The Power of Word of Mouth Marketing

Word-of-Mouth marketing is considered the oldest form of advertising but, as a marketing discipline, Buzz Marketing is still a relatively new phenomenon. Viral marketing, buzz marketing, blogging, community marketing, customer evangelism and other “consumer-to-consumer” techniques are all designed to get people to recommend your product or service. When down right, buzz marketing is an incredibly effective weapon in your marketing arsenal, because the message comes from a trusted source. The key elements of any word-of-mouth marketing campaign are:

1. Providing consumers with a story to tell about you.

2. Making it easy for people to share information about you.

3. Engaging and energizing those people to spread the good word.

Here are six steps to help you generate positive word-of-mouth:

1. It starts with customer satisfaction

A happy customer is a potential advocate and an influencer. An unhappy customer is even more powerful – one survey of “customer rage” found that 85% of unhappy customers share their bad experiences with others. If you don’t have a good story to tell, there’s nothing pleasant to buzz about.

Measure your customer satisfaction by asking your clients whether they would recommend you. This “customer loyalty” metric can be the most important number you can track. Learn how to apply it to your business with The Ultimate Question by Fred Reichheld.

2. Give your customers a voice

Make it easy for customers to recommend your product or service. Facilitate communication. Establish user groups, fan clubs, message boards – anything that encourages positive conversation about your business. Start by adding a “tell-a-friend” component to your website with companies like Tell-a-Friend Wizard or free services like bpath.com.

3. Find and equip your customer evangelists

These are the “sneezers,” or influential customers who will tell their friends about you. Think of them as your superfans. Give them inside information and reward their evangelism with recognition and support.

You can look for ideas and inspiration at the Viral & Buzz Marketing Association. Learn more about “tech-fluentials” and “mom-fluentials” at Burson-Marsteller’s E-fluentials site.

4. Join the blogosphere

Obviously, abusiness blog creates a two-way dialogue with your customers and facilitates active discussion among your fans. Blogs are the perfect tool to encourage open communication and information sharing. If you haven’t already, you can build your own blog in minutes with Blogger or TypePad, among others.

5. Listen and respond to feedback

Your blog also provides instant feedback from your customers. Participate in the online conversation and take the pulse of your supporters – and your detractors. Use sites like FeedBurner to track and analyze your blog traffic.

6. Keep it honest

Good word-of-mouth marketing is honest, transparent and real. Stealth marketing, “shilling” and spam tactics are unethical and should be avoided at all costs! The Word-of-Mouth Marketing Association leads the way when it comes to word of mouth ethics. Before you begin your efforts, refer to the WOMMA Code of Ethics.

Don’t limit your word-of-mouth efforts. Consider using other forms of WOM such as cause marketing, referral programs and product seeding. The key lesson is to craft your message as a story that is easy to spread. People don’t repeat ad messages, they share experiences. Go forth and spread the word!