Word of mouth marketing is an incredible reputation tool. It is one of the most trusted forms of advertising, and earning it is one of the best ways to build and support a great reputation online.
Nielsen reports that 92% of consumers worldwide trust earned media like word-of-mouth or recommendations above all other forms of advertising. That number is up 18% since 2007. Closely related, online consumer reviews are the second most trusted source of information: 70% of consumers trust these messages.
“We live in a time where word of mouth is the number one driver of sales and competitive advantage,” says Nicolas Georges Trad, Executive Partner at Reputation Institute. “Investing in reputation across different markets clearly pays off financially.”
How You Can Build Word of Mouth Reputation for Your Business
How exactly can you invest in your word of mouth reputation? There’s plenty of advice to choose from. We’ve found the best tips for developing a strong reputation with word of mouth from marketing and customer service experts. Read on to find out their tips for word of mouth success:
- Listen to your customers: If you want your customers to talk about you, you’ll have to listen first. Online interaction is a two-way conversation. Hear what your fans are saying about you before jumping in yourself. Listening means that you can better understand the feedback you’re likely to receive — and can inform your strategy for accommodating (and wowing) your customers in the future.
- Inspire your customers to be your biggest promoters: It’s essential to deliver great products and service. After all, you’ve got to give them something nice to say about you! You’ll need to far exceed expectations to really wow them. But it’s also important to join and facilitate customer advocate conversations.
- Obsess over customer service: Nailing customer service is essential to getting better at word of mouth marketing. Making customers happy should be part of your company ethos. Give customers your undivided attention and make them feel special — and satisfied.
- Engage with your customers: Even after the purchase is made and products or services delivered, you’re not done. It’s your job to continue to develop a relationship and engage in a conversation with customers. Don’t let them forget about you: stay in touch with relevant contacts, like follow up emails, surveys, and notes about new products or services. By maintaining an active relationship with customers, you’ll be on their mind and ready to refer when the moment is right.
- Offer experiences that tell a story: Experiences need to be both emotional and topical to encourage word of mouth.
- Identify your influentials: Influentials are people who are enthusiastic and connected. These are the people who can share your message with your target audience. They may be bloggers, part of an evangelism program, new customers, or just big fans. Find them and give them something to talk about.
- Take a genuine interest in your customers: Go Digital tells the story of Joe Girard, a car salesman who is listed as the world’s greatest salesman in the Guinness Book of World Records. Girard realized that most customers have about 250 people that are close to them, and a great job on one sale could lead to 250 more. He took a genuine interest in getting to know more about his customers: he went so far as to visit a customer who worked at a screw machine shop to see firsthand how screws are made. Girard’s visits to the shop often ended in more sales as his customer enthusiastically introduced the inquisitive car sales man to his coworkers. You may not need to visit factories regularly: picking up the phone and personally connecting with your customers sends a powerful message of interest as well.
- Know your sources: Once just a verbal exchange, word of mouth marketing is now on Facebook, Twitter, review sites, blog posts, message forums, brand mentions, customer testimonials, and more. It’s essential to build an active and engaged social community by encouraging dialogue, offering loyalty programs, organizing events, and hosting contests.
- Don’t forget to connect offline, too: While online word of mouth is an important factor to consider, The Venture Edge insists that offline word of mouth is far more valuable. Why? Offline referrals are typically more personal, emotional, and trusted: factors that can really make your word of mouth stand out and deliver new customers.
- Offer an incentive: While good services or products may be enough for some to share their positive word of mouth recommendations, others often need a little more convincing. But don’t just offer cash; consider special gifts that everyone wants. For example, limited stock private label wine offered in exchange for referrals.
- Be authentic: While offering incentives can be an effective tactic, paying people to write reviews is never a good idea. Make social media marketing organic. While you might get away with fake reviews, it puts your reputation and customer trust at risk. Your online reviews should be genuine — not fishy — so that customers will put faith in them.
- Build trust with consistency: Create a trustworthy product that customers can rely on. They should be able to expect the same experience (or better) with each purchase. Consistently delivering a positive experience build customer loyalty, and encourages your customers to share their great experience with others.
- Give your word of mouth room to grow: Once you’ve earned word of mouth referrals, don’t keep them to yourself. Feature customer testimonials and reviews on your website with photos to encourage authenticity. You should also share word of mouth on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, where customers can share their reviews on their social channels.
- Be visible: Businesses should go the extra mile by participating in the community and being visible outside of the office or shop. Patronizing local businesses yourself (and giving them good word of mouth) can build your profile and encourage others to support you.
- Ask employees what they think: Those working on the front lines really know what your customers want. It’s a great idea to ask for their opinions and follow suggestions for better resonating with your customers.
- Give loyal customers special perks: If you’re launching a new product, give die-hard followers first dibs. You’ll likely get great feedback that can be used for quality control, and they’re also likely to help you get the word out.
Building your reputation with word of mouth marketing may sound like a lot of work, but it boils down to a few basic principles: make your customers happy, be trustworthy and consistent, and encourage word of mouth by staying connected with your customers. As referrals and personal recommendations continue to grow more important, the investment you make in word of mouth marketing is practically guaranteed to improve your business reputation and bottom line.