Word-of-Mouth Marketing: An Introduction to Organic Growth Strategy
Community Commerce6 MIN READ
Viral word-of-mouth marketing is what every brand hopes for but doesn't always know how to achieve. It is the centerpiece to any thriving community commerce strategy and can make-or-break your business.
Word-of-mouth increases someone's willingness to buy by 400%. (20 Word-of-Mouth Marketing Statistics)
What is Word-of-Mouth Marketing?
Word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) is a chain reaction of consumers recommending brands and products. (Glossary of Community Commerce Terms & Definitions)
In formal business programs - such as an MBA or Masters in Marketing - word-of-mouth is often a discussion of fate wherein the right vocal customers discover your brand and word spreads like wildfire. But social commerce technology is growing fast, and there are more and more ways to find, incentivize, and promote word-of-mouth.
Only 10% of all purchases occurred without a recommendation by a friend, family member, or influencer. (20 Word-of-Mouth Marketing Statistics)
WOMM marketing includes nearly every third-party mention you can think of, from customer reviews to picked-up press releases and friends telling friends about their favorite beer at a neighborhood barbecue.
Can Marketers Get Authentic Word-of-Mouth from Customers & Fans?
Yes, actively seeking a steady flow of genuine word-of-mouth is not just possible, it is highly recommended. But not everyone knows how to do it.
The first step is (of course) to deliver quality products and services to the right customers.
Quality Product/Service + Ideal Audience = Strong WOMM Foundation
By contrast, brands that never really refine their product or identify their ideal customers always struggle to gain momentum.
But once you've laid the right WOMM foundation, the next step is to engage those ideal customers. That engagement can be anything that develops meaningful relationships, from viral social posts to personal email exchanges.
Strong WOMM Foundation + Meaningful Customer Engagement = Authentic WOMM Growth
Brands that have existed for a few years and maintain a database of repeat customers need only leverage those customers to tag and/or review the brand online. The more customers who speak out authentically in favor of your brand, the more word-of-mouth you generate.
Why is WOMM So Important?
Source: Thrive My Way
At the end of the day, buyers spend money with people and brands they trust. If you have a low price point, drive a great offer, or are highly persuasive, buyers will give you a test run with their very first purchase. But if that test run didn't go so well, you've lost that buyer, and if the experience was bad enough, that person will spread bad word-of-mouth.
But positive word-of-mouth will grow your business more efficiently (and affordably) than anything else. The people you want WOM from are those customers who "get" you and continue to buy. You can guide them to publicize their loyalty to others and make their brand enthusiasm contagious.
Types of Word-of-Mouth Marketing (+ WOMM Examples)
1. Customer Reviews
Image Source: Amazon.com
There are many brands that have an impeccable process for earning and collecting positive customer reviews. Sun Bum is one of the best. The brand doesn't have to say they're the best - their customers crowd every significant review site to share their appreciation.
Sun Bum's positive reviews are overwhelmingly high on Amazon, Google, Instacart, and more.
Image Source: Google Shopping
2. Authentic Content Marketing
Nearly ten years ago, Poo-Pourri took YouTube by storm with their hilarious "Girls Don't Poop" video. There was no need to promote the video in paid ads because it went viral right way. Today, it is one of the most viewed branded videos with nearly 15 million views, over 100,000 likes, and 10,000+ comments.
The moral of the story is that you can create branded content that makes an emotional connection with your audience and promotes your products at the same time. Consumers will share that content with their respective communities, and you can build trust with buyers simply by resonating with them.
3. User-generated Content (UGC)
Evolution of Smooth (eos) is a great example of a brand that knows how to attract loads of UGC from followers and customers.
In the post above, the brand invited followers to join a giveaway event for a chance to win free products. Thousands of participants followed the contest directions to engage, follow, and tag their friends online. Social media contests are one of the best ways to create UGC from your brand fans.
4. Community Influencer Marketing
Fitness SF is a regional gym brand located in the greater San Francisco Bay area. The founders broke away from their national gym chain to launch a more community-driven business model. And a key part of their growth strategy is their community influencer partnerships.
While most gyms struggled to maintain memberships and customer connection during COVID-19, Fitness SF leveraged fitness gurus in their area to keep their audiences engaged, in-shape, and supportive of one another. Today, it is the most popular gym brand in San Francisco and Oakland.
5. Referral Program (Brand Advocacy Program)
Manscaped makes hygiene products for males, including lotions and sensitive-area-safe razors. Their brand message, "We save balls!" refers not just to their gentle blades but also to their passion for testicular cancer research.
To drive word-of-mouth, Manscaped gives every customer a $20 discount to share with their friends. And when that friend redeems the offer, the customer gets $20 in return.
Duolingo is a language and hard skills app company that makes learning fun for people of all ages. Not only does its course completion certificates help customers feel accomplished, but the app is full of levels and awards for completing certain tasks.
For example, the brand gives your points for filling out your profile, helping the app personalize the learning experience. Additionally, users can earn rewards and advance to new levels by using the app in back-to-back days, completing a course, learning multiple skills/languages at once, and so much more.
Gamifying your brand experience is intrinsically shareable. Customers can publicize their accomplishments on social media and will happily share with their friends a product or service that makes them feel accomplished and empowered.
7. Affinity Brand Partnerships
At CIPIO.ai, we call complementary brands "affinity brands," because every consumer has more than one favorite brand. It's the classic gym membership combined with wireless headphones or great fashion catered to a particular style of entertainment.
Two brands that did a great job of bringing their brand communities together are Open Spaces and Canopy. They joined forces and launched a series of product lines, including the Canopy X Open Spaces Aroma Kit. Both are household brands that share similar values and audiences but don't compete with one another.
Image Source: Getcanopy.co
These kind of partnerships create buzz online and are also wildly shareable with members of your audience.
What is Word-of-Mouth Strategy?
Your word-of-mouth strategy is any organized effort you invest into driving WOM among members of your audience.
Published on Smart Insights
Like any successful marketing initiative, process and consistency are key. You want to understand who you ideal customers are and activate them as brand advocates.
To launch your brand's WOMM strategy, follow these simple steps:
- Get in the right mindset. You're not trying to leverage gimmicks or spam camouflaged as something special. Recognize that genuine WOM is possible and put effort into meaningful connections with your ideal customers.
- Establish a social media presence. If you haven't already done so, you should set up social media accounts on a few channels where most of your audience interacts. Publishing content consistently on your top channels makes your brand more accessible and easy to tag.
- Unify your customer service, marketing, and product development teams. You want to be poised to take feedback from your best customers, validate their perspective, and iterate your product.
- Identify which WOM techniques make the most sense for your brand. Review the "Types of Word-of-Mouth Marketing (+ WOMM Examples)" above, and pick 1-2 campaigns that you feel are a good fit for your products.
- Look for repeat customers who have influence online. Most brands have community influencers among their followers and repeat customers but don't even know it.
- Ask your most enthusiastic brand fans to promote your campaign, offer, message, etc. online to drive more WOM. It helps if you incentivize your fans with exclusive discounts, affiliate partnerships, or free products.
- Track WOM online, refine your approach, and repeat.
Tools You'll Need to Grow Your Brand's Word-of-Mouth
Leading social media platforms give you the basics to build your WOMM strategy manually. But when you're ready to scale your efforts, bringing in additional tools will save you time and money.
- Connect your Instagram account and uncover followers who also have verifiable influence
- Upload customer, employee, and partner lists to uncover people in your network who have verifiable influence
- CINDEX scorecard reports that help you validate a person's audience, content, and post performance
- Create custom lists to organize people who can help you drive authentic WOMM
Other tools you should consider adding to your WOMM tech stack are:
Pros & Cons of a Word-of-Mouth Strategy
For most brands, leveraging word-of-mouth marketing isn't just a good idea, it's critical to sustainable growth. If customers don't love you enough to refer you to friends and family, that usually says something about your brand (and not in a good way).
That said, laying out the pros and cons can help you prioritize your marketing initiatives and set expecations.
- It's the most authentic form of marketing.
- In most cases, it's low-cost and/or completely free.
- Buyers trust other buyers over branded messages.
- Brands with high advertising budgets can't compete with viral word-of-mouth no matter how many ads they buy.
- A lot of positive word-of-mouth is difficult to find.
- If you have a poor relationship with customers, you might have a lot of bad reviews for all to see.
- A poorly-executed UGC campaign can feel forced and "turn off" audiences to your brand.
PPC and programmatic platforms are attractive because they lay out all the numbers - impressions, clicks, audience data, etc. - clearly for you to see. But there's a cost to an always-on paid advertising strategy, namely the rising cost per clicks and the steadily decreasing quality of ad impressions.
What you want is not just to get seen (and then ignored): you want to make a lasting impression. Buyers trust other buyers. When you invest in your brand community and repeat customers, they will gladly promote you to your audience. Your word-of-mouth marketing strategy is key to lowering your CAC while driving record-breaking sales.