How to Capitalize on Word-of-Mouth Marketing


Last Updated: October 7th, 2022



Group of people on cell phones

Guest Post by Jessica Huhn

When was the last time you had an amazing experience that you just had to tell your friends about? Did you talk to your closest friend about a breathtaking vacation destination? Post a picture of a restaurant’s mouth-watering food on social media? Share a glowing review of a new local business? These are all examples of word-of-mouth marketing, so you’ve likely engaged in this technique multiple times without even thinking about it. Why not take advantage of word-of-mouth for your brand?

Whenever customers positively share your brand with their friends, family, or peers, that counts as word-of-mouth marketing. Happy customers will spread the word about your products to their friends, online or offline. Their recommendations will likely convince these friends to become your new customers, because their peers trust their word. And the best part? Word-of-mouth marketing is organic, and can be totally free. You’ll want to take advantage of word-of-mouth.

Word-of-mouth happens spontaneously, so it can be hard to predict or control. However, things aren’t out of your company’s hands. Your brand can take steps to motivate people to talk about your brand, products, or services. Read on for tips on increasing word-of-mouth about your brand, and why this buzz is so incredibly important.

Word-of-mouth is all about trust and credibility. People trust other people and the experiences they have to report, far more than they trust messages that come directly from your brand.

A person who recommends your product knows that they’re putting their credibility on the line, so they will only recommend you if they truly love your products. And the person who’s listening or reading trusts that their peer isn’t misleading them, so when they hear from a friend or other consumer who has already used your product or service, someone is more likely to buy.

Statistics have proven that people trust their friends, family and peers more than they trust advertisements.

The fact that so many consumers prefer suggestions from their friends and peers proves that word-of-mouth is the most valuable source of marketing.

Plus, word-of-mouth doesn’t stop after just one interaction. Instead, one person will tell another, and that person will share with someone else. Then that person will continue the chain and spread the word further — the cycle goes on and on!

Now that you know just how valuable word-of-mouth marketing can be, let’s check out some strategies your brand can use to get people talking:

1. Provide exceptional products and customer service

First thing’s first — people will only recommend your brand if they think you’re worth talking about. Make sure your product or service is top-notch and offers true value to your customers. If your product fulfills a unique need, solves a problem in an intuitive way, or surprises your customers with its quality, even better — you’ve already got a leg up when it comes to word-of-mouth. For example, Under Armour drove initial word-of-mouth through features that no other athletic apparel brand had considered; the apparel is made from microfibers that keep athletes cool and dry, and stay light, no matter how much they sweat.

You’ll also need to deliver A+ customer service. Offer value through your overall brand experience. Carefully and attentively meet all your customers’ needs. Everyone remembers an experience and will often pay for it because of the value.

Come through with gestures that go above and beyond. For example, if you have a brick-and-mortar store, offer free refreshments for your customers, or have a system to carry customers’ purchases to their cars. If you have an online store, consider surprising customers with small gifts or handwritten notes of appreciation in their packages, or with free upgrades to their shipping.

Listen to your customers’ feedback, both about what you’re doing well and what you could improve. When possible, implement this feedback, and let your customers know you listened.

Develop solid relationships with your customers — don’t just forget about them after you make a sale. Support them at all stages after their purchase. Make sure they know how to reach you if they have any questions or concerns. If customers have any pain points, work to resolve them quickly and professionally. Often, this turns things around when customers have doubts about you. And periodically check in yourself, to see if your customers have any inquiries or struggles. This is especially important if you offer a service, such as software.

2. Encourage customer reviews

Your potential customers value personal experience more than any other source of information. They’re turning to trustworthy review sites to see what others have to say about the brands they’re considering. So, when existing customers put in a good word for you, through positive reviews, this benefits your business greatly.

Five star customer review

A customer review of autopom!, as showcased on the Best Company Twitter page

The secret to getting more positive reviews is simple: just ask! But be sure to ask the right people at the right time. The real key is to find the “sweet spot” when your customers are happiest.

Ask for a review at these ideal times:

  • Immediately after a customer has made a purchase
  • Right after a customer has given you direct positive feedback
  • If possible, ask in-person, after you’ve delivered a top-notch experience

Ask for reviews from these types of customers:

  • Customers who have just made repeat purchases. Or, if you offer a service, customers who have paid for your service for the longest consecutive amounts of time.
  • Customers who share that they’re most likely to recommend you. Run a Net Promoter score survey (NPS survey) to determine which of your customers are most likely to recommend you. Then, reach out directly to ask them for a review.
  • Customers who have left unprompted positive feedback on your social media account.

And make sure it’s easy for customers to leave reviews, whether you’ve asked them to or not.
Set up business accounts on Yelp, Google My Business, and other popular review sites, as well as major review sites for your niche. Provide links to review sites on your website, as well as in newsletters and promotional emails. Include a CTA button that says “Leave us a review.”

3. Leverage social media

Most modern word-of-mouth marketing happens on social media because it’s the easiest way to communicate with friends. It’s only natural for people to share brands and products on social networks, usually with all of their online friends at once. Plus, this information can quickly spread to friends of friends, if those friends decide to share further. So, a single social share can reach hundreds, or even thousands, of potential customers.

Use these strategies to effectively increase your word-of-mouth on social media:

Create a viral campaign that people can’t help but share

Most marketers dream of having a campaign that goes viral. Even though you can’t control when content goes viral on social media, you can carefully set up a campaign aimed at sparking virality using these tips:

Know your audience and the content they’re looking for. Are you targeting college students? Businesspeople? Parents? Another group? Do they want to be informed? Entertained? Inspired? Or do they want something else?

Plan a clear message, so your audience has no doubt what your campaign’s about — and so it’s much easier to share.

Include a compelling visual element (image or video) to draw your audience in. Make sure it fits with your brand values. Through its masterful animation, Chipotle’s video “The Scarecrow” promoted buying locally sourced food, tying in perfectly with the Chipotle philosophy. The video only featured the Chipotle logo at the very end, so the content felt less like an ad and more like art.

Encourage and repurpose user-generated content

Be sure to take advantage of user-generated content — reviews, branded images and videos, and other social media posts created by your customers.

Ask for user-generated content through a contest, campaign, or feature. Incentivize sharing by holding a contest with an enticing prize for the winner, or by reposting the best content (with permission) on your brand’s social media pages.

Create a branded “challenge” where fans are encouraged to complete a certain task with an associated hashtag to prompt sharing. Even if people don’t participate directly, they’ll tag their friends if they like what they see. You might frame the “challenge” around charitable giving, like the TOMS “One Day Without Shoes.” For this challenge, every barefoot picture posted with the hashtag #withoutshoes in a given period resulted in a donation of a pair of TOMS to a child in need.

Post glowing customer reviews on social media. Respond to customer comments and questions in a creative way, like Old Spice did with their “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” video series.

Enlist the help of advocates

Think about recruiting influencers or ambassadors through a brand ambassador program. These advocates agree to promote your brand in their own authentic voice on their own social media accounts because they love your brand and think it will resonate with their audience.

They don’t necessarily have large numbers of followers, but they hold solid sway over the followers they have. Both influencers and brand ambassadors have some sort of authority in your niche or among members of your audience, so it’s easy for people to trust them. But, you’ll want to choose your advocates carefully; there are major differences between influencers and ambassadors.

  • Length of promotion — Influencers promote your brand in the short term; ambassadors promote you in the long term.
  • Show vs. tell — Influencers focus on showing how they authentically use your brand, using social media. Meanwhile, ambassadors tell others why they love your brand online and offline (they also spread the word about your brand at events and through networking).
  • Payment — Influencers always expect compensation, while brand ambassadors are often more than happy to promote you without compensation.
  • Relationship with your brand — If you want an influencer to promote your product, you’ll send them a message and product samples. This “ask” could be their first exposure to the product. In contrast, ambassadors have an established history of loving your brand. They’ve likely shared your product before, without prompting.

4. Tap into triggers

Think about what your customers like, need, and do, and strive to tie your brand in as a regular part of their routine. If you associate your brand with your customers’ existing habits, needs, and hobbies, this will make it easy to remember you, and thus talk about you.

Emotional triggers also prompt sharing. If you can create some sort of emotion through your branding and content, you are likely to get someone to share their experience with others. People share what makes them happy, sad, hopeful or fearful, and what they think is funny or inspiring because their emotions lead them to.

Emotional sharing often goes hand-in-hand with social media sharing and virality. Here are two prime examples:

  • Red Bull — The brand knows how to surprise people with extreme stunts and events that generate plenty of buzz. From a motorcycle backflip over London’s Tower Bridge to the famous Flugtag flying machine competition, Red Bull experiences always get people’s adrenaline pumping and hearts pounding. Followers can’t help but talk about the rush Red Bull delivers.
  • Wendy’s — Their on-point Twitter feed has gone viral multiple times, for their roasts, their famous “Nuggs for Carter” response, and other on-point pop culture references. Wendy’s knows how to make people smile and laugh with content their followers share naturally.

Exclusivity is another big trigger. If people feel like they have insider information about something amazing, they want to let other people in on the secret, so these peers can also benefit. In-N-Out’s “not-so-secret” Secret Menu is a prime example of how exclusivity lets the word travel fast.

5. Start a referral program

Referral programs are a great way to encourage customers to spread the word about your brand. These programs formalize word-of-mouth, simplify the sharing process, and reward customers with incentives for sharing your brand with their friends. They give your brand some control in generating trusted recommendations from existing customers.

And referral programs work: According to Nielsen, your potential customers are four times more likely to purchase from you after a friend refers them.

If you decide to start a referral program, following these tips will help you maximize the word-of-mouth that your referral program generates:

Make sharing simple

Referral programs make word-of-mouth marketing easier for all involved. The sooner your customers understand what you want them to do and how, the sooner they’ll spread the word to their friends.

Your referral program description must be streamlined and easy-to-understand, not cluttered. Make sure customers can find your referral program, and share with their friends, in as few clicks or taps as possible.

Anyone should be able to find your referral program easily on your website’s homepage, regardless of whether they’ve purchased from you before. Some people might share before buying because they think the product is valuable to them or their friends.

Include multiple sharing options, such as email, social media, and text. Let customers copy and paste a unique referral link directly. This way, each customer can share the link however they want based on what’s most convenient for them.

Give customers a reason to share

Referral programs must give customers a reason to share your products with their friends — and referral incentives offer the most effective reason to share.

Choose the incentives that will best motivate your customers and that make the most sense for your brand. You can choose from discounts, cash, credits, free products, branded swag, or other rewards.

Consider cumulative incentives — the ones that give credits, free products, or discount coupons to your customers every time they successfully refer a friend. And don’t forget about dual-sided incentives. These incentives reward both the person making the referral and the friend(s) they shared your brand with.

Company-focused incentives (like credits and discounts) motivate customers while providing added benefits for your brand. They encourage customers to keep your brand top-of-mind, and promote continued customer loyalty. Make sure that your referral program’s call-to-action clearly advertises the incentives you offer.

Target existing customers

Your satisfied existing customers provide a strong testimonial to others about why they should purchase from you. So, your referral program must be especially easy for existing customers to find.

Consider programming referral banners and pop-ups to appear more prominently for returning site visitors. You might enable referral programs for a visitor only after they’re signed into a brand account, or after they’ve entered their email to sign up for your email list.

Think about including referral program info in your emails to existing customers, including transactional emails.

Integrate social media

Your referral program should seamlessly integrate with social media, where your customers naturally do the most sharing with larger groups.

Let customers instantly share a referral link via Facebook, Twitter, and other popular social media channels. Supply a prewritten message to simplify social sharing. Make sure it sounds conversational (it’s coming from your customer, after all).

But also let users personalize the message that they post, if they wish, so it sounds authentic.
Your referral program must be mobile-friendly, because most people access social media (and shop) via mobile devices.

Wrapping things up

Even though word-of-mouth marketing can be hard to control, there are so many ways for your brand to be proactive in encouraging your customers to spread the word. Now that you know five ways that you can increase your word-of-mouth, it’s time to apply these tips and tricks, and start harnessing your customers’ trusted recommendations.

Jessica Huhn is a marketing content writer at Referral Rock, where they believe that every business has the potential to increase their word-of-mouth marketing. When Jessica is not writing, there is a good chance that she is singing, arranging songs, or sharing and enjoying content on social media.

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