Word Of Mouth: The Marketing Secret We Already Know About
Encourage User Generated Content
Brand is synonymous with reputation. That’s a much more palatable perspective and one I try to use when talking with people who’ve already built a fantastic reputation from word of mouth. A lot of these people are successful operators, and find more reward in delivering exceptional customer service than in promoting their own brand to attract new leads or build awareness.
If you have an aversion to promoting your brand, or you’re reluctant to directly sell yourself (as I can be at times) then using your customer’s own words and testimonial as content for your marketing is the way to go.
This will take the pressure off of new creative, as you’ll simply be documenting what your happy customers are already saying in their testimonials. You should also help guide your clients into formating their reviews or referrals into mediums that are easy for you to promote. Another way around this would be to establish a customer review based publishing routine that is designed around a way they’re already talking about you.
This path means as an operator you can still prioritize that excellent service, and it actually facilitates your marketing approach. You won’t have to worry about your existing clients viewing your marketing campaigns as taking away from your reputable relationships.
As an example, a significant part of my new-client work is still through smaller one-off projects via the online services marketplace Fiverr®. Part of that buyer’s journey once finished work is accepted and confirmed by the customer is prompted reviews.
Because the marketplace ecosystem is largely driven by reviews as the initial determination of quality, both buyers and sellers understand the importance of leaving accurate testimonials and comments that are specific to the experience.
I’m certain there are some methods to persuade users to use more of a conversational tone when writing a review, or to mention specific phrases in open forum-- but with my reviews on Fiverr® I pretty much just stick to the basics: staying consistent with transparent, honest, and thoughtful communication.
That strategy is more along the lines of constantly over delivering on value for the quoted price of the service… so my client receives exceptional copy that allows them to meet/pursue their business goals, I can stand proudly behind the quality and intent behind the work, and ultimately the person feels guilty at the level of intense and dedicated service they had, and leave a super long review.
On average on large eCommerce marketplace like Amazon.com third party sellers might have an average of 1% review rates for seller performance. On Fiverr® which is a younger platform, and more dependant on the unique experiences of each professional, I can report my own review rates somewhere close to 80%.
It all sounds great! Except I totally dropped the ball and didn’t plan ahead. My marketplace account name is my own name (not the Pocket Writer. Biz moniker I use when typing and spelling my name is hard), and I never encouraged my customers to connect with me or share their experiences on the social channels they’re already comfortable with.
Copy & Paste Reviews In Your Instagram Story Highlights
My stop-gap approach for this was to take screenshots of each of my reviews. Saving them as separate images or snapshots on my phone from the marketplace mobile app, I bulk dropped them onto my laptop.
Using a Photoshop blank template sized to IG’s story canvas (you could save time and money if you don’t own PS by using Canva. It also has the benefit of having default IG story templates, and exporting right on your phone) I then pasted six or so reviews per page and saved the images as jpegs.
Tediously pushing through a few dozen pages of these review sheets, I finally had them in a format that was perfect for Instagram stories. Then I pushed them back to my phone, from which I uploaded them to my story.
I created a highlight titled “reviews”, used the Fiverr® logo as the title card so it could be easily distinguished from different testimonials, and now have an established procedure (thankfully now only on my mobile device) to share new reviews as they are published.
I also now ask each new client that purchases a service to link their Insta account if they have one, so I can learn more about their tone to help me write better copy; and also to encourage them to look me up there as well. They’ll see my highlights, where they’ll see I imported my reviews, so they’ll hopefully keep that in mind when writing one of their own.
Using screenshots in story highlights to share word-of-mouth reviews is super simple, and once you establish a routine it’s an easy way to capitalize on some specific elements:
Cut & Paste has an authentic, un-polished, personal touch that people crave.
Including graphical/style elements in the screenshot that point to where it’s from allows you to subtly cross-promote your activity on those platforms.
Your reviews are housed somewhere that’s only accessible by user action. People looking at them need to have clicked on your highlight reel, which means you’re not being forward in touting them. It’s a real interaction and knowledge exchange.
Podcasters NEED to be SHOUTING this
I listen to an obscene amount of podcasts. While there are a few staples in there that are popular among all circles, I tend to stick to super niche shows that serve a relatively small audience. I also prefer shows that are independent from any large media company, collective, or organization. Finally, I love the shows that are entirely listener/producer funded.
Shows I subscribe to which meet those three criteria have grown very large in just a few years. That growth is ultimately due to word-of-mouth. And all of those shows directly encourage listeners to create user-generated content of all kinds and include that content within the show. From shout outs to monetary contributions, or full bore media & creative the brand can use to market themselves; support of user generated content helps listeners (or producers in the literal sense of the word) feel ownership of the brand. This places them beyond brand loyalty, into a place that’s more akin to partnership.
That level of affinity is incredible, and obviously makes the lister/producer comfortable sharing the brand and referring it to others anywhere in their life.
A more realistic, or approachable method is to just tell your audience the best ways to support you. Don’t sugar coat it, or break up valuable content and the flow of your show… but be forward in mentioning the importance of reviews, shares, and referrals both in the beginning and end of your episodes.
Most shows already do this in at least one place, by specifically mentioning Apple Podcast Reviews. Do this, but also name drop other player-platforms that you value. Spotify is spending a lot of money to compete with Apple here; and they’re doing a better job with supporting creators in the form of reviews and word-of-mouth.
It’s ridiculously easy from within the Spotify mobile player to “share” a podcast episode and choose to upload it as an Instagram Story. It’s fun too. I like doing this, as I can then add my own commentary via text which I can style, and layer additional gifs, stickers, and more text to tag other Insta users and hashtags that are relevant to the content.
When you ask your listeners to add the episode to their story, don’t just appease the general audience by saying “screenshot of the album art” or something similar. Say that… and specifically ask to share it from Spotify or other players that add the listen now CTA in the top corner of the story.
Go further an ask them to tag/add some relevant hashtags for the episode. Fight the urge to create your own branded tags here, or always ask them to use the same tags over and over again. When you’re asking it’s best to be contextual and relevant… so shoot for 1-3 hashtags that have a direct connection with the subject matter of that individual episode.
Maybe you have an interview show, or you analyze your favorite defunct sitcom episode by episode. But if within your podcast episode you venture into a subject that’s new or off brand for you, consider asking listeners to use that subject matter for hashtags. It will help bring new listeners from completely different circles into that episode.
While that one episode will likely have a lot of relatable value for listeners using that discovery method or journey… your other episodes might not. That’s still okay. You connected a person to something valuable.
Even if they don’t subscribe, or listen to another second of your audio they’ll likely talk about their experience within their own circles. Someone there is bound to think the rest of your content is enjoyable, and subscribe.
Authoritative Sources Are Friends
I used my own review screenshots, and podcasts in general as examples mainly because that’s the world I see most days. But the concept of sharing and linking content through Instagram Stories is universal; or at least vaguely applicable with slight modification to whatever it is you do.
This will also work on every other social platform. It will also work at the bar, on the bus, by the water cooler, or anywhere else people interact. You don’t only need to ask customers, clients, or supporters to use XYZ social media channel and all the right tags. Ask them to share your content. Show their friends, their family, and their co-workers.
Pulling out your phone and saying “hey check this out, look at what BRAND X posted the other day” is valuable. I literally did this today in the car with my wife as we parked downtown. I follow Narragansett online since I love their brand purpose and feel their creative team is doing a lot of things right.
Reading through the comment thread on on of their Facebook or Instagram posts (they cross post creative a lot between those platforms, so I can’t remember which) I saw their account respond to someone that the beer will soon be available in Ohio.
I thought that an odd thing to be excited about, but then again… I’m not in Ohio so it doesn’t affect me. The next day they made a post with their brand standard colors and design-- except the window cutout was in the shape of Ohio and their familiar Hi-Neighbor! Slogan was modified to instead read Oh-Hi-O Neighbor.
I thought that was clever, and I got excited because I knew about the news they were announcing a few days early from reading their comments sections… so gold star for me right? Nevertheless, I shared it. No, the brand can’t see that I shared it or track the metrics on it, or even connect it with a sale to prove ROI.
But by pulling out my phone and saying “look at this” I was practicing real life user generated content and I wasn’t even asked to do it.
Quantifying Word of Mouth
Measuring the effect or collecting metrics from word of mouth that translates to driving your ROI is inherently difficult. It’s not hard to produce… that part is straightforward. You can just ask all of your incoming customers where they found you and they’ll tell you. The difficulty lies in consistent and straightforward data to analyze on a regular basis. Unlike running a digital campaign where you can see all of your engagements, clicks, and other performance metrics in a single place at the end of every day, week, or month; word of mouth is powered by humans.
We can hypothesize on some ways people might engage, act on, and share something but it’s ridiculously hard to get the timing right. Even when you make an impact on a single person, they might have the intent to refer someone to it or engage with you in a public response… and not get around to it for months.
Don’t underestimate the insane reach you can have on someone.
Replying publically to all of your comments in a thoughtful way, or sending direct messages to user accounts if they engage with you, share your content, or cross promote it on their own channels-- these can domino into crazy ROI because those individual people you chat with as your brand might appreciate the experience so much, they’ll tell everyone they know about it.
You can also imagine scenarios in the other way; maybe that individual isn’t the type of person to brag or talk about those things. But they truly value the one-to-one conversation, and they continue to send you direct messages. As you engage with them (the same way you would with any of your customers, colleagues, peers, friends, family, etc) over text, the result may be that they become super loyal to your brand and make more purchases.
One act of reaching out and touching a customer could mean they become your personal PR agent to their 12 closest friends… or they don’t tell anyone about you, but your product or service becomes their go-to holiday or birthday gift they buy everyone they know.
There will definitely be circumstances where your efforts are never met directly with any response, or return. You might never know if future business or growth is tied to something a specific person said or did after you engaged with them… but if all that you accomplish is making someone’s day suck less, I view that as a win.
Besides, if you are really a stickler for having tangible results to document and report on you can record and archive those direct interactions. Change the names to Margaret and Joe or use other means of anonymization. Publish a narrative of your brand reaching out and dishing unsolicited value and positivity to someone… who doesn’t respond.
You can write copy that says “We valued this customer so much, we sent 40 roses to their house”, and follow it up with a CTA asking viewers “If you know someone that just received a bunch of flowers from us, let them know we just wanted to say thanks!”.
People love lotteries. Despite the odds, the game of chance is viscerally attractive to us. The best part is reaching out to your community directly places something even more sought after than money-- attention.
Word of Mouth Marketing Strategy
A specific plan of action, or implementation strategy to build your brand’s word of mouth can really only be designed by someone intimate with your business or organization. Make it yourself, talk to your team to brainstorm it, or hire someone to help do that for you.
Just ensure the action feels right, it’s transparent/honest, and involves you going out of your way to provide some additional value to customers with no strings attached.
Actual human to human interaction is what builds brand loyalty. Obviously that’s hard to scale because of time and labor… but do what you can, when you can. Create goals to reach, as if it were any other metric or project that needed to be accomplished throughout the work day, week, or month.