Can you distinguish between experiences at different restaurants or stores? There is one that stands out among the others. This is mainly due to the service or the unique experience that you had there. You feel the urge to tell people about it, and what you’d be doing is marketing via word of mouth for that brand.
Word of mouth has developed into an efficient marketing strategy with the passage of time. Initially, word of mouth was just people speaking to others about a product or service that they availed and appreciated. This resulted in people buying the recommended products/ services as the suggestions came from known and trusted sources. WOM developed into a marketing strategy when marketers noticed the efficiency of this marketing method over others. Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM) basically is the utilization of satisfied customers to promote a company’s products/ services.
WOMM works toward a simple goal, either by taking an action or inventing a product or delivering a service so good that customers are motivated and can’t help but talk about it to their relatives, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and other people they interact with online. Once this is achieved, a company’s customers take care of a key marketing area for it. However, there is a flip side to this marketing strategy, wherein if the action or the products/ services aren’t satisfactory, customers may go on to spread negative reviews to others, which drastically affect business.
Businesses must make sure to invent and deliver products and services that are better than the already available ones and add a certain factor to it that makes customers want to talk about them. Also, in tech-enabled age, WOMM has evolved from the basic verbal conversations to online reviews, comments, likes, shares, product endorsements, and tags, among others.
A free form of advertisement! That’s exactly what WOMM is and is also the very reason marketers give it the amount of importance it gets. It is shared by customers, which is a trigger that sets off due to an unusual and outstanding experience that the customer receives and goes beyond the expectations of customers. WOMM requires continuous customer service improvement and customer relationship building to be successfully implemented.
In the social media era, word of mouth marketing is also referred to as word of mouth advertising. Originally, WOMM spread from person to person by recommendations and suggestions. Nowadays, WOMM is described by a combination of the verbal communication as well as the targeted efforts by marketers. The advent and progress of social media over time has led to the formation of a hyper-connected system, wherein even a single suggestion or recommendation can have a tremendous impact on company and product/ service reputation, sales, and ROI, among others.
Marketers do their level best to inculcate word of mouth best practices and marketing strategies to encourage WOMM, with social media and other marketing campaigns looking to capitalize on this opportunity. M. Nick Hajli, in the International Journal of Market Research, writes,
“Trust, encouraged by social media, significantly affects intention to buy. Therefore, trust has a significant role in eCommerce by directly influencing intention to buy and indirectly influencing perceived usefulness.”
Is WOMM Really Important for Business, Though?
With communication being simplified and available to almost everyone through online social media platforms and other such channels, spontaneous, viral dialogue becomes unmissable, which can be shared, commented upon, liked, endorsed, and evaluated by multiple people simultaneously. This shared experience can grow from a mention by one person to influence millions of others in the shortest of times.
To sum it up, WOMM works on TRUST. In general, people trust reviews, suggestions, and recommendations that come from their friends, relatives, or just people that they know. People find it easier to believe and trust the experience that one person has had about a product/ service and are more likely to buy that particular product/ service due to this reason. As per a Nielsen study,
“92 percent of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising.”
Another interesting and valuable offering of WOMM is that it does not stop after just one interaction. From the initial one person that tells others about the product/ service/ experience, the chain continues, with those others telling more people. This attribute of WOMM increases exposure and distribution when used correctly. Negative news can spread equally fast, if not faster, due to this attribute. However, the essential plus point of word of mouth in this tech-enabled age is a personal endorsement, which is significantly more valuable than other marketing methods to consumers today.
A simple way to evaluate the importance of WOMM is by asking yourself this question: If the identified, most valuable form of marketing could be mastered by you, would you ignore or leave it to chance? Since this marketing strategy has been proven, and marketers know that consumers trust word of mouth above all other aspects and is most likely to drive company sales, the answer to the question is obvious.
No marketer or brand in their right mind would sit back and hope that customers talk about their products/ services when they can rather influence their customers into doing so. An added advantage that comes along with good WOMM strategy implementation is that it eases the process of asking customers for referrals.
Referral Marketing VS Word of Mouth Marketing
At first glance, referral marketing and word of mouth marketing may sound the same; however, as you may have picked up on the subtle hint in the subtitle, they are quite different from each other.
Word of mouth marketing is the process that creates a buzz about the brand and its offerings. Think of a car as the product that you’ve always dreamt of purchasing, and when you finally do, you feel the urge to tell everyone you know about its specs, performance, special features, and more. Now, the people that have listened to your chatter end up discussing this with others. WOMM is a way of increasing a brand’s following, which is a result of customer interaction.
Brands that are involved in WOMM are active on their social media channels and in constant touch with their customers, communities, on the television, radio, and other platforms, looking for creative ways to get people to talk about them. The more a brand interacts with its customers/ potential customers, the more likely it is for its name to spread among the masses. WOMM is a means of creating mega brand recognition.
As for referral marketing, contrary to popular belief, it isn’t about asking your customers for product/ service recommendations or offering incentives for each contact they provide. The aim of referral marketing is to identify a brand’s loyal customers and convey specific messages to them, which, in turn, leads to products/ services being referred to their relatives, friends, and others they know. This marketing strategy looks to set a referral mindset for a brand’s customers and makes use of personal touchpoints to convert satisfied customers into brand ambassadors/ endorsers.
Referral marketing targets specific customers and encourages the customer to refer the brand’s products/ services to their friends, relative, and others. It is a proactive approach by brands to generate and add to their customer base as the strategy is controlled and tracked by marketers. It is not just a strategy to get people to talk about the brand but to get the right people to talk via referrals. Referral marketing is essentially considered as a component of the word of mouth marketing.
To put it in simpler words, referral marketing is a later stage of WOMM: First, the company must get people talking about their products/ services, then the company approaches these satisfied customers and asks them to refer its offerings to others who may be interested.
WOMM Strategies, Statistics, and Use Cases
Word of mouth marketing works wonders for brands when implemented correctly. Most brands urge their marketers to make use of word of mouth by efficiently strategizing their campaigns according to proven statistics. WOMM is one of the oldest marketing strategies and works even better when combined with social media. Marketers need to make the most of this opportunity to increase marketing potential. A few WOMM strategies implemented by marketers in the tech era are as follows:
Encourage Customers for UGC
UGC refers to User Generated Content and is defined as any content created, communicated, or shared by customers about a brand, its products/ services, etc. UGC provides marketers with additional information to work with and reveals customer opinions.
- Statistic: 86% of millennials believe UGC to be a good indicator for brand quality and service.
- Brand Example: Coca-Cola
Image as seen on Website
Coca-Cola made use of WOMM with its “Share a Coke” campaign, which revived sales in 70 countries. This strategy included the printing of some common names on each bottle, which encouraged people to buy them for friends or relatives that had the same name.
Now, for the UGC part, Coke created a hashtag to further enhance the campaign. Customers shared photos on social media with the hashtags, thus creating a WOM chain.
Offer Planned Incentives
Customers cannot be more enticed to promote a product/ service than with an incentive. The incentive will ensure the skyrocketing of a brand’s word of mouth. Regardless of what the incentive is, customers value the fact that they are getting something in return. Marketers can consider providing discounts or freebies to customers as incentives.
- Statistic: 39% of survey respondents say monetary, including discounts, free swag, or gift cards, significantly increase their chances of referring a brand.
- Brand Example: Dropbox
Image as seen on Website
Dropbox is a great example that offered 500MB of extra storage space to new users and existing customers that made referrals. It earned a significant number of referrals with its promise of providing free cloud storage space. Customers, on the other hand, continued to earn more storage space with every referral, which, in turn, increased customer loyalty.
Allow Customers to Review
Customer reviews and testimonials are essential for product/ service publicity. The more a product is reviewed, the easier it is for potential customers to evaluate the product/ service and purchase it. Reviews reassure value, quality, and performance, and enable customers to be at ease while purchasing products.
- Statistic: 79% of people trust testimonials and online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
- Brand Example: Amazon
Image as seen on the Website.
Amazon is the prime example of a brand that has grown not due to its marketing efforts but simply because of its word of mouth marketing. Unlike most other brands, it does not use Instagram or Facebook as channels to gain popularity either. WOMM has presented itself as a valuable strategy for such companies that provide exceptional products and services and enable customer reviews as well.
Uniqueness and Unforgettable Experience
More often than not, WOM starts with a unique offering and a share-worthy experience. Getting word of mouth rolling is the easiest part of this strategy due to digital and social media marketing techniques. If customers are given something that they cannot find elsewhere, they are sure to talk about it with others, regardless of the brand asking them to do so.
- Statistic:74% of consumers identify word-of-mouth as a key influencer in their purchasing decision.
- Brand Example: Netflix
Image as seen on the Website.
As a brand, Netflix has flourished wholly on word of mouth marketing. Netflix provides exactly what customers the world over have been demanding. The offering is undoubtedly unique and the experience, most definitely share-worthy.
These strategies and statistics, along with their implementations, portray that WOMM works, and the efficiency of this marketing technique is much greater than most others. Each statistic goes to prove that word of mouth marketing is an extremely valuable asset for marketers in today’s digital world.
Advantages & Disadvantages of WOMM
Along with the numerous advantages that have been mentioned so far, word of mouth marketing also comes with certain limitations and disadvantages. Some of the pros and cons of WOMM are mentioned below.
- Free Publicity
Pure word of mouth is unpaid, and that is a huge advantage for any company. Here, brands do not pay customers to talk about them or the products/ services that they offer. In some cases, companies offer incentives for each referral that is made by their existing customers. Even here, the company only incurs costs once they acquire a new customer.
- Credible Sources
The trust factor is the strongest benefit that is associated with word of mouth marketing. Getting suggestions about a particular brand, product/ service from a friend, relative, or co-worker significantly impacts purchasing decisions.
Another factor associated with WOMM is virality. When a brand manages to add enough hype around itself or its product/ service, customers are sure to make a note of it and would themselves help increase this hype, making the brand viral, and, in turn, fostering faster growth. Brands must strive to create content that is attractive to people for them to make it viral.
- Slow Distribution
Pure, organic word of mouth marketing is slow to spread and takes time for marketers to get the word out about their brand, and its products/ services and may take even longer to build a rapport with customers who can be targeted for referrals.
This is particularly true in the case of brands that do not make use of social media. Social media and the viral marketing element are solutions for this and enable faster organization growth.
- Untraceable Business
Word of mouth marketing is a process that cannot be tracked as the brand does not know how many people are speaking about it or its products, and to whom they are speaking. Incoming customers can be asked to fill up a feedback form, wherein they are asked whether they were referred. However, this still does not give the company an estimate of the reach of their WOMM campaign.
- Negative Feedback
A common concern for most marketers is the negative feedback that can be spread through word of mouth. This can have lasting effects on the brand as many times it goes unnoticed. A customer that had a bad experience may be telling others about this experience, and the brand would be completely unaware until the customer informs the brand about it. If this goes unnoticed, brands do not even get a chance to rectify their errors and improve their offerings.
Word of mouth marketing is a powerful resource that every brand possesses and can make use of. A large portion of successful marketing lies in WOMM, and marketers can leverage from it via effective implementation. Successful implementation of WOMM would require stellar products, service, and experience for positive word of mouth to spread.