Getting started with word-of-mouth marketing

January 29, 2024 | 4 minute read

Mari Smith

Written by
Mari Smith
Mari Smith International, Inc.

Mari Smith is widely known as the Premier Facebook Marketing Expert and a top Social Media Thought Leader. Mari has worked with a wide range of industries over the past 15+ years, providing strategic social media marketing consulting and training services.

No matter how digitally savvy the world gets, word-of-mouth marketing remains among the best ways to let prospects know about your business. Today, there are several online and offline steps to improve your small business’ word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing and build brand awareness.

What is WOM marketing?

WOM marketing is when someone shares their positive perception of a brand or business to other people. Also referred to as “word-of-mouth advertising,” it is essentially a free type of promotion that occurs as a result of a company exceeding customer expectations, providing superior customer service or creating publicity to encourage customer testimonials.


WOM is of particular importance to small businesses, not only because it is a marketing strategy that requires little to no cost, but when executed correctly, can positively impact brand and performance.


Nielsen’s Trust in Advertising Study shows that a brand’s reputation, reflected in reviews and word of mouth, carries significant weight. Recommendations from people they know (89%) is the most trusted channel. What is more, 50% more people trust recommendations over lesser-ranked channels like online banner ads, mobile ads, Short Message Service (SMS) messages and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) ads.


What are the benefits of WOM marketing?

Word-of-mouth marketing helps build trust with your prospective customers. And it doesn’t only come from satisfied past or current customers or clients. Consumers and fans interested in your company or products can also spread the word if they like your values, mission or simply the information you share.


Bottom line: Someone doesn’t necessarily need to be a client to recommend your small business. They just need to know, like and trust your business. If they do, they will share that enthusiasm with their own tribes.


5 strategies to encourage WOM marketing

To make the most of WOM, it’s best to have systems in place to ensure it is easy for consumers to share their thoughts, interact with your company or refer your small business to their friends.


There are several ways to encourage WOM marketing.


1. Request reviews

Ask customers for reviews and direct people to where you want them to be posted. Create these requests - along with links to your review section - and share them at regular intervals in your social media feeds.


2. Offer incentives

When appropriate, give your community a reason to spread the good word about your product or service. That could be to promote a special sale, or even a reminder of holiday hours. After someone posts a review, send a thank you and offer a discount for their next trip back. Or provide extra loyalty points toward a future purchase.


3. Follow up

The timing for following up with a client or customer is tricky. You don’t want to catch them so soon after purchase that they have not yet used the product. You can create a follow-up cycle to check in with the client in a set number of days after purchase. You decide what that amount of time should be. If you get a positive response, ask if your customer would be so kind as to review your product or make a recommendation.


4. Refer-a-friend program

This is another way you can incent people to tell their friends about your business. Offer a punch card for frequent visits or other reward for customers to earn a free something based on the number of referrals. You can even do this in tiered fashion: 10% off your next purchase for one referral, 20% off for two, and so on.


5. Engage

Social media engagement is one of the best ways to turn followers into loyal fans. Monitor your social media channels so you can respond to any comments or questions as soon as possible. When clients sense your availability, they will reach out whenever they have a question. It’s a wonderful way to build trust from them.


Bottom line

The key ingredient to building a solid foundation for satisfied and repeat customers is simple: be the model of quality customer service.


Value your customers: They know they can take their business anywhere.


Nothing will assure more positive WOM marketing for your business than quality customer service.


Watch the WOM marketing spread from there.

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