Robinhood — one of the most popular investment apps & our inspiration for this article’s idea — is in the news these days. The news, as you might be aware of, is they restricted trading in Gamestop.
There are plenty of debates surrounding that decision, of course, but we aren’t interested in it…not even a bit.
What we are here to discuss is the “one of the most popular” part; more precisely, we will discuss the primary strategy that helped Robinhood get there: Word of mouth marketing or WOMM! We’ll also share some WOMM strategies you can implement to grow your brand & sales.
But before all that, let’s understand what word of mouth marketing is and why you should consider it.
What Is Word Of Mouth Marketing?
Word of mouth marketing is a combination of (intended & unintended) efforts to get your customers talking & sharing about your business’s product/service, online and offline. If the intended efforts include paying someone in the process, it’s called “word of mouth advertising,” but we’ll put it in the WOMM bracket for this article.
In other words, word of mouth marketing is about people promoting your offerings to people they influence. The influence can be as direct as you recommending a product to your close friend to as stretched as you giving a 5-star rating on the app store and some unknown individual reading it from thousands of miles away.
Why Should You Consider WOMM?
“People influence people. Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message. A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising.”
This Mark Zuckerberg quote sums up the importance of word-of-mouth marketing perfectly. Statistically, too, word of mouth is perhaps the best marketing out there.
- 92% of consumers say they trust earned media, such as recommendations from friends and family, above all other advertising forms. [Source]
- Over 74% of customers believe word of mouth is a key influence in their purchasing decision. [Source]
- 1000 customers can start around 500,000 conversations about your brand.
In short, instead of pondering whether or not you should optimize for WOMM, read this next section & start using the tactics right away.
8 Word Of Mouth Strategies To Implement Right Away
1. Create a referral program
A referral program is a word-of-mouth marketing tactic that encourages existing customers to share your brand with their friends & family.
The most common way to encourage existing customers is by providing incentives. It can be anything…a discount on the next purchase, a financial reward, a coupon, a gift card…anything! For instance, Robinhood’s “Invite Friends, Get Stock” referral program is a significant contributor to their ever-increasing userbase.
How can you create a successful referral strategy? For one, if you are a Shopify store owner, you can start a 14 day free trial with Social Snowball! It will auto-create an affiliate account for all purchasers (meaning, it will enable all your customers to become referrals). They can then create custom discount codes, share them with their friends, and receive a financial reward if their friend purchases from your store. A win-win-win! (and if you consider us a part of this process, a win-win-win-win!)
The best benefit of such referral/affiliate programs? You don’t have to pay upfront to the affiliates.
2. Invest in influencer marketing
If you have the budget to pay upfront, investing in influencer marketing can give a fantastic ROI (return on investment). According to Influencer Marketing Hub, businesses are making $5.20 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing.
Influencer marketing, if you don’t know, is a type of social media marketing/word of mouth advertising that includes paying an individual with influence over a relevant audience for sharing your product/message to that audience.
Cristiano Ronaldo sharing his Nike shoes with his 250 million+ Instagram followers is a prominent example of influencer marketing.
You don’t necessarily have to have a $1 billion budget and pay a celebrity like Ronaldo, though. You can pay as little as $100 to a micro-influencer with a following of 5k-10k.
3. Encourage user-generated content
User-generated content (or UGC) is any type of content — text, image, video, GIF — created by actual users rather than the brand. Though influencer marketing includes user-generated content, it’s not organic, and everyone knows that.
So, how do you go about encouraging your customers to share about you/your products without paying them? Well, there are many ways. The simplest one is to create a product so good that they want to share it…maybe to help a friend, boost their ego, get social approval, etc.
Other than that, you can…
- Host a giveaway wherein sharing your brand on social media & tagging your account is a requirement to participate.
- Reshare the best UGC on your profile. This encourages more people to use your hashtag, mention your brand, etc. For example, this “Photo of the Day” post by GoPro:
- Have a referral program so that they will do it for the incentives. Tip: Give better incentives than your competitors, and affiliate marketers/influencers will promote your brand ahead of others on their ranking sites.
- Send unexpected freebies with orders. Something as trivial as a handwritten note can also work.
- Send freebies to micro-influencers. They love sharing everything happening in their day & your beautifully-packed gift on their doorstep might make it to their Insta story or Youtube vlog.
- Give a customized experience. E.g., Starbucks writing names on the cup.
- Publish content they’d want to share. For instance, you might (please! please!) share this article with your friend who’s starting a Shopify dropshipping business.
- Build a brand so strong that sharing about it gives them a sense of belonging to a social circle/cult. E.g., Nike.
- Launch competitions or try Gamification marketing.
4. Ask for reviews & testimonials
In this hyper-connected world, people do not necessarily discover your business through a friend or family member. It’s entirely possible they visit your storefront through your other advertising efforts or from a Twitter banter one of your employees is having.
In such cases, having reviews & testimonials (in other words, word of mouth) from your previous customers on the product/landing page can multifold the conversions. It’s obvious, but still, if you are a numbers person, here are two statistics for you:
- 95% of customers read reviews before making a purchase! [Source]
- 79% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. [Source]
Let’s take an example you’ll relate to most at this moment. You were looking for “word of mouth strategies” and came across this article. After reading the first point, you found referral marketing can boost your revenue, and there’s this Shopify app called “Social Snowball” that can help you create a flawless referral program. You go to the Shopify app store and see this:
You install it on your store not because we offer a 10-day free trial (that we obviously do) but because other customers found it helpful.
The same goes for your customers. It’s free social proof, and you must not leave it on the table.
5. Get social on social media
Talk the language of people to be a part of their conversations. The most successful social media brand accounts are the ones that converse & have personality.
Dbrand is an excellent example of how one should go about developing a brand personality, having conversations on social media, and building a fanbase. They roast their customers and communicate like the memers of the internet.
Still, people reply to their comments, retweet their tweets, and follow them everywhere, even though many have never bought from them. That’s free word of mouth! That’s the value of being social on social media!
6. Tap into people’s emotions
Tying your business with something you and most of your customers believe in is an excellent way to get word of mouth.
Just recently, Burger King France started giving away potatoes to support farmers. Not only did it help thousands of farmers across the country, but it also got Burger King likes & shares (read “word of mouth”) from their customers, media outlets, and global social media audience.
Doing such things keeps the existing customers attached to the brand. And if someone indefinitely loves your brand/product, sooner or later, they’ll mention it to their friends & followers.
BTW, there are many ways to tap into people’s emotions; you don’t need to “support a cause” to get them emotionally invested.
7. Do something out of the box!
People love talking about extraordinary things because they are, well, unusual & unexpected.
The abovementioned Burger King France example fits here nicely. Red Bull-sponsored crazy stunt videos gain millions of views. Swipe Night got a lot of people talking about Tinder.
Similarly, do something out of the box to get people talking and sharing. And it doesn’t have to cost much.
Here’s an example of an out-of-the-box idea that must have got YLAW Group quite some free advertising.
In fact, even extra effort put into something regular can leave a positive impression in people’s minds. E.g., sending a personalized “Happy birthday!” email.
8. Build a great customer experience
Though we talked about “word of mouth” as something positive for your brand throughout this article, you must understand it’s a double-edged sword.
All the above points were strategies to get people to care about and share about your products. However, if you do something your general audience doesn’t like, it will backfire — people will talk against you.
E.g., the recent Robinhood saga.
Therefore, building a great customer experience is the most crucial part of any word-of-mouth strategy. This includes everything from creating an intuitive website to having an always-ready customer support team sitting there to pick up customer calls as soon as the phone rings.
Jeff Bezos summarized it the best:
“If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.”
Conclusion – Word Of Mouth Marketing
Because people trust people, word of mouth marketing is the most cost-effective yet high-value marketing strategy. And in this hyper-connected world, you have all the more reason to focus on it.
Just explore the strategies we mentioned as a beginning exercise. To summarize it for you, here’s what you should look into:
- Referral marketing: Happy customers will happily share & motivate their social circle to purchase your product/service because a) They loved it & b) They’ll receive an incentive if the other party buys through their code/link. [Check out our guide on how to create an affiliate program to get started]
- Influencer marketing: Pay people with influence over a significant and relevant audience to get exposure and sales.
- UGC: Encourage users to post about your product/service on their social media, blogs, YouTube, etc.
- Gather online reviews/Get client testimonials: 72% of consumers say reading positive customer reviews increases their trust in a business, as per a BrightLocal study.
- Leverage social media by getting social: On any particular social media, talking in the language other social media users use is a sure-shot way to be a part of the conversation.
- Emotional provocation: Tap into your customer’s emotions to build a better brand-consumer bond.
- Out-of-the-box ideas: People love to share & see unusual stuff. Plus, if it’s something extraordinary, people will remember it for way more time.
And to wrap it up, before applying all these strategies, perfect customer experience!