Do you have an Instant Pot in your kitchen? Or maybe you’ve swiped right on Tinder? Both of these well-known brands got their start thanks to word of mouth marketing (WOMM). In 2019, this type of marketing is more relevant than ever.
It's currently estimated that anywhere from 20% to 50% of purchases are the result of word of mouth recommendations, and word of mouth marketing is estimated to account for 13% of consumer sales.
To help you make the most of your word of mouth marketing in 2019, we’re sharing some insights on a few different types of word of mouth marketing strategies and how to use them strategically in your business.
At its core, word of mouth marketing is the act of consumers sharing their thoughts and opinions about a specific product or service with other people. In our digital world, a good portion of WOMM happens online.
This digital shift means there’s an opportunity to gain greater insight into what consumers are saying about products, services and other aspects of businesses big and small. And with the right tools, we can gather data and measure how well word of mouth marketing is working for our small business.
With 84% of consumers indicating that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, it’s more important than ever for businesses to stay on top of their marketing and maximize every opportunity to wow their customers.
When it comes to WOMM, your small or medium business has a number of options to choose from. Let’s take a look at a few popular types of word of mouth marketing.
If you don’t yet have a place on your website or social media for consumers to leave a review, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity.
It’s estimated that 44% of Americans get information on potential purchases via the retailer's website. Plus, 86% of consumers read reviews to determine if a local business is good or bad, so understanding what people are saying about your business online is critical.
If you run a local business, you should be using Google My Business so customers can easily find your business online and leave reviews.
Google is typically the first stop for people doing local business research, so your Google My Business listing has to include positive reviews. According to BrightLocal, 27% of consumers searched for a local business daily in 2018 — more than double the number in 2017. So when a customer has a positive experience with your business, encourage them to leave a review.
Beyond Google Reviews, there are several popular sites that consumers rely on for reviews and recommendations. These sites include:
Angie’s List serves as an online directory focused on home services where users can read and publish local business reviews. With an estimated six million households who use the service, along with over 55,000 service providers and ten million verified reviews, Angie's List represents the ultimate in WOMM for small and medium businesses offering these types of services.
Similar to Angie’s List, Yelp combines traditional business listings in a directory format along with social elements. The key difference is this platform is not limited to home services, so you can find just about any type of business on Yelp.
Yelp users leave feedback about their experiences with each business, and future customers can use it to research companies before handing them their money.
As the largest travel website in the world, everyone in the hospitality industry knows that TripAdvisor is often people’s first stop when making decisions about hotels, restaurants or attractions.
As one of the early adopters of user-generated content, TripAdvisor enables users to not only share reviews but also images. Known for their interactive forums, users can ask questions, leave reviews and get feedback from other users and the individual business themselves.
Initially started as an online portal to make restaurant reservations at a limited number of establishments in the San Diego region, OpenTable has since expanded to cover the entire U.S. and several international cities. Users can leave a review, search for restaurants based on criteria (like type of cuisine or price range) or find reservations based on a specific date or time.
OpenTable users can also collect Dining Points for reservations they make, and these points can be redeemed at participating restaurants or for Amazon gift cards. Periodically, there are also offers for users to donate points to charitable causes.
Facebook Business Page Recommendations
In the Fall of 2018, Facebook moved from reviews to a recommendations system where users can specify a yes/no to indicate if they would recommend the business. Users can add tags, text and photos to their recommendations on Facebook.
With this change, recommendations appear on user profiles and can be found via Facebook’s search function. As people trust recommendations from their friends, recommendations from people closest to a user will show up first.
The good news is, your business likely already has a Facebook Business Page, so to take advantage of this WOMM opportunity, you’ll just need to ensure the recommendation feature is turned on.
To turn on recommendations, go to Settings on your page and then to Templates & Tabs on the left-hand sidebar.
Next, scroll down to Reviews and then click on the settings button.
You’ll then be able to toggle the button to “yes” so that users can share recommendations.
No matter what review sites you use for your business, never miss a chance to reply to a review. Answering both positive and negative reviews in a friendly, customer-first manner instantly builds credibility. In one survey, 41% of consumers said that brands replying to reviews make them believe the company really cares about their customers.
With Google My Business, you can set up notifications for reviews:
With other services, take the time to set up notifications and monitor reviews regularly to ensure both positive and negative reviews are dealt with quickly. Not replying to reviews risks increasing customer churn by up to 15%, so having a plan in place to ensure all reviews are acknowledged and responded to appropriately is critical.
Social media is where people go to share their thoughts and opinions. That’s why so much word of mouth marketing comes from consumers posting about their experiences — positive and negative — on a social media platform. Interestingly, according to Hubspot, 71% of consumers are more likely to purchase based on social media referrals.
One of the biggest benefits of word of mouth marketing via social media is that you aren’t spending money on advertising, yet can still increase sales and brand awareness.
Plus, you can build your community and interact with potential and existing customers. Instead of having people who do “one and done” purchases, social media provides an opportunity to interact with consumers and become part of a broader community that supports your brand. This can go a long way towards increasing your brand loyalty.
Additionally, customers who are more engaged are more likely to purchase more frequently. Giving customers a place to connect and to share their experiences can positively impact your bottom line. And we all know it takes more money to attract a new customer than to serve an existing one.
By posting content that your audience will find interesting and valuable, you provide them another opportunity to share it with others, thereby participating in even more word of mouth marketing for your business.
Instant Pot’s Viral Success
A strong example of WOMM in action and the impact it can have on your business is the Instant Pot Community on Facebook.
Early on, Instant Pot decided to skip more traditional marketing strategies and instead focus on building their Facebook community. Today, that community has over 1.88 million members.
In addition to the official community, there are nearly 200 Instant Pot communities on Facebook — most of which aren’t affiliated with the company. The founder decided not to waste time trying to control the groups or get them to shut down — and that decision paid off in a huge way, with these pages now having a combined membership of 3.4 million users.
InstantPot allowed their customers to take the lead within Facebook communities and now customers are talking to each other about how they use the product and have created an information exchange — essentially making the communities one giant WOMM campaign.
Refer a Friend Programs
Offering a referral program gives your customers an opportunity to advocate for your business through word of mouth marketing.
Acquiring new customers can be costly for SMBs. Referrals offer a highly credible, low-cost way to help grow your business. Customers trust the people they know, so encouraging existing customers to refer a friend means you’re gaining new customers from a reliable source.
Customers who’ve been referred through word of mouth marketing immediately have a positive impression of your business because someone they know has already vouched for your products or services. While many people will refer others to your business for nothing in return, creating a “refer a friend” program can help to motivate your happy customers and keep you top of mind.
The key to a successful referral program is understanding what motivates your customers and what will entice them to want to make the referral. That may be a special discount, a credit on their bill, an Amazon gift card or something else you know your customers will value. Or even better, something they will covet, like an exclusive product!
Inspiration for Your Referral Program
A well-known referral program offered by Dropbox offers customers extra space by inviting a friend to sign up. This program is so successful as the company is giving something that current customers want and will use — more space on their Dropbox account.
Beauty box subscription company Ipsy knows that their subscribers love free products, so they reward referrals with points that can go towards the purchase of their merchandise.
If you want to sweeten the deal, consider having a reward that goes to both the referrer and the new customer. Locally-based propane provider Guy Fuels encourages their customers to share the company with a friend and provides a credit to the current and new customer on their next bill as a way of saying thank you.
Referral Program Best Practices
You want to make sure the referral process is easy for everyone involved and that the delivery of the promised reward happens in a timely manner.
Remember, you need to let people know the program exists and have a plan for how you share it on a consistent basis. Feature it on your website, share it in email signature lines or consider a social media campaign to spread the word.
One example of a strong referral program is the Erin Condren Referral Program, which offers customers the option to make unlimited referrals with no minimum purchase.
Not only is there no cap on the referrals, but the program is easy to understand and is explained with simple step-by-step instructions so people know exactly how it works and how they can benefit.
Your referral program has the added benefit of increasing engagement with your existing clients as you reward them for making the referral, thus, creating greater loyalty to your business. Plus, you can quickly learn who your most loyal customers are and provide them with extra perks to surprise and delight them.
When it comes to making the most of word of mouth marketing in the digital age, one of the most important things you need to know is where your audience goes to get information. If you don’t already have a plan of action in place to review and monitor what people are saying about your business, start there.
Once you know where people are and what they’re saying, you can then work on coming up with new and innovative ways to engage with them. It’s time to spread the word about your small business!
Feature Image: Unsplash / Ben Duchac
All screenshots taken by the author, April 2019.
Image 1: via Impact BND
Image 2, 10: via Google My Business
Image 3: via Angie’s List
Image 4: via Yelp
Image 5: via TripAdvisor
Image 6: via OpenTable
Image 7-9: via Facebook
Image 11: via Instant Pot Community on Facebook
Image 12: via Dropbox
Image 13: via Ipsy
Image 14: via Guy Fuels
Image 15, 16: via Erin Condren