What if there was a powerful way to market your business that was financial viable, morally viable and utilised your existing values and beliefs? Would you be prepared to put the time into it to ensure your business success? Hopefully you are yelling yes at your screen right now and begging me to get on with telling you more about it.
This powerful marketing tool is called word of mouth marketing (WOMM) and it has been around since the early 1970’s but grew exponentially with the growth of the internet and social media. And there is a really good reason why it is now utilised daily by many successful businesses – it works!
And I can prove it
When potential customers are choosing businesses to buy from 92% of them trust recommendations from family and friends over any type of advertising. And 88% of people trust online reviews from other customers. That’s a massive amount of people who are utilising WOMM to make buying decisions.
We see this all the time on social media where people ask for recommendations and others are happy to tell them why they should try a particular business. We can also see it when we ask Google for help and businesses with positive reviews are the first to be shown.
Why should your business use it?
But why would you want to use this technique when you are just starting out in business – isn’t it for the big companies? The joy of using this powerful way to market your business is that it usually only costs you time and not a big marketing budget and it allows you to start small and gradually create a community of passionate customers.
There are two other reasons why you should seize this idea and make it yours – firstly, it will enhance your customer service standards straight away and secondly, it will begin to grow trust in your brand.
These are hugely important reasons because today’s consumers want to know they can trust you when they decide to buy from you and that their experience will match their expectations. With so many competing businesses to choose from if they are going to experiment and try a business for the first time they want to know that you are going to do exactly what you promise and that they will be happy.
They are able to trust you because you must have outstanding customer service to get great reviews and recommendations in the first place. Yep, that’s got to be where it all starts but there are a couple of other things you might want to check out before you leap into this new technique.
Can’t I just allow it to happen naturally?
Yes of course you can. This is called organic word of mouth marketing – when people have a great experience and tell others because they are happy. This will occur whether you focus on WOMM or not but perhaps not as often as you would like. The other type of word of mouth marketing is called amplified and it just means that you use deliberate techniques to ensure that as many satisfied customers as possible are reminded to tell others when they are happy too.
It isn’t manipulative but it is a gentle way of encouraging people to talk about your business when others are looking for recommendations.
How does this powerful way to market your business work?
WOMM is a marketing strategy and so should be planned and then executed as part of your marketing plan. However, it is also closely related to your reason for being in business – your purpose – so it is best to start there.
Before you can plan to amplify any word of mouth marketing that is already happening you need to get very sorted about your brand. What is your brand about? What are the values behind your brand? What is the reason that you want to be in this business rather than any other?
These are hugely important themes which you need to spend some time thinking about before you do anything else. That’s because successful WOMM is based on ensuring your brand is highly regarded and trusted so you need to be able to talk and write about the reasons why customers would want to experience it.
So, what sort of questions could you ask yourself here?
- Why do I really want to be in this business, market, or industry?
- What are the core values which must be part of this business?
- How can I show these values to my customers?
- How can I brand my business to show these values?
- What are the feelings I want my customers to have after buying from my business?
- What do I want my customers to say about my business?
- How important is it to me that customers come back and buy again?
- How can I ensure that I show them this?
The questions will open your mind to thinking about your business from your customer’s perspective but also about the ways you want to relate to them so they talk about your business in the most positive way that you can dream of.
Please don’t skip over this step – it is vital – and it will make all the difference in being seen as authentic.
What makes you different?
For WOMM to work you have to stand out, to be unique. You can’t just be another business the same as everyone else because no-one is going to make the effort to talk about a same old same old business.
You may have already developed your uniqueness but if you haven’t now is the time to get it nailed. Here are the steps to take to achieve this
- Start by researching your competitors and check out their uniqueness (or note if they don’t have it). Now you know what you won’t be using.
- Check out your target market and find out what matters to them. This may be problems they have, issues that are important to them or trends they are interested in.
- Collect together as many ideas as you can. Use some creative problem solving techniques and involve others if you can because it will broaden the types of ideas.
- Select the best fit for the market and for your vision and values. Now you can see why I suggested focusing on these earlier.
- Explain your uniqueness carefully and simply. You may try to write a tagline for your business or put it in a single sentence which is easy to remember. If it takes more than a sentence you are probably not focusing on unique which means just one.
Sort out your customer service
If you are going to use this powerful way to market your business please remember that word of mouth marketing is often about a surprising or wonderful customer service that someone wants to share with others. Therefore you need to put processes in place to ensure that’s exactly what your customers receive from you.
Regardless of the industry you are in and the way your business works customer service is the essential element that allows your customers to be happy that they have done business with you. You want their experiences to meet their expectations every time and for them to be comfortable that they will always receive the service they expect.
Things will go wrong sometimes but it’s how you deal with these issues which can make a potentially bad experience into a much better one. Having plans in place because you have thought ahead about possible glitches elevates your customer service to another level when compared to some of your competition.
And don’t forget to add in some unexpected customer service gestures when you can just to surprise and delight those who receive them.
Tell a story
It is easier for others to talk about your business when you share a story with them that they can share with others. Of course, for them to want to share it they must find it interesting or funny or important.
For many of us, talking about ourselves can be a bit difficult. But the story behind your business or the reason you are sharing it is usually much more interesting to customers than the boring list of features about the product or service which is what most businesses write about.
Of course we have all seen social media posts that are all about a person telling us how wonderful they are and they often include references to private jets and endless exotic holidays. These types of posts are hideous and most of us scroll straight past them because we can’t relate to them at all. Your story must be authentic and relevant to your customers and if you can tap into their emotions then it will stand out more for them.
So be a bit creative, take some risks, stop playing safe and boring and give people a reason to talk about you and what you sell.
This powerful way to market your business needs a community
Everyone wants to share with others, feel part of a group or groups, and have friends. Imagine if your customers felt like they were friends with each other and could share ideas and ask for help. That’s a community. Many communities develop naturally but for businesses this is less likely. That’s why you need to take regular steps to ensure it develops over time.
Let’s focus firstly on Social Media. You need to establish a presence in the place or places that your customers like to hang out. Set up a business page but don’t make it about you and your business by being the only person who posts. Allow and encourage your customers and potential customers to post content too. People are more interested in social media when it is truly social and they have an opportunity to contribute ideas, tips, questions and comments.
Of course you will need to keep a close watch on what is posted and certainly having some guidelines (I hate the word rules don’t you?) makes it easier for people to know what is expected of them.
Once you begin to grow your community then you can increase the specialness of belonging to this community by closing it to the general public and only allowing access to group members. This will make it easier to administer and will also allow you to make these people feel even more special by offering them secret offers that only group members will know about.
If you are using media such as Instagram then creating a unique hashtag and incentivising creating and sharing pictures (such as running a competition) will create opportunities for your community to get together easily and to feel more connected to your business and to each other.
It takes time to grow a community but it is worth the time and being patient because of results that your business will eventually achieve from it.
What else should you be doing?
This powerful way of marketing your business needs positive comments to sustain it. Being talked about because your business has created uniqueness is great but what you need to develop is your customer’s response to doing business with you. By this, I mean you need reviews and referrals from customers who have found your customer service to be excellent and are happy to say so.
A few customers will offer these without being asked but the majority won’t. So, you need a regular way of asking for them to review you (Google reviews are really important) wherever your business is listed. The same goes for referrals and while you can just wait and then reward customers who refer someone to your business it is much more effective to have a referral programme so every customer has the chance to join in.
Just as McDonalds increased their business revenue substantially by teaching their staff to ask the customer if they wanted something more (would you like fries with that?) you will also need a system (and it can be just as simple) so that every satisfied customer is asked for a review or a referral.
Once you get these reviews don’t forget to thank your customer and perhaps surprise them with a small gift. Don’t tell them they will get a gift if they review you but delight them when they do. These small surprises will be remembered for longer than you imagine.
Now comes the hard part
When you market your business using Word of Mouth Marketing it takes time to build up a reputation and a community of supporters and there will be times when you think you should just give up and get on with something else. This is especially true when you are getting busier and you may not feel like you have the time to keep doing it. However, this is the exact time that you need to persevere because this powerful way to market your business cannot work without regular input from you.
You would not stop doing your accounts or stop cleaning your workplace and you can’t stop putting the essential time into this marketing just because you are not seeing immediate rewards. WOMM is a process which takes time to develop and grow and occasional work on it just won’t be successful.
That said, once you start to see the results you will find it easier and easier to keep it going because you will be enjoying your community and your business success. And imagine your pleasure when the only form of marketing you need to do is to communicate with your customers and watch them communicating with each other.
A final tip
Word of mouth marketing works because it brings a human touch to the marketing of your business and this human touch is what your customers and potential customers are looking for. This is important to remember so that whatever you share with them needs to focus of the humanness of the business not the physical aspects of products or services. Always go back to your values and your reason for wanting to be successful in this business.
People love stories of other people, of their struggles and hard fought battles and their eventual success. That’s what all movies and books are based on. Remember that your customers want to be delighted, entertained, praised and connected. Keep these ideas at the heart of your WOMM and you will find it the most powerful way to market your business.
I would love to hear your stories about your WOMM because everyone of you will do this in different ways. Please feel free to comment and share your experiences.
The Biz Coach NZ