So, what is word of mouth marketing? One way to think of WOM as good old basic, “referral programs” or “user groups”—on steroids. Referral programs used to consist of asking business partners, customers, networking buddies, and friends to suggest people that might need your products or services. Or you offered customers rewards for sending their friends to you for a “free quote”.
Or, if you were a big company (big budget) you brought your loyal customers together in Orlando or Los Angeles (notice the warm climate locales) for user group meetings—seminars, best practice-sharing—and of course, building loyalty to your company’s products/services.
Fast-forward. Today’s WOM is much more authentic. Today it’s about people talking because they want to share their positive experiences with your products/services with their friends and colleagues. Building successful WOM requires:
- Giving your loyal fans (customers) something to talk about—great products, services
- Making it easy for you loyal customers to tell others about your company
- Identifying who are the “influentials” among your loyal customers and turning them into customer evangelists. They are gold. Evangelists are your unpaid sales force.
Note: For more about identifying and leveraging influentials to grow your business, see book by Ed Keller and Jon Berry, The Influentials, One American in ten tells the other nine how to vote, where to eat, and what to buy.
We all love to recommend the best books, restaurants, vacation spots, etc. to our friends, family and coworkers. Who do you know that relies on advertising (alone) to select vacations or mission-critical business tools?
Another way to think of WOM marketing is as “relationship marketing”. Relationship marketing is creating deeper relationships with your customers and developing products and services to meet their needs, based on your findings from the deep relationships. If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably a small business. And you most likely sell to small businesses and you’ll be interested to know that according to a Warrillow & Co research study on how small business owners (fewer than 100 employees) make buying decisions.
And with the explosion of traditional one-way, monologue marketing—ads, direct mail, email spam, Internet popups, (we’re bombarded with up to 3,000 ads daily by many estimates) businesses need a more authentic way to (pardon this over-used cliché) ‘cut through the clutter’ and get their company story heard. WOM will help you to get the message out.
Experienced, successful WOM proponents talk about the holy grail of WOM programs that work:
- Getting loyal customers to talk to others about how much they like your products and services (Costco)
- Creating remarkable products and services, so that happy customers want to talk about you
- Finding your company’s story—and telling it over and over (Clif Bar)
- For start-ups especially, turning your company identity (brand) over to your customers—let them define the brand (like the story of Jones Soda), start grassroots conversations about you, and then watch sales soar
Surprised to see Costco on the list? Well, they spend zero on advertising. But they have plenty of loyal customers who love to talk about shopping at Costco. Like Oprah Winfrey. Why Should Businesses Care About WOM? New research from GfK Roper Consulting reinforces why word of mouth marketing could be the key to turbo charging leads, sales and revenue for small (all) companies. Here are the results of their recent study asking 1,000 Americans what are the most “trustworthy” sources for purchase ideas and information:
Business Technology Buyers
I actually disagree with the advertising result for B2B buyers. I think the 55 percent citing advertising is too high, if you consider who businesses rely on for purchase ideas and information. (This study did not focus on business to business.)
- The Chief Marketing Officers organization (CMO Council) in a 2005 survey of B2B buyers, Define What’s Valued Online, found that 75 percent of technology buyers begin the purchase process on the Internet—using white papers from industry associations and vendors.
- Fifty percent said they spend up to 5 hours a week researching tech products and services online.
- Ninety percent of those surveyed said that online content has a moderate to major impact on which vendors they choose.
So much for advertising impacting B2B decisions. These examples are all good places to start. We’ll explore how WOM actually happens in future posts. If you have comments about how WOM is working for your company, I’d love to hear them. Or, what else do you think you need to know before you get started?