Think technology has eclipsed the importance of word-of-mouth marketing? Think again.
On the contrary, the highly connected world of today is the ideal forum for this kind of marketing. Technology simply puts a new twist on an old marketing strategy by giving us (and our customers) new avenues to promote our businesses.
So, today’s “word-of-mouth” marketing may not involve mouths at all, really. It’s just as likely that people will be making recommendations via social media, or by writing reviews on Yelp.
Here’s the bottom line. To be successful in word-of-mouth marketing today, you’re going to have to make use of technological resources, especially social media.
Word-of-Mouth and Why It Matters
Word-of-mouth marketing can be intimidating, and it is often misunderstood. After all, it seems like a lot of work for something that is ultimately pretty intangible. How do you make people recommend you? How do you guarantee that your customers will tell friends and family about your business?
Well, you can’t guarantee anything. but think about it for a second. Nothing is ever guaranteed in marketing anyway.
You can pay for an advertisement in a magazine, but you can’t make people buy the magazine. You can’t force them to look at your ad. And you have no control over how they’ll react. The only part you can control is the work you put into it. Word-of-mouth marketing is much the same.
However, the payoff with word-of-mouth is potentially much bigger. This type of marketing has huge potential for building trust and loyalty. After all, when people see an ad on TV or the internet, they know what it is. They know it was bought and paid for.
Consumers can tell when a company is trying to persuade them to use a particular product or service. That doesn’t mean that advertising is ineffective, just that consumers are wary of the advertiser’s intent.
In contrast, conversations that happen organically – or have a strong appearance of being organic – tend to have much greater resonance with consumers.
Technology can be a tool to foster conversation about your brand
A great word-of-mouth marketing strategy is one that uses available resources to promote discussion.
According to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), word-of-mouth amplifies the effect of paid advertising by 15 percent. WOMMA is a non-profit trade association dedicated to ethical and effective word-of-mouth marketing practices.
A third-party research study unveiled by WOMMA in 2014 showed that word-of-mouth is more impactful and more immediate than paid advertising. It drives consumers in their decisions to visit businesses and websites, and it influences purchasing decisions.
One of the best things you can do to harness the power of word-of-mouth is to build a strong social media presence. This will allow you to tap into what your customers are saying about you, and to connect with them in real time.
Creating profiles for your business across several social media platforms, and staying active on them, will pay off if you take these steps:
- When you interact with customers and clients, ask them to follow you on social media. You can even offer an incentive for doing so. For instance, you can give customers a coupon for following your business’ page.
- Encourage people to check in when they visit you. Again, you can offer a discount or other reward for doing so. This has 2 important effects. First, it makes your business more visible. And second, it can generate reviews. In particular, Facebook reminds users to write a review after they have checked in somewhere.
- Use your social media accounts to generate discussion about your business. Give people things to talk about – events, contests, giveaways, discussion forums, etc.
- Keep track of what people are saying about your business, and respond quickly. It’s not difficult to monitor what goes on on your own page, so that should be a no-brainer. Whether a customer posts a glowing review or a scathing one, show that the opinion is valued. For positive feedback, a personalized word of thanks goes a long way. For complaints, address them as well and as thoroughly as you can. Offer an earnest apology and do your best to make it right.
- To go a step further, you can take advantage of online tools that allow you to look out for your business’ name, or other keyword combinations, on social media and across the web. That way, you can get involved in conversations with people even when they aren’t on your page.
The great thing about online conversations is that they are public. If a customer receives great service in a store, she might go out and tell the world, or she might never say anything to anyone.
But when those same interactions are happening right in front of lots of different people – the customer’s friends, family, and coworkers, as well as your followers – it makes those interactions visible. You don’t have to cross your fingers and hope for a recommendation. The proof is in the pudding, so to speak.