Only about 10% of consumers trust traditional brand advertisements.
Once upon a time, long before cell phones, laptops, the internet, and the assistance of Alexa and Siri determining which vacuum cleaner is the best for hardwood floors, there was such a thing as the traveling salesman.
Traveling salesman had an important job. They brought products to the people. Going from door to door, these salesmen introduced consumers to household products that they would not have otherwise been aware existed.
Neighbors took notice when a house on the block suddenly had a new lawnmower or windows or tool shed or vacuum cleaner. They asked questions. And the individual who had purchased the new item told them exactly what he or she thought of it.
"Great lawnmower, worth every penny."
"The windows keep the draft out as promised."
"Had to buy a separate set of racks for my tools so I'm not happy with this tool shed."
"The vacuum cleaner doesn't pick up dog hair like the salesman said it would."
As you can imagine, depending on what the consumer said about a product, they either influenced their neighbors to purchase one just like it or to save their money. This was a powerful form of advertising and it was even more valuable to the average consumer than a highway billboard. If the Jones' across the street were unhappy with their new storm shutters, you wouldn't even consider buying a set yourself. If they raved about how well-made and affordable those storm shutters were, however, then the only question on your mind would be how you could get ahold of the traveling salesman who sold them the shutters.
This was the original "word of mouth" marketing. People literally ranted or raved about products and services, and what they had to say influenced their friends and family's purchasing decisions. It was highly effective because of course you would trust your aunt's opinion about a new beauty care product than you would the advertisers'. Why would the advertiser of the beauty line be honest with you about the quality of their products? No one gives it to ya straight like Aunt Lucy!
Today, word of mouth marketing still exists, and though it may seem nearly unrecognizable in this digital age, it is actually exactly the same as it used to be when the Jones' suddenly started pushing that bright, shiny lawnmower or when Aunt Lucy showed up at Thanksgiving pinker than a lobster because she ordered a bad batch of Mary Kay and broke out in hives…
When a consumer's tight-knit friends and family circle recommends a brand, sooner or later that consumer is going to buy that brand. But unlike during the era of the traveling salesman, today's word of mouth marketing happens online, on social media, on review boards, and on eCommerce platforms. Back in the day, the Jones' couldn't influence more people than their neighbors on the block. Today, the Jones' could potentially influence a million people with the click of a button.
Word of mouth marketing has never been more important than it is right now. Are you doing it correctly?
81% of consumers are influenced by their friends' social media posts.
There are several types of word of mouth marketing, abbreviated as WOMM, and these types of WOMM form an effective digital marketing strategy when they're used synergistically together.
The entrypoint to keep in mind as we dive into the WOMM digital marketing strategy is all about appealing to your audience. Emphasis on appealing. You aren't Mr. Jones and you aren't Aunt Lucy, but you want your prospective customers to believe you are, so that when you initiate dialogue online in order to generate a "buzz" about your brand, people listen, chime in, and ultimately buy.
Appealing to your audience in order to help compel them to share your brand with others can be boiled down to six elements. You'll want a firm understanding of these six elements because you'll need to apply them to the types of WOMM you'll need to implement as part of your synergistic digital marketing strategy.
#1 Social Currency
To put it bluntly, the larger the social media following you have on the biggest platforms--Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn--the greater the value of your social currency. You can think of social currency as a metric to influence followers and users. An unknown, unverified individual with twelve followers will not have the breadth of social media influence that Paris Hilton has, for instance. Paris Hilton has so much social currency that if she accidentally stepped on a piece of gum, that brand of gum would see a spike in sales the next day so long as tabloid headlines read 'Hotel Heiress Ruined Hilton Heel After Stepping In Bubblicious'. The point here is you want to be working towards building up your following.
When we use the word "triggers" here, we aren't talking about the kind of negative triggering your step sister mastered years ago to push your buttons and start World War III on Christmas, every freakin' Christmas, like evil clockwork, because she thinks she's better than you… Triggers can be positive and when used as part of your word of mouth marketing, they can compel consumers to take a deeper look at your brand and start buying from you. Think of them as "cues" that prompt your audience to think of you. Your brand triggers can go beyond your logo and slogan. You can get creative by inventing unique hashtags that tie your brand to the mission and message you're all about, for instance.
If your triggers are executed correctly, then they should build emotion within your audience. Just as decades ago the Jones' enthusiasm about their storm shutters ignited passion in their neighbors and an urgency to jump on the sales offer, too, nowadays a brand, product, or service can just as easily inspire a consumer to get online and rave enthusiastically. Emotional attachments to brands are the biggest reasons that consumers begin freely marketing your brand without you even asking them to. If a person feels strongly about your brand, they're going to talk about it online, on social media, and on review sites. And the emotion tends to be contagious. A thrilled customer can magnetize consumers to your brand who shop and feel the thrill, as well.
As your customers are triggered to shop and share passionately about your products, which garners more customers to invest in your brand and experience the same positive emotions, the result is a natural form of digital WOMM that spreads and reaches the public. The digital reach is theoretically limitless and the best part of all is that this type of WOMM is free. But you must be patient, because results can come either as fast as wildfire or very, very gradually. Some social media posts, for example, could go viral while others are hardly seen. Keep posting and sharing, and try not to get too myopic about any one single post. If you take a bird's eye view of the situation as you build your following and earn more and more reviews, then you'll be able to monitor the inflation of your social currency, and make adjustments as you go.
#5 Practical Values
You know that your brand, products, and services provide value. But that's because you're like the traveling salesman. You have all the information about why your brand is the best in the business, but if you don't get the word out about the value you're able to provide, then consumers won't be aware, won't buy, and won't spread the word about how great you are. The trick here is to find ways to verbalize in 100 characters or less what makes your brand and products so valuable. If you can articulate it concisely, followers and social media users will be more likely to talk about it, too. What kinds of problems are you solving with your products and services? How are you providing unparalleled customer service? Find ways to share the facts and watch your brand value increase online.
This is perhaps the most important element of appealing to your audience with WOMM. We're talking about being in "storytelling mode". As you develop your own digital marketing strategy based on the types of WOMM that we'll get into next, try to remain mindful that the most effective way to appeal to your audience is to stay in storytelling mode. Communicate to your followers, customers, and users by using stories. What does this mean? It means that instead of writing an Instagram caption that lists the informative specs of a gadget, you should compose a caption about the nightmare of forgetting to set an alarm that everyone can relate to then mention your gadget, which solves the human error problem of having to set alarms in the first place. You'll have a far greater chance of connecting with consumers when you use stories to share with them the problem that your brand knows how to solve.
Now that you understand the six ways to appeal to your audience, let's dive into the types of WOMM you can implement in a very practical manner right now to attract consumers, drive website and in-store traffic, and increase revenue and ROI.
Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn--to name the biggest ones--are the new "town square" where people go to shout from the rooftops what they think about basically everything from politics to products. At this point, Facebook now has a "recommendations" feature. If a user posts that they are looking for recommendations, their friends, and friend of friends--depending on how wide their circle is--will begin listing brands they've used and liked in the past. It's important to stay ahead of the curve and on top of new social media features that could boost and benefit your brand. Devise a posting schedule that you can maintain, tag influencers, link posts to your product catalog, and exploit every platform and feature you can.
70% of consumers read online customer reviews when considering buying a brand.
If you think that consumers don't read every customer review they can get their hands on to help them determine whether or not to buy your product, invest in your service, or book a room at your establishment, you're wrong by about 70%. In fact, customer reviews are so influential and important that Amazon dedicates the bulk of the layout of product pages to reviews alone and they offer search features where you can narrow reviews down by the number of stars or the keyword of interest. The biggest online review boards are Google, Yelp, Amazon, and Angie's List, and if you haven't created profiles on the ones that are relevant to your brand, business, and industry, stop everything and do so now. Generating positive reviews is within your control as well. You can start a campaign where you give discounts or freebies in exchange for online reviews. Once you get some momentum, the reviews will take on a life of their own and eventually impact your bottom line in a positive way.
If you have a website--psst, you must have a website, this isn't even a question, do it, do it now!--and you've also generated some positive reviews online on Google, Yelp, and other relevant boards, then the next easy step is to link the best online reviews to your website as a customer testimonial page or feed on your homepage. You can also pull customer testimonial quotes and use them in your social media captions, tag the reviewers, and get a conversation going that builds community around your brand.
Having a blog attached to your website is a highly beneficial WOMM tactic. Admittedly, this strategy is advanced and if you aren't a content writer, you'll have to recruit one. However, maintaining a blog that regularly publishes short, informative articles is a great way to attract traffic to your website and also establish your brand as an authority in your industry. Using a search engine like Google is the first step that consumers use to get information on just about everything. If Aunt Lucy, facing a rash of pink hives, had been able to Google rash remedies at four in the morning, she would've come across your all-natural homeopathic start-up and ordered five crates of your chamomile numbing magic… but alas, in Aunt Lucy's time, there was no Google nor internet. You get the point… Any given internet search can turn into a sale if you have a constant stream of keywords drawing in web traffic to your site via a blog that publishes articles regularly.
20% of your customers bring in 80% of your revenue, which means loyalty is everything.
LOYALTY REWARDS PROGRAM
Word of mouth marketing goes hand-in-hand with a customer loyalty rewards program because the customers who spread the word about your brand with WOMM are loyal. If you aren't taking advantage of their loyalty, and also rewarding them for that loyalty, then you're missing a huge opportunity. Implementing a loyalty rewards program at your store will provide you with an additional platform to generate WOMM buzz, amplify your social currency, share your practical values with the public, and inspire emotion in potential customers through your stories. Didn't think you could get all that from a rewards program? You can, especially when it's your loyalty members who are actively promoting you within the loyalty program app to other members as well as on social media in exchange for bonus rewards points. By rewarding your loyalty members every time they post about you on social media and Google, Yelp, and other review boards, you'll achieve easy, free, and immediate WOMM that will yield a high ROI.
When WOMM is done correctly, you won't have to spend much money on traditional advertising. Word of mouth marketing is all about establishing brand presence and spreading awareness about your brand online in a way that expands your audience and customer-base.
If you're interested in learning how a customer loyalty rewards program can effectively integrate all of the strategies outlined in this article to benefit your business, then Contact Us at Loyal~n~Save to speak with a loyalty strategist today.
This article was written by Loyal-n-Save, an omni-channel customer loyalty solution for retailers looking to increase customer retention and new customer acquisition.