5 Ways to Leverage Word-of-Mouth Marketing in a Digital Age

It’s no secret, the Internet has changed the way customers buy products and the ways marketers engage with their audiences.

But, despite the constant change, the following statement has held true for hundreds of years: No marketing tactic can match the influence of word-of-mouth. In fact, word-of-mouth is the primary factor behind 20% to 50% of all purchasing decisions (source).

Think about the last book you read or television show you watched. Maybe an advertisement or commercial influenced your decision. But more likely than not, you made your choice based on the recommendation of a friend, family member, colleague or online review. Therein lies the power of word-of-mouth marketing. And, in the digital age, the phenomenon is more prevalent than ever.

In today’s article, we explain word-of-mouth marketing, its unique benefits, and we offer several specific tips to get people talking about your products. Keep reading!

What is word-of-mouth marketing?

Word-of-mouth is the natural passing of information from person to person—whether they’re telling a story, sharing a piece of news, or recommending a product or experience. Word-of-mouth marketing, on the other hand, refers to marketing initiatives that actively influence and encourage word-of-mouth discussions about your brand, company, or products.

Why is word-of-mouth marketing effective?

We’ve already told you word-of-mouth influences purchase decisions more than traditional marketing. The question is, why? Let’s look at three key factors:

  • Trust: The modern buyer is increasingly skeptical of traditional marketing tactics for obvious reasons. For this reason, it’s much more influential when a friend recommends a product because they do so without an ulterior motive. In fact, customers are 92% more likely to trust their peers over advertising when it comes to making purchase decisions (source).
  • Social currency: As a business concept, social currency refers to the perceived value of a brand or product based on the level of conversation surrounding it. For example, if two of your friends constantly talk about a specific clothing brand, that brand has a large amount of social currency among your group. As a result, another friend who doesn’t own any clothes from that brand may feel inclined to purchase some—because they perceive the brand to be valuable and they don’t want to miss out.  
  • Subconscious triggers: The impact of word-of-mouth is often subliminal. Let’s explain through an example—say your friend buys a new electric grill and raves about how efficient it is. Two months later, your grill breaks. While shopping for a replacement, you see the electric grill your friend recommended and decide to purchase it. Even if you didn’t consciously remember the conversation, word-of-mouth influenced your purchase decision.

Any combination of these factors may influence a purchase decision. But it’s important to understand each concept on its own—as there are specific ways to leverage each one in your word-of-mouth marketing strategy. Keep reading and you’ll see what we mean!

5 Word-of-Mouth Marketing Tips

Word-of-mouth may seem purely consequential—you sell great products, so your customers talk about you to their peers. But, marketers can take a more active approach to generate positive buzz. Here are a few tactics to consider.

1. Encourage online reviews.

Before the rise of the Internet, word-of-mouth spread through conversations between friends, family members and colleagues. Now, a person can log into their computer and see hundreds of product reviews. And, these reviews matter! In fact, 72% of customers don’t take action until they have read reviews about a product (source).

Rather than sit back and hope for positive reviews, marketers can take certain steps to increase the number of reviews their business receives online. Here are a few tips:

  • Make it easy: Include a review option on each of your product pages. And, include a call-to-action in your emails to customers so they don’t have to seek out a method to leave reviews on their own.
  • Ask at the right time: Ask for customer reviews shortly after they receive their order or product. You want their (hopefully positive) experience to be fresh in their minds so they feel motivated to take the extra time and leave feedback.
  • Consider all review channels: From Yelp to Glassdoor to G2 Crowd, there are so many platforms your customers can use to leave reviews. When you send review requests, alternate between these channels so you can generate a more comprehensive collection of reviews across the web.

A quick word of advice, negative reviews can be just as influential as positive ones- how you handle these negative reviews is critical.

Learn more: The Definitive Guide to Addressing Negative Business Reviews

2. Leverage user-generated content.

User-generated content (UGC) is content created by your audience, for your audience. UGC is an effective tool to boost word-of-mouth on social media and other digital platforms—as customers trust and engage with content from their peers more than they do with traditional marketing content.

Encourage your customers to create UGC by offering an incentive. For example, contests and giveaways are a fun way to boost engagement among your users. From Instagram posts showcasing your product to video reviews on YouTube, UGC will catch the attention of other users and facilitate organic conversations about your brand.

3. Connect with influencers and thought leaders.

A customer who praises your product to a few online peers won’t spark widespread conversation. An established influencer, on the other hand, can make a massive impact simply by commenting on your brand or product.

The power of influencers speaks to the concept of social currency we discussed earlier. The influencer’s word is more authoritative than the average user’s, so when they recommend a product, their followers perceive that product to be highly valuable.

Remember: an influencer’s total number of followers won’t necessarily indicate the level of word-of-mouth they’ll generate online. Target influencers whose content speaks to the needs and interests of your ideal customers. And, while you might simply pay an influencer to create content, we recommend you partner with influencers who genuinely enjoy using your products. That way, the word-of-mouth they generate will appear more sincere and natural.

4. Establish a referral program.

Customer referrals are the most direct form of word-of-mouth marketing. Referrals transcend casual conversation and involve a customer facilitating a potential deal between your business and a peer.

It’s no secret that referrals are effective—in fact, people are four times more likely to make a purchase when referred by a friend (source).

But, you can’t simply wait for customers to refer your products to their peers. Instead, develop a referral strategy to motivate and incentivize your customers to give referrals. Here’s what we suggest:

  • Identify your most loyal customers: Customers with strong connections to your company are more likely to refer you to their peers. Identify loyal customers based on their purchase history, engagement, and feedback. Then, target these customers first when it comes time to ask for referrals.
  • Ask for referrals at the right moment: As with online reviews, you must time your requests for referrals strategically. You might ask for referrals immediately following a closed deal when the customer is most excited about their purchase. Other optimal moments to ask for referrals are immediately following a positive interaction on social media or after a customer submits a positive review of your company.
  • Reward customers who give referrals: Provide an incentive to make it worthwhile for customers to refer you to their peers. More than 50% of people say they’re likely to give a referral if offered a direct incentive, social recognition, or access to an exclusive loyalty program (source).
  • Promote your referral program: Don’t just target specific customers for referrals—advertise your referral program across all marketing channels.

Even when referrals don’t result in new customers, they still benefit your company in terms of brand awareness and recognition. Referral programs motivate your loyal customers to spread the word about your business, both online and in their day-to-day lives.

5. Generate buzz on social media.

This final tip might sound obvious but hear us out—to boost word-of-mouth online, you have to give people something to talk about. But as simple as that sounds, generating buzz doesn’t happen by accident. Here are a few ideas to spark more conversation about your company on social media:

  • Tease upcoming products: Teaser campaigns give customers a sneak peek at products before they’re released. Teasers build anticipation and curiosity—so when the release date arrives, your audience has already been talking about the product.
  • Run a contest: Online contests are a great way to engage with your audience and generate buzz. Not only will your followers jump at the opportunity to win a prize, but they’ll also talk about the contest and potentially get their friends involved. You can even run a contest that facilitates word-of-mouth by requiring contestants to share something about your brand on social media.
  • Use branded hashtags: Unique hashtags help to curate the conversation around your company on social media. When someone first discovers your brand, they can immediately find other users with just a click of your hashtag. And, branded hashtags allow you to easily monitor and measure the word-of-mouth surrounding your brand on social media.

Of course, there are many more ways to generate buzz on social media and across all marketing channels. Don’t be afraid to step outside the box and get creative. You never know which unconventional idea will catch on with your audience.

Key Takeaways on Word-of-Mouth Marketing

The right marketing strategy can help you generate word-of-mouth business. But, the best way to get people talking is to deliver exceptional customer experience. When your business exceeds expectations at every turn, your happy customers will want to share their experiences with their peers.

For more information about how ZoomInfo can scale your marketing efforts and reach new audiences, contact our sales team today. ZoomInfo is the leading data intelligence platform for sales and go-to-market organizations.