“Marketing is no longer what you say about yourself; it’s what everyone else is saying about you.”
WOM. It’s an acronym for Word of Mouth. And it is possibly the biggest influencer in terms of decision making right now.
Word of Mouth (hereafter referred to as WOM) can be defined as customers talking to other customers, whether they know each other or not. They can be strangers linked only by their shared experience with a product, service, brand or even government policy.
What other people have thought has always been a part of the matrix that leads us to make the decision to ‘buy into’ an idea or purchase an item. Until recently it was a muted voice, generally confined to our close circle of friends over a beer or work colleagues around the water-cooler.
With the arrival of social media that voice has gotten louder, to the point where it can now drown out a company’s own ‘official’ message. Once these conversations were just small ripples on the surface, but today they are amplified many times over through new mediums such as social media.
Like a tsunami they can be a deadly force building under the surface, gathering momentum until they crash on the shores of your business with terrifying consequences.
Not all WOM effects are bad of course. Managed well, a WOM campaign can be of enormous benefit to your company (remember the one for The Best Job in the World?).
WOM is seen as more reliable, honest and sincere than any other advertising or marketing medium. One reason for this is that we are more likely to accept the opinion of strangers rather than the outpouring s of advertisers simply because strangers haven’t lied to us yet.
It’s a twist on the innocent until proven guilty theme – “This person has no reason to lie to me, and until they do something to erode my trust in their opinion, I will accept it at face value.” No ad company campaign is given that level of belief.
Central to making the most of WOM is a shift in thinking. You will no longer be marketing ‘at’ the consumer; you will now be conversing ‘with’ the customer. You are effectively handing control of the campaign to the people you wish to buy in.
WOM marketing can be as simple as giving the customer a positive experience, and the means to share their views. The experience could be great customer service, going that step beyond what is required to make sure they are happy. The channel to express this view may be a Facebook page (yours or theirs), Twitter account or place on your website.
And you better believe and have confidence in your product, because it will backfire badly if the promise of your message is found wanting in reality.
Here are my top five tips to creating positive word of mouth experiences:
- Give the people something to talk about: put simply, are you doing the best you can for your customer? The old adage of ‘under-promise and over-deliver’ will always see the customer go away happy. And happy to tell others about you.
- Be an advocate for the customer in your workplace: if your role in the company is public-facing don’t be afraid to stand up for the customer. Your job is (or should be in my opinion) as much to meet the client’s needs as to turn a profit for the company. And you can’t do the latter if you don’t fulfil the former. It’s how you get repeat business.
- Listen, engage and give voice to the customer: with the advent of social media conversations are happening everywhere. Listen to what is being said, engage in a positive manner and allow them to have their say. Censoring is not an option!
- Share: once it was policy to keep everything a secret so competitors couldn’t find out how you did business. Today being seen as an expert in your field is preferable if not best practice. And a sure way to get referrals from people who like to be seen as in the know.
- Reward your mavens: call them experts, mavens, trend-setters, loyal customers or thought leaders, find a way to reward the people who advocate on your behalf. Whether it’s a referral for a new client or just a positive reference on Facebook, find a way to reward those who speak well of you. You can be sure that that reward will also get mentioned, and you will be seen as a company that listens to its customers.
Remember, what used to work for businesses is just that – it’s old news. People will talk about you, and what they say now will be made louder and shared much further and wider than ever before.
To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. Just make sure you’re part of the conversation, and it’s all for the right reasons!