The truth is, there are some things that are just simply more interesting and worth talking about than others. Many readers might believe the latest smartphone is much more interesting to talk about than shrimp cultivation. Sure, but that is only because you might be part of the targeted crowd that is more receptive, at this point in your life, to the latest smartphones. Millions of dollar of shrimp are exported each year, because despite the fact of a smartphone appealing more to you at the moment, a product that is such a necessity for everyone, is much more suitable for a word-of-mouth campaign. A product is needed by a selected consumer crowd, those likely trusts recommendations and spends time socializing and speaking. As word-of-mouth campaigns are also usually focused on long-term goals, this is a product that will likely thrive from this marketing tool.
Trust and the relationship
Marketing has many mediums, word-of-mouth is the most personal and at the same time possibly the most powerful medium, as it requires trust to the same degree that it requires a product or service worth talking about. It is also aimed at a very targeted and selected crowd. This makes it so extremely effective, as thousands of people are not randomly included and targeted through costly campaigns when only a few are even potential clients for the service or product. Resources are not invested to focus on potential customers, that are not even interested or affected by what you have to offer. As an example: you would not tell in a public facebook post or mass email, that you absolutely cannot recommend product XYX. It is, however, more likely, that you will tell your closest circle of friends, whom you know definitely has your requirements for that product, that you cannot recommend it at all. This information only goes to a crowd you selected based on your knowledge of their needs and interests and whom you know value your opinion. This also works vice versa. You are looking for a really good vehicle tracking solution? Then you are likely to ask a few sources you can trust with this particular topic. These are not necessarily friends or family, but maybe someone at work, who you know is very knowledgeable on the subject. Their opinion and recommendation will likely influence your choice. Relationships between a company or product and the customers, which are the base for word-of-mouth, develop over time. As stated in the short example above, the information is targeted toward the crowd who trusts you and is interested in your opinion and choices. Engaging with your customers takes time. Word-of-mouth is not something meant to be put in effect for a campaign that will run for two weeks and should create a huge buzz within this period. Other channels are much more useful and effective in creating short term campaigns and get customers excited for a short period of time. You can implement the best Press ad, paid ad on social media, or TV campaign. But if you don’t get people talking about you and supply them with something worth talking about, your marketing campaign won’t be nearly as successful as you desire.
Word-of-mouth marketing doesn’t equal social media alone
Social media is grown tremendously. Collecting likes and followers have become a new marketing goal for many companies. Customers’ opinions and recommendations are freely shared with everybody and products are praised or criticized publicly. While this can lead to a huge increase in sales quickly, it is important to remember – word-of-mouth is more than just social media. The review you share on social media, or the complaint you post on your Facebook page about a phone brand that has given you nothing but trouble, is not aimed at a certain crowd or represents detailed knowledge or interest on a subject. It is just a general opinion, targeted at a very broad crowd, who will most likely read it and move on. The aggregate of people recommending or disliking a product can absolutely have influence on a consumers’ choice, but it is not considered word-of-mouth. Recommending a certain car brand to your boss, who you know is looking for a new car, and sharing all the relevant details about the car and the amazing service you received, is word-of-mouth. Telling your family member about an inspiring book you have read about the benefits of yoga and encouraging them to give it a try, which they will in turn share with their book club, is also word-of-mouth. All this information is shared with people who you know are interested in the subject. For example, you will not share the car information with your mother, who does not even have interest and has never driven a car in her life, even though she is your mother and in your closest circle. You will only share information that is unique to the person or situation including detailed knowledge and involving a human touch. Here it can become tricky, and if you engage with your audience at the right time, extremely successful. While word-of-mouth is traditionally a personal interaction marketing tool, many people now use social media to share their point of view and talk about products or services. This can be beneficial or extremely damaging. So it is important to carve out a perfect strategy before engaging.
If you decide to include social media into your word-of-mouth strategy, it could be helpful to focus on the media selection important for you. Are you selling a service mainly relevant for 50+ year olds? Then Instagram may not be your perfect media. Focus on specialized groups on Facebook, maybe you can reach your target crowd best by speaking at a conference or engaging with like-minded people at a convention or social gatherings. There are many companies that are not very active on social media and their campaigns are not highly visible online, but they have a product or service that they offer, that they just do immensely well. It gets people talking about them. Certain budget hotel chains are a good example. They usually don’t have an aggressive online approach but they just do the job well that they are set out to do. If you travel much, and are looking for the same quality of care for a certain price that you can trust everywhere you go, you are likely to recommend the same brand or chain to anyone who asks you, and to a few who don’t ask as well.
CORE VALUES OF WORD-OF-MOUTH STRATEGIES
Using word-of-mouth can be extremely effective and beneficial. Being able to properly place an exclusive product or service with the perfect audience and reap the benefits can be motivating and encouraging as you connect with customers on a more personal level. Here are a few benefits:
Make your customer connection work for you and encourage customers to share a message or coupon/offer with their friends.
Being trusted by your customer to provide them with the product they need just at the right time can strengthen a brand.
Customer service is the core of your word-of-mouth. Rethink why a customer buys from you, how you can bond with them and make that work for you. This is also your free source of market research.
Create content that benefits the customer and that you want to share (maybe they can share or learn something from it).
Don’t ask customers to endorse something they don’t fully believe in or support.
Be open about who you are, what your company represents and what your company’s beliefs are. The conversation about your product or service will happen, regardless if you join it or not.
Founder of Ads of Bangladesh & Brand Manager of Akij Cement
This article was published in the publication of Bangladesh Marketing Day 2019.