Word of Mouth Marketing sounds like a misnomer, because the connotation of volume generated by the term ‘Marketing’ is missing. While there does seem to be a connection between the two terms, I like to think of Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM) as a behind-the-scenes unpaid form of promotion where one happy customer tells another about how content he is with a specific product or service and that it is I who provided him that bit of happiness. There is no obvious marketing and the advertising is self- generated, emanating from the goodwill created by my product or service. The ensuing cascade is like a pyramid sale, multiplying manifold as it goes down the corridor of communication between friends, acquaintances, neighbors or relatives.
A diagram will make it more obvious:
In his e-book on the subject, Dr Martin Russell emphasizes that “the average human being knows close to 250 people. In other words, if you took some time and wrote a list of everyone
you personally knew, it would likely come to around 250 people.” That’s for people living in the Western world and other advanced countries.
“What this means is that every customer listed in your business is a pathway to an equal amount more! What’s more, when you gain an extra customer, you’ve also gained indirect access to 250 other people! So, if you know how to get your customers talking about your business, then you have a massive network that you can easily tap into! What could be better?”
"Word of mouth marketing is money in the bank. It's really as simple as that. If you're not making money from word of mouth marketing in your business, then you're missing the boat. It's one of the keys to ongoing success. I've seen Word of Mouth Marketing put more businesses on the map than any other form of promotion there is." Jason Oman
Martin adds, “To many business owners, word of mouth isn’t as glamorous as advertising. But, ask the best marketers and entrepreneurs in the world and you'll find a very different story.
Why? Simple: they realize that referrals generate over 70% of the new customers for most businesses. And yet business owners spend the least amount of time, money and energy on it.
That's how powerful word of mouth is! But if you have a way of growing your business that works even if used very unsystematically, doesn't it make sense to put your focus, attention, and resources into it... so you get the biggest “bang for your buck”. Of course it does!
What it all boils down to is that if you aren't using word of mouth systematically in everything you do, then you're leaving thousands and maybe millions of dollars on the marketing table (depending on the size of your business). And when you start using word of mouth systematically, you’ll skyrocket your turnover, bottom line, and business success! What's more, you can use word of mouth on demand to create instant cash flow, just like advertising.”
The amazing thing about word of mouth marketing is that it is applicable to any product
or organization. You don’t need a budget, but what you do need is a febrile imagination and cogent thinking. You need to talk the walk and the ability to think on your feet and respond to any stimulus instantly. You need a creative mind with the ability to look at something as a standalone and the same thing as part of a subset and figure out the best way to project it.
“You cannot sell to a man who isn't listening; word of mouth is the best medium of all; and dullness won't sell your product, but neither will irrelevant brilliance.” Bill Bernbach
I propose to first clarify the difference between Word of Mouth Marketing and Viral Marketing (VM), before looking at Five Word of Mouth Marketing Strategies, Rules of Word of
Mouth Marketing, Referrals, the Surprise Element, and finally, two Case Studies.
1. WOMM versus VM
Interestingly, in Europe, WOMM is clubbed under the term viral marketing. Arguments rage to and fro, but the fact remains that the rest of the world considers the U.S. myopic and totally self-centred. Dr. Ralph F. Wilson’s (a Europe-based E-Commerce Consultant), definition of Viral Marketing from ‘The Six Simple Principles of Viral’ makes no distinction between communication agents and customer recommendations: “Viral marketing describes any strategy that encourages individuals to pass on a marketing message to others, creating the potential for exponential growth in the message's exposure and influence. Like viruses, such strategies take advantage of rapid multiplication to explode the message to thousands, to millions. Off the Internet, viral marketing has been referred to as ‘word-of-mouth,’ ‘creating a buzz,’ ‘leveraging the media,’ ‘network marketing.’ But on the Internet, for better or worse, it's called ‘viral marketing.’ While others smarter than I have attempted to rename it, to somehow domesticate and tame it, I won't try. The term ‘viral marketing’ has stuck.”
WOMM Association, WOMMA, has stuck to its guns. It says that” it is silly to consider merging these two terms. ‘Viral marketing’ is a phrase that connotes that the product itself is designed with an involuntary referral mechanism. The classic example is Hotmail, whose users (somewhat unwittingly) wound up broadcasting a link to join Hotmail with every email they sent. Hence the term "viral"; such marketing spreads involuntarily, like a computer virus.
On the other hand, ‘word of mouth marketing’ refers to marketing or product design that encourages people to TALK about a product or service, generally because of extreme satisfaction with it. A classic word-of-mouth counterpoint to Hotmail's viral approach is Gmail, which does NOT send out a little ad with every email sent from the service; rather, people wind up wanting Gmail accounts because they hear people raving about how great it is. Users can proliferate the service themselves, but this is done consciously rather than involuntarily; an invitation can be deliberately sent by a satisfied user to someone they know who's still trapped by Hotmail, AOL, Yahoo etc. This process is akin to a vaccination, not a virus.”
Srinivas Kumar of mysticker.com adds, “My service, StickerNation.com, includes a viral marketing element where users who do not specify a ‘tagline’ to their custom sticker order get a StickerNation.com tagline on their stickers as a default; they can choose a different tagline if they want, but many do not, thereby involuntarily promoting our website as they distribute their stickers. However, our service also benefits from turbocharged word-of-mouth, because the initial behavior of our customers upon receiving their stickers is to give them to their friends, associates and audience. Our custom stickers are generally distributed by people who are trying to generate word-of-mouth for their projects. This behavior often triggers the response question ‘where did you get these made?!’ from the recipient.”
2. Five Word of Mouth Marketing Strategies
Anime Otaku, aka Maki, on his blog Dosh Dosh delineates five successful strategies for Word of Mouth Marketing. We have more or less agreed that WOMM is ‘a form of promotional campaign which operates through an individual’s recommendations of specific brands, products or services.’ Word-of-mouth marketing is contagious in that it spreads from one person to another outside of a formalized setting, without much intervention by advertisers. A recommendation from someone familiar and trust-worthy generally results in a product sale, link or new subscriber, “because recommendations are generally perceived as incentive-free, unlike the obvious motivation of advertisers looking to increase sales.” If you have an army of supporters constantly talking about you, your product or your service, or referring to it on or offline, you only need a battalion of converts. With that aphorism behind us, we could proceed to Maki’s five strategies.
1. Leverage Existing Social Networks. The number of social networks on the Internet is huge. Most of them faded away into oblivion, mainly because they were poorly marketed and, as a consequence, could not sustain themselves. WOMM goes not have the time for defunct or poor networks. “You want a community that gives you fresh news on topics you care about. You want something that sends prospects and traffic while branding your website or business. Online communities have a tightly knit group of users who can help to increase brand awareness for your product. Tap into these communities with tools or content targeting their specific sub-culture and you are likely to get a lot of attention. These can include applications for platform-specific websites like Facebook and Wordpress, which each have a large body of users.
“The list is divided into two portions: General Social News websites which cover a wide variety of news and Niche Social News websites which refer to specialized sites that only focus on a limited range of niche topics.”
Social News websites are communities which allow its users to submit news stories, articles and media (videos/pictures) and share them with other users or the general public. Some of these articles will be given more visibility, depending on various factors such as the number of user votes for each item.
Apart from counting registered user votes, some social news websites employ human editors to determine the visibility of each news item. Certain stories will be removed from the website while others may be given a ‘featured‘ position if the story is highly relevant and news worthy. Maki
A. General Social News websites
A. Niche Social News Websites. For best results, only submit to them when your site falls within the same niche or covers the same topics.
2. Target the Influencers. Look for individuals who are trend-setters or authorities on a specific topic. They should preferably be individuals who have many personal connections or a large and loyal audience. If these people spread your message, your website or product will very easily be disseminated within a targeted group of potential users. Examples of
influencers include celebrities, power users on social websites like Digg and popular webmasters or bloggers with many loyal supporters.
3. Exclusivity and Scarcity. Many websites or businesses launch virally through the private beta approach by offering a limited number of site invites. Some dangle the bait of limited edition products. Combine this with influencer marketing and you’re home. And, exclusivity invites curiosity and scarce products generate consistent demand and conversation.
4. Micro-Market. Micro-marketing focuses on marketing to the individual by providing highly customizable products. A well-known illustration of market customization is Paris Miki, a Tokyo eyeglass store. The store’s Custom Designed Eyewear System allows the technicians to tailor the lenses and frames using a scanned image of the customer’s face. De Beers’ website allows customers to design their own diamond rings. The Internet allows cross-continent micro-marketing, like the U.S. company Zazzle, which helps customers create their own custom-designed products and ships them out in 24 hours Micro-marketing can be combined with scarcity and existing social networks to generate word-of-mouth exposure.
5. Industry Marketing. Instead of focusing directly on customers, focus on the people who can build your brand. Instead of seeking for thousands of views from a wide audience, make your mark within a niche community to build relationships and connections that can be leveraged.
THE PHILOSOPHY BEHIND WORD-OF-MOUTH MARKETING
Word of Mouth Marketing is a rhizomatic discipline. Conversations online or offline are often multiple, non-hierarchical, horizontal and mutational. The message is not controllable by the advertiser, although they can attempt to manipulate buzz flow by devising campaigns to structure dialog and conversation. Word of Mouth is the desired end result, one that is achieved through viral or buzz marketing. Dave Balter
3. The Four Rules of Word of Mouth Marketing and Their Three Riders
Andy Sernovitz, in the revised edition (2009) of his book: ‘Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking,’ lists four rules in the very beginning of the book (page 6). These four rules are:
· Be Interesting
· Make it Easy for People to Talk About You.
· Make People Happy
· Earn Trust and Respect
He then follows it up with three corollaries on the reasons people talk about you:
· Reason # 1: You─They Like You and Your Stuff
· Reason # 2: Me─Talking Makes Me Feel Good
· Reason # 3: Us─We Feel Connected to the Group
He explains his theories in his book point by point.
Point 1: Be Interesting. What he means is ‘be worth talking about-become an interesting persona. Nobody wants to talk about boring products, boring ads or boring companies. If you want people to talk about you, do something special. If you are a mundane, humdrum sonorous person, you won’t get a moment of conversation. Your word of mouth will fall flat on its face!’ He gives examples to make his point, like the seven-inch high corned beef sandwich at Carnegie’s Deli. It would still be a good sandwich at normal size, but its humongous size makes every body talk about it, spreading the word.
Point 2: Make it Easy for People to Talk About You. Word of mouth is lazy, you’ve got to help it along. You need to do two things: Find a super-simple message and help people share it. You’ll need a short message anyone can remember, like: “Our software doesn’t crash”. Remember, it has to be a no-brainer SHORT MESSAGE. Now you’re ready to get the conversations started.
Spout ideas which will make your interesting concept easy to spread. Simply announce it on your Web site or include it in your brochures or other promo materials. Tag it to your e-mails, use it in blog postings, there are many many ways to get the idea circulating. Seed the conversations and get them to happen without any direct involvement on your part.
Point 3: Make People Happy. Happy customers are your greatest advertisers. Thrill them, go the extra mile. Create amazing products. When people like you, they share you with their friends. Do everything possible to make the experience of being your customer remarkable. This idea is the core of word of mouth marketing. Stay with it; garnish it. It will pay you back many times over if you can create genuinely delighted customers. As he says, “Taking my wife to Target makes her happy. And she never stops talking about it.”
Point 4: Earn Trust and Respect. If you don’t have respect, you don’t get good word of mouth. Nobody talks about a company that they don’t trust and like. This is natural, because people don’t want to be embarrassed in front of their friends. Make people proud enough to tell others they are a customer of yours. Always be honorable company; make ethics part of your life. Whatever it takes, earn the trust and respect you want and need to make word of mouth marketing a slam-dunk! He gives the example of the popular Southwest Airlines. People actually sent them money to tide over post 9/11 blues.
The Three Reasons People Talk About You.
· Reason # 1: You─They Like You and Your Stuff.
People talk because you’re doing or selling something that they want to talk about. They
love your products. They like how you treat them. You’ve done something interesting.
Give them a reason to talk about you. The more you interest them, the more they talk about
you. Give them good after-sales service and overall experience in dealing with you as a
customer. Be creative about how you present your products, service and company. Do something memorable, like a promotion, a massive sale, stock a new line of products, etc.
· Reason # 2: Me─Talking Makes Me Feel Good.
Word of mouth often comes down to emotion, ahead of products and their features. The emotions to drive talk aren’t complicated. Everybody wants to look smart, help others and feel important. Give them inside information so that they become ‘experts’ in your product. Bring customers into your inner circle and then encourage them to share, like the person who comes up to you as you stare at a shelf, deciding what to buy, and give you expert advice. Annoying at times, but they’re promoting the product.
· Reason # 3: Us─We Feel Connected to the Group
The desire to feel part of a group is one of mankind’s most powerful emotions. We want to be connected, very strongly. Talking about products is one way we make that strong
connection. It creates a bond to like-minded individuals who share our passions. We feel like part of a larger family rather than a powerless consumer. The passion generated by being in a group of enthusiasts translates very easily into word of mouth. Members of groups like those that coalesce around Harley-Davidsons or Nikons, all bonding because of their love for a specific product are an emphatic example.
4. Your Advertisers or Referrals
Dr. Russell explains his concepts about referrals in the paras intra. He says that the aim of most lead generation marketing processes is to create a relationship with a new customer. Once you have a relationship with a customer, selling to them becomes much, much easier. So it makes sense to do whatever you can to create new relationships. This is why word of mouth is so powerful! Whenever a customer tells someone about the great benefit your business has given them, they are essentially giving you a "personal endorsement". Thus, word of mouth gives you Instant Credibility!
Moreover, whatever bond you have with your customers can, and often does, get indirectly transferred to your customers' friends when they're enthusiastically told about you. In other words, with word of mouth, if you have credibility and trustworthiness in your customer's eyes, then they will give you instant credibility and trustworthiness in their friend's eyes! This is why a referred customers is, on average, more trusting of a business than any other customer - you’ve been endorsed to them by someone whose opinion they trust, he adds.
Ø Enhance your #1 business asset - your customer relationships.
“Relationships are like glue that hold customers to your business. Provided you offer great benefits to your customers, the stronger the relationships you have with them, the more they'll stick with you. If you look at your customers as dear and valued friends, your job is to make sure that everyone in your customers' network, who needs your services, is looked after by the best. So make sure that's you!”
Ø Develop Amazing Relationships With Your Customers!
“Make sure that you collect the names and contact details of each and *every* new customer who you do business with. Having their contact details allows you to keep in touch with them easily. Once you have their contact details, you want to follow-up, follow-up and follow-up! Build your #1 business asset ... your customer relationships. According to marketing expert, Jay Abraham, word of mouth customers:
* Spend more each purchase.
* Buy more often.
* Are more loyal.
* Refer more customers.
* Trust your recommendations more.
All of this adds up to happier customers, increased profits and a better life for you!”
Ø Make Dealing With You An Amazing Experience!
“If you can make doing business with you an amazing experience, your customers will tell a lot of people! So if you can make dealing with your business an exciting and great experience, then you'll be head and shoulders above businesses that are bland and boring. Then, you've got to over-deliver on a consistent basis. Would you refer your friends, family members, or business associates to just any business? Probably not. How much more inclined would you be to refer your family, friends and business associates to a business that
* looks after you better than you ever expected
* delivers more than they promise
* makes you feel special each and every time
* delivers amazing results for you”
Ø Give Your Customers Self-Serving Reasons To Give You Referrals.
“When you ask your clients to give you referrals, they (clients) are silently asking ‘What's In It For Me?’ So you must, before you ask your current clients to give you referrals, first work out what you can give *them* in return. Reward each customer who refers someone to you, with a
free gift. Some examples:
Hotel: For every 6 people you refer, we'll give you a free night for two in our presidential suit with a free dinner.
Chiropractor: Give us a referral and we'll give you two sessions absolutely free.
Ø You MUST Be *Systematic* In Getting New Customers By Word Of Mouth.
“A systematic way of gaining referrals from these customers might be to send every customer who has been with you for 4 weeks, a letter that asks (and entices) them to give you a give you a referral. What this means is that every new customer who comes into your business is informed that you want referrals and is enticed to refer their friends, family or associates to you. You also want to make sure that you systematically remind current customers about your referral program. For example, you could include a section in a monthly newsletter on your referral program and the new and exciting rewards your customers get when they refer friends. So get very systematic about referrals. Make a plan today to never again let a referral slip through your ‘net’.”
Remember, it’s the business that cares the most about a customer as a person, not just an income stream, that will win in the end! Dr.Martin Russel
Milena Regos, an experienced and innovative marketing and Internet professional, wrote in November 2009 in her Book Review of The Five T’s of Word of Mouth Marketing, “I want to share the five elements to every word of mouth marketing, propounded by Andy Sernovitz. I hope you start implementing them when you are building your word of mouth campaign, which are:
Talkers – Who will talk about you to their friends? Who are the talkers, the people that like to share their experiences with everyone. People sometimes refer to them as the “influentials”. These are your loyal customers and people who like you. They are your regular customers, people who you interact with on a daily basis. They need something worthy to talk about with your friends. They need a topic of conversation.
Topics – give people a reason to talk about you. Special sale, new program, special event. Something easy that people can remember and discuss with friends.
Tools- help spread the message. Refer a friend, Send to a friend, Share This button, these are all ways to help spread the message. Your task is to make sharing easy and obvious.
Taking part in the conversation – You need to take part in the conversation. Answer questions. Respond to feedback. State the facts when someone reports false information. Be nice. Lead the conversation.
Tracking – use online listening tools to hear what people are saying about you. Tracking will also facilitate the engagement process. Every comment, every blog post, every tweet can now be tracked. You just need to dedicate the time and resources to listen to the conversation. The benefit is consumer research, engagement and feedback that will ultimately lead you to improve your business and create more honest and smarter marketing. Marketing that works.
Writing as Kuratsapuso in another blog, Anime Otaku discusses the element of surprise.
How ‘Surprise’ Helps Word-of-Mouth Marketing
Maki believes that “Emotional engagement is the key to interactive marketing success. People share their everyday experiences by communicating them to others in and outside of their network. This social sharing is more rampant when the individuals develop intense feelings like fear, disgust, sadness, joy, anger and surprise. Of all these emotions, surprise is a necessary ingredient which encourages people to pass on information they come across.”
What is Surprise and What Causes it?
“Many researchers consider surprise a neutral and short-lived emotion that is elicited by unexpected phenomena or what is known as a ‘‘schema discrepancy’’. A schema is a theory that each person has about the nature of situations, objects and reality. The disruption of this schema is what leads to the element of surprise: In other words, surprise is an emotion that occurs when something breaks the habitual pattern of thoughts we have. Surprise’s effects are immediate.”
After detecting the schema discrepancy, the individual will evaluate it: the emotion of surprise is often followed by a positive or negative emotion, what we normally call a pleasant surprise or an unpleasant surprise. An interesting point to note about surprise is that most people will assume that what is surprising to them will also be new/useful information for others.
Using Surprise to Generate Word-of-Mouth
Our everyday reactions to our environment is habitual. Nothing here encourages us to share this experience with others. But this can change if you add the element of surprise. For example, if you’re offered an unexpected and attractive freebie (e.g. bottle of wine) along with the product, it short-circuits your schema and generates surprise. You’re now much more likely to talk about the pair of shoes you bought or your feelings about the boutique or brand.
The goal here is to think about ways to elicit positive surprise by enhancing the experiences of your audience in unexpected ways. Making them feel privy to an unique situation encourages them to share or recommend your idea/product/service/brand. What does this mean? Only that one needs to invest time on understanding your audience’s schemas.
It is important to note that surprise can be used as a tool in many ways. It can used in a stand-alone format, in the form of online video with a single message or you can integrate it into your sales or fulfillment funnel. Think about each juncture when you interact with your customer and inculcate elements of surprise wherever necessary.
Case Studies on Word of Mouth Marketing:
Two Case Studies are presented below, showing the dramatic effects Word of Mouth Marketing can bring about in real life.
Word-of-Mouth Case Study 1
HP 31 Days of the Dragon
HP had launched a high-end flagship notebook called The HP HDX Dragon, with virtually everything preloaded in it, in January 2008. It was worth $4,500-5,000 but sales never really took off. So HP launched a Word of Mouth Awareness program, which soon became a Word of Mouth Marketing program with amazing success.
Hewlett-Packard published some incredible results for its '31 Days of the Dragon' blogger
Promotion for its HDX Dragon laptop. The claimed results are as listed below:
· Sales of the HDX Dragon increased by 84%.
· Overall 10% increase in PC sales.
· 14% increase in traffic to HP's hpshopping.com site.
What HP did was give an HDX Dragon laptop to 31 bloggers, letting each one give away the laptop to its readers, in a week-long contest. Each day, a new blog started a new week-long contest. According to HP, “The 31 bloggers that were selected to participate in the program are widely known as influencers of the online community. By teaming with Buzz Corps, an Austin-based influencer marketing agency, we were able to interact with these selected bloggers on a level that surpassed a superficial business relationship. Buzz Corps’ established relationships were able to provide us with the opportunity to engage the bloggers on a more intimate level.”
“We worked with Buzz Corps to choose sites or blogs of all sizes– some with several million readers and others with a narrow, more focused approach. All of the bloggers we worked with had great content and were written by influential people. In fact, key considerations for Buzz Corps in identifying these influencers included that they kept up with several hundred products and services a year, had huge followings, and their readers trust their posts, reviews and recommendations.”
“Working with Buzz Corps allowed us to leverage their existing relationships to introduce bloggers and their communities to HP and the HDX Dragon system and, ultimately, initiate a conversation around the Dragon system. We were pleased with how successfully we were able to engage the online community and enter the social media space through conversation and getting the online community directly involved with all aspects of the product and campaign.”
When asked how they measured an 84% increase in sales, 10% overall, how this tracked back as being a direct result of the campaign to target influential bloggers and how they measured the 14% increase in site traffic, their reply was, “Our number one means of tracking results came in sales and we reported the sales and site traffic numbers through month-over-month data from hpshopping.com. We set out to sell the HDX Dragon, a flagship product that wasn’t selling 9 months after its launch. This campaign drove people to hpshopping.com to look at the HDX Dragon more closely. Another interesting result that came from the campaign was the lasting traction that we garnered-- not only did these results break sales records, but participating sites saw a steady increase in traffic as much as 500% following the 2 months after the "31 Days of the Dragon" contest ended.”
“Additionally, we tracked well over 380,000 links on Google using the exact phrase “31 Days of the Dragon” with no media spend and the estimated collective reach is well in excess of 49 million from the 31 participating sites, reciprocal links and other sites covering/mentioning the giveaway since its inception. By taking these numbers to the lowest common denominator, we’re able to provide good, hard, honest numbers.”
Word-of-Mouth Case Study 2
Fab Lollies’ Use of Magazines
Magazines Create Word of Mouth for Fab Lollies
Fab is a huge brand. With annual sales of £73m, it’s one of the UK’s top three lolly brands. However, with no brand support other than price discounts in recent years, the brand was beginning to lose relevance and an annual decline of 16.5%. There was a clear need to re-connect modern families with the fun in the Fab brand.
Fab decided to build on Mums dormant affection for the brand - dating back to their own childhoods - without resorting to the usual, unadventurous "family day out" kind of offer.
Research told them that focusing on kids' bedrooms might prove fruitful. Mums love them as they're safe environments for their kids to play in. And kids love them as they're places to let their imaginations run riot. Providing both inspiration and ideas, a "design a Fab den" competition was set up to encourage participation and reward creativity.
Bringing the Strategy to Life
Magazines provided the perfect medium to talk to our "influencer Mums". Using advertorials in both parenting and home décor sections, Fab gained editorial credibility through the use of individually tailored features. And, on consecutive pages, Fab used advertising with ‘Athena Poster’ style art direction to nostalgically remind Mums of Fab's role in their own childhood. Fab then created a great new Fab website where Mums could download and print off den templates; they ran a Fab Tour in zoos and safari parks for 32 days of the school holidays; and they created an on pack promotion giving Mums a further chance to win a den for their child.
The results demonstrated the power of the medium perfectly. Not only did magazines help put the Fab brand on the readers' shopping list, achieving 40% increases in consideration, but crucially also got mums to talk about the brand and recommend it, both to their children and to other Mums. Advocacy increased by 50%. Critically, this led to a 24% increase in sales after the previous year's 16% decline.
Three lessons were learned, which are universally applicable for WOMM using magazines:
Justus Daniel Eapen is a policy level Organizational Transformation Consultant with over 25 years experience in Banking & Government.