google has confirmed that reviews help bolster your SEO. An independent study discovered that reviews accounted for 15.44% of how Google ranks your business and the figure keeps increasing with the prominence of maps and localization.
UGC (user-generated content) is one of the ways word of mouth can be distributed. There’s no higher compliment than a satisfied customer documenting their product experience via texts to friends, emails, and on social media. Their vouch is critical because they valued their purchase enough to whip out a megaphone (in the form of their smartphone) and shout it to the masses. A 2017 TurnTo Consumer study notes that 90% of consumers’ purchasing decisions are based on UGC.
UGC offers rich new storytelling opportunities, and the chance to build trusted relationships with current and potential customers. Consumers believe content from their peers more than they do any other form of marketing communication.
Harnessing UGC’s storytelling power can help build brand trust and ultimately resonance. You can either re-post (with permission and image credit) the images to your site, social channels, email, or paid media, or you can encourage customers to use a predefined branded hashtag (either on your website or as part of your packaging) so you can aggregate all images and display them on your digital and social properties.
You achieve word-of-mouth in four steps:
- Create a standout customer experience.
- Arm your customers with the tools for UGC and offline chatter.
- Ensure sharing is simple.
- Reward them for their love.
But how do you get them talking? Here are five tried and proven tactics to make conversations about your brand contagious:
Deliver a standout customer experience
People immediately talk about the moments of surprise and delight, the times when a brand went above and beyond to make their experience memorable. At every brand interaction from discovery and research to purchase and between point-of-purchase, make sure your customer experience is simple, convenient, and delivered with the highest care.
Make it easy for your customers to make a buy decision by providing education, inspiration, and social proof on your owned channels. And then reward them for it through swift shipping, post-purchase communication, unboxings that feel like events in and of themselves, and stellar, human customer care.
You’ve seen the rage blackout tweets and 2-star reviews were customers take a brand to task on their lack of customer service more than a faulty product. People want to feel special and heard. For example, The Sol Wave House in Spain consistently engages with guests on Twitter before and during their stay — giving them immediate customer service and even allowing them to order drinks poolside with the #poolbarorder hashtag.
Doen, an ethical clothing brand based in Los Angeles, ships its garments wrapped in garment bags with a handwritten note. Their customer care team goes above and beyond in providing measurements, styling advice, and consistent updates when it comes to exchanges and returns. As a result, the brand has amassed a cult following with users sporting their wears and clamoring over seasonal drops using the #doencollective hashtag.
Ask for the love
Ask for what you want because your customers aren’t psychic. Invite your brand fans to share their product and brand experiences. What features did they love? What problems did it solve? How did they feel after using your product? What memories were forged as a result? You can ask them via your website, social media posts, newsletters, targeted post-purchase remarketing campaigns, brochures, and collateral.
Make individual products shareable (via email and social media) on your website so customers can easily share your products with their peers. Share website URLs, contact information, branded hashtags, and your social media handles easily and often, so customers know how to call you out in their posts and you can track their love.
Offer “gram-worthy moments”
With Instagram’s cultural dominance, brands are priming for their close-up. Flamingo wallpaper, neon signs, checkered floors, clean, modern lines or natural light can transform a product or in-store experience to a social media destination. Think about the pop-up shops and museums sprouting up in major cities of the Glossier store or Paul Smith’s pink wall in Los Angeles — they’re spaces designed for photographing.
Breathe it out — you don’t need to go overboard to attract the smartphone-toting crowd. Make your space irresistible by dedicating areas in for snapping photos in natural light or showcase décor that’s kitschy, colorful, and individual to your brand’s taste. Or opt for “selfie spots” or stations so customers can snap their #soblessed selfies in their best light.
Reward them for their love
Consider how you offer point-in-time and long term rewards to your most loyal customers. From GWPs to special discounts based on purchase frequency and price thresholds to UGC contests and ongoing loyalty and affiliate programs, customers want to be recognized and rewarded for their loyalty. Give them more of a reason to spread the word.
84% of consumers are more likely to stick with a brand that offers a loyalty program.
For example, Caravelle Resort launched a quarterly #HappyGuest campaign where one winner is chosen for a free 2-night stay. French clothing brand, Sezane showcases weekly $100 vouchers to customers who’ve styled their products and share their looks on Instagram. When it comes to loyalty programs,
North Face is one brand that sets the standard in offering customers traditional purchase rewards, but also non-traditional points for attending North Face events, downloading their app, and checking in at retail locations. And points can be redeemed for products and travel experiences such as treks to Nepal.
Whether your customers are typing up glowing five-star reviews or snapping photos living their best life and tagging your products while they’re doing it, word of mouth has tremendous, long-term brand and business impact.
You earn word of mouth (you don’t buy it via influencer marketing or advertising) by providing a seamless and standout customer experience, products worth evangelizing, and easy ways to empower and reward them for shouting out their love.