Marketing is something that is considered a modern-day act, although it has been around since ancient times. It originates from the term ‘market,’ which designated a marketplace, a place for trading and selling.
At the very end of the 19th century, the word marketing gained its current meaning:
The total of activities involved in transferring goods from the producer or seller to the consumer or buyer, including advertising, shipping, storing, and selling.
Of course, this is tightly connected to advertising and promotional practices. These days, when we talk about marketing, we imply promotional tactics and activities used by companies for advertising purposes. Marketing is used to promote goods, services, products, and entire brands.
Now, when you consider how long people have been selling goods and services and promoting them, you get a clearer picture: Marketing has been around since the earliest civilizations. We see marketing campaigns across all media, digital and traditional. But, what was the earliest form of marketing?
The answer is Word-of-Mouth marketing.
Today we can implement marketing strategies through every medium available, but its earliest form was Word-of-Mouth, which to this day has incredible value.
Perhaps it is the most valuable marketing method ever. And because of that, let’s look deep into it, see what makes it work and how you can use it to advance your business.
What is Word-of-Mouth?
Word-of-Mouth can be described as an action in which people either talk about a subject or tell others about a particular topic, thus inspiring them to continue talking about it with even more people. Word-of-mouth can refer to recommendations, opinions, or social issues. It can even be something trivial, like a joke or an urban legend shared among the public.
A friend told me about this.
Word-of-Mouth marketing, or WOM marketing for short, is the process of actively encouraging and influencing Word-of-Mouth discussions in a seemingly organic, natural manner to promote a product, service, brand, activity, event, and more. Marketers use it to create an interest in something by encouraging discussions among people.
Why is Word of Mouth Marketing important?
The benefits of Word-of-Mouth marketing are quite many, but I will point out some of the most obvious ones.
Firstly, Word-of-Mouth is organic, so your WOM marketing will seem as natural as a light conversation between friends when you use it for advertising.
With that said, you can now understand why people would trust Word-of-Mouth marketing. It is not presented as a marketing tactic. Instead, it can be as simple as bringing up a topic of conversation that you find interesting.
Let’s give them something to talk about!
That’s how the old saying goes. Of course, people love to chat about various subjects with friends, co-workers, and strangers online, but nothing is as strong as that real-life, person-to-person connection we get from directly talking to one another.
Secondly, it can last for a very long time and reach broad audiences. What starts as a buzz, hot topic, hype, or “word-on-the-street” can turn into long-term action. Some Word-of-Mouth topics can last for years. Now, imagine the impact a clever WOM strategy could have on a brand. It could become their best selling point.
Thirdly, there is trust. People trust other people much more than they trust news outlets, the media, or standard advertising campaigns. WOM is much more stealthy and doesn’t appear to be a marketing technique at all.
Research by Nielsen suggests that 83% of people trust the recommendations of friends and family. This is a powerful indicator that WOM is one of the most significant marketing techniques.
Examples of Word of Mouth Marketing Strategy
There are real-life examples of word-to-mouth marketing all around you, but they are so seamless that you do not even notice them. As a matter of fact, you are probably responsible for some type of WOM marketing yourself without even realizing it.
You see it, you get it, you love it, and then you recommend it.
For example, let’s say you saw an intriguing ad in your Instagram feed. It was explicitly targeted towards you based on cookies and your preferences.
You love ice cream and fitness, and there is a new low-fat protein ice cream brand that has just hit the market, and you were in their targeted audience. The ad’s call-to-action works; you click on the ad and its website link, find out more about this new brand of ice cream, and you finally go to the store and buy one pack.
As it turns out, this is a great product. You are happy with your purchase. You talk about it with your friends, co-workers, and family.
Now, you have done Word-of-Mouth naturally, based on your experience. You are now an influencer and are conducting marketing for this brand, and you did it voluntarily. Not only that, but you are developing brand loyalty. This is why digital marketing has started to focus more on Word-of-Mouth marketing.
Here is a good example from Sephora:
Your product is the most important aspect of your business when it comes to WOM marketing. However, it is not only the value of your product that encourages customers to promote your product through WOM.
When you are a customer-centric company building close relationships with your customers, such as Sephora celebrating its customers’ birthdays, you will satisfy your customers and encourage them to promote your product through WOM.
Let’s take a look at how Spotify tries to encourage its users to spread their app through WOM:
Isn’t it a great way to get new sign-ups? These type of rewards often encourage users to take action in spreading your product.
It’s a win-win practice and can be really effective in increasing the virality of your product.
Organic buzz does the trick
Word-of-Mouth doesn’t always come spontaneously as a reaction to seeing a commercial on TV or an online ad.
If you build a specific WoM strategy, you can not rely on other advertising funnels to generate WOM naturally. In other words, if you are aiming for a WOM campaign, then you need to develop a proper strategy because you cannot rely on the fact that it may occur naturally as a reaction to your digital marketing campaign, for example.
What I mean is building hype, creating a buzz; in other words, turning your product, service, or brand in general into a hot topic of conversation. Better yet, turn it into a recommendation. Nothing works better than a recommendation from a friend or an expert, as that implies information coming from a reliable source. Remember, trust is crucial here!
You must be wondering, how can I make it happen?
The answer is simple: reach out to key people.
If you are still reading this, you most likely know what influencer outreach means. That is your stepping stone. Conduct detailed market research, discover who your influencers might be, and then put them to work. This can be done via different platforms and on several levels of intensity, depending on how much you really want to push your campaign.
If you already have partnered influencers, great, half of your job is already done. The next step is onboarding them into your WOM campaign. Provide them with all the necessary information and prepare them with answers to questions your (in this case both theirs and yours) targeted audience might ask.
Let’s get more specific. If your influencer has a podcast, have them mention your product (service, brand, event, or whatever it is you want them to promote) during the conversation they are having with their guest.
Their guest shouldn’t be in on it because then it will seem just like another topic of conversation.
This will be particularly efficient if your influencer podcast host reads sponsored ads during their show, as it will differentiate your WoM tactic from that obvious marketing action.
Wait, have I been exposed to WoM without even knowing?
Of course, you have.
Brand affiliates and influencers do this all the time.
Sometimes, the approach is even more direct, and the influencer is instructed to bring up a product or service in regular conversations with business partners, friends, family.
Let’s give two examples from Joe Rogan’s podcast.
Rogan has a segment during which he reads sponsored ads. Those are obvious promotions. However, he’ll recommend something to his guest every now and then and explain that he is talking simply as a satisfied customer. Maybe you’ve seen this for yourself.
There were several episodes of the podcast where Joe drank non-alcoholic Heineken. He’d mention to his guests that he’s drinking non-alcoholic Heineken today because he felt like having a nice cold beer but didn’t want to drink alcohol. It’s excellent, tastes just like the real thing, and it’s so refreshing – that’s the kind of stuff he’d say casually.
However, it was product placement, and Rogan basically used WOM to advertise Heineken. He has millions of subscribers, which confirms that WoM has an incredibly wide reach.
3 Key Tips to Create a Working Word of Mouth Marketing Strategy
Interaction and connection
Connecting with your audience is incredibly important.
Many brands make the mistake of just expanding their audience reach without actually interacting with them. They just present themselves on social media much as they would do in a televised commercial. The audience feels like they are being served with something, and nothing is asked of them.
How about wanting some feedback?
Through social media interactions, brands can ask questions and spark conversations with their audience. The audience continues the conversation, and voila – buzz has been generated.
Great content, great reasons
Better yet, seek user-generated content.
A company running a campaign about frozen french fries can ask their audience to send them their best recipes. Let people share their content, such as videos in which they show their favorite ways of cooking those french fries.
Now they have something to talk about and feel like they are part of a community.
Of course, this means you need to provide great content yourself. Engaging content leads to precisely that – engagement from your audience.
Empowered customers, natural marketers
Now that members of your audience feel like they are a community and their opinions matter, they have power. Their content has value, and their comments can make a difference. Each comment can be a WOM instance.
This is why WoM is an incredibly grateful promotional tactic.
Empowered customers are natural marketers and influencers. They work for you voluntarily. You get the best out of that deal because not only are you getting paying customers (And performing client retention), you are also inspiring them to bring new leads to your brand and turn them into loyal customers, too.
Action leads to reaction
Word-of-Mouth marketing can prove to be your most powerful promotional method if applied correctly. What you have to consider at all times is that it is not a passive method. It requires you to take action in order to gain reactions from your audience. It’s a step-by-step process that generates great long-term results, but you have to be patient.
When it comes to WOM, keep it natural and allow it to evolve organically.
Never forget the importance of influencer outreach and using specific groups and individuals to implement WoM as your brand ambassadors.
Once you have a WoM campaign prepared, put it in action and keep the conversation flowing, allowing organic interaction within your audience to deliver the results you want.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is word of mouth (WOM) a good marketing strategy?
It definitely is. When you consider the statistics that suggest that people trust more of the words of their family and friends, WOM can really have a great effect on your business.
Why is word of mouth (WOM) marketing so powerful?
Because people trust their family and friends, people tend to give a try to a product that their close ones have tried and suggested to them as a result of their satisfaction.
Is word of wouth (WOM) traditional marketing?
It is actually one of the oldest strategies, but today, people are now able to make their voices heard more through social media platforms and the effect of WOM marketing is much more significant.