Word of Mouth Advertising
According to research by Nielsen, 92% of people trust word of mouth more than advertising. Word of mouth is simply the sharing of recommendations and thoughts about a brand from one person to another. It is extremely powerful, but often overlooked as something uncontrollable.
Word of mouth can come in many forms. Prior to the internet, it came in the form of personal communication. However, in an increasingly digital age, word of mouth can come in the form of reviews, social media posts, and social media comments.
Companies do not have total control over what customers say about their company. However, it is vital that companies do everything in their power to promote positive word of mouth among their customers. There are several ways to accomplish this, with some offering more control than others.
In high school I remember going to track meets at the University of Minnesota’s fieldhouse. It was always our first meet of the year and I remember Mill City Running always had a booth set up showcasing some of their running shoes. They also had a deal where if you posted a picture of yourself on Instagram in front of a background with their company name on it, and then posted it to Instagram with a specified caption, they would give you a free set of track spikes or shoe-laces. Normally track spikes are just metallic colors, but Mill City Running offered them in a variety of colors. This appealed to the young, high school crowd, and large numbers of students opted for the deal. These spikes were only worth ten cents or so, and they offered Mill City Running a great deal of credible word of mouth marketing.
Promotions requiring customers to share something positive on social media is one way to increase word of mouth, but another way that offers slightly less control is simply requesting that customers leave a review or post something on social media. There does not necessarily have to be an incentive for people to say something nice about your company. If you provide great service and explain to them that a good review goes a long way in helping your business, many people will feel compelled to help you out in return for what you gave them. This requires nothing besides a request for a review but does not give you total control over what people say. However, sometimes giving customers freedom of expression is better than having them say what you tell them.
The last way to influence and promote good word of mouth is arguably the one that companies have the least control over, and that is just providing excellent service. Companies do have control in terms of the processes that they use to provide this service, but they have no control over what the customer ultimately says. All that they can do is offer spectacular value to their customer and hope that it pays off. And oftentimes it does. Many people will leave good reviews when they feel that a company did a great job.
While many people do leave good reviews when they feel very satisfied, they are also likely to post negative things when they feel dissatisfied. This can be avoided in some cases by apologizing for problems with service, however there will be times when customers will say something negative. When this happens, it is vital to respond in a timely manner with an apology and ideally some sort of compensation. Whether it is a link to a voucher, or just simply an apology, it is imperative that all negative customer reviews are acknowledged and responded to. This will show the complainant that you are sorry, and other customers that you care.
While word of mouth can’t rely as much on data and control over content, it is a vital component to the marketing of businesses. All companies should look for ways to maximize the quantity and reach of positive word of mouth, and minimize the effect of negative word of mouth.