The oldest form of advertising is one that will never go out of style and one that often times can’t be controlled, or can it? Word of mouth is what many people rely on to make every day choices like where to go for dinner and even the more serious decisions like choosing their family doctor or the computer their going to use for the next 5 years.
No other form of advertising can compete with the reliability of what a good friend’s experience has been with a product or service, and this can be beneficial or your true downfall depending on how you use it. How can you spin word of mouth in your favor, you may ask? By using other tools of media, just as in any multi-platform advertising campaign.
1. Create Discussion– The only way word of your product or service is going to spread is if people are actually talking about it. You can jump start this conversation by using a variety of social media tools. One of the easiest ways to do this is to produce content that your customers will want to share, such as articles, videos, blog entries etc. Then you install social media sharing tools that allows the viewer to post the content directly from your site to a variety of social media sites so their friends can then view and share as well.
2. Keep it Positive– There’s the saying that “All PR is good PR.” Well this may be the story for celebrities, but it doesn’t quite hold true when you’re trying to attract people to your restaurant and everyone’s saying the food is awful, or you’re selling a smartphone that’s been reviewed as crappy. In order to keep some of the bad PR at bay, many companies have been recently creating departments that are solely dedicated to responding to customer complaints or negative posts made in online forums such as Yelp or in blogs. The companies will respond asking for explanation of their ill–feelings, apologize for their negative experience, and often times offer some kind of refund or small gift. Now I know most companies can’t afford to refund every customer who’s unhappy with their product, but even responding and apologizing personally to the complaints shows customers that your company cares and leaves them with a positive feeling about the brand. By recognizing customer complaints, even though they might not want to buy the product again, they may not say something negative about the brand.
3. Keep up the Momentum– Just like in any online retargeting strategy, once a potential customer is exposed to your company or product, you have to continue exposure to ensure that they receive the message. With online advertising frequency, it is easy to measure and easy to aim for. With offline advertising, especially with word of mouth, you can’t be sure exactly how many times a customer has been exposed to the brand before he or she actually makes their decision. With everyday decisions, like selecting a restaurant for dinner, you might go off of just a referral from a friend, because after all, it’s just dinner. With more serious decisions, from large technology purchases to finding a great doctor, there are a number of factors that help make up the final decision. Let’s say you’re looking to buy a new car. You’re not going to just buy a Honda Civic because you’re sister really likes them. Chances are, you’ve done your own research on many models, you’ve looked up online articles and ratings on Civics, you’ve seen online ads, you’ve asked around to many friends, and now you’re trying to make you’re final decision on whether or not to buy a Honda Civic or look at other cars. In the midst of your research, you see a commercial on TV about Civic’s receiving a 2013 safety pick award and being on a 4th of July special sale. These 2 factors from the commercial help in the decision making process. With sale and safety, now you’ve made your final decision.
As the Honda Company, it’s your job to keep up momentum of the brand. If that customer had just heard about Honda Civics through word of mouth from a friend, he/she may have either forgotten all about them or weeded them out in the early stages of the decision process. But by doing online advertising, producing news articles and ratings, showing commercials on TV and holding special sales, you have exposed the customer to your product with a high frequency level and across multiple platforms, ensuring that they won’t just forget about it.
There are paid Word of Mouth solutions out there that marketers can leverage to help build a positive brand outlook. SocialChorus is a cloud based software platform that can help turn social influencers into brand advocates by creating direct relationships with the brand superfans. Using this platform allows brands to have a devoted network of advocates creating organic content on behalf of the brand or product. InPowered is another solution that allows you to leverage positive reviews as the messaging for earned media advertising. Using this platform gives brands the ability to amplify what people are saying about their brand or product.
While word of mouth can be helpful in almost all advertising campaigns, it should never be used as the only channel. As with all campaigns, you should look at different strategies over different platforms and decide what’s the best combination that’s going to compliment each other.
Don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth marketing.
Just Media, Inc.