Word of mouth referrals come with built in levels of trust that ensure higher conversion rates and better returns, making it a great 'low hanging fruit' marketing hack.
Far too little attention is given to good old fashioned word of mouth.
Most companies focus on sexy marketing strategies like paid advertising (PPC), social media likes, tweets & follows, and organic search traffic from Google.
I thought I would contrast the huge differences between traffic to my own businesses and compare and review the benefits that I have noticed arising from people making natural recommendations to their friends, families and colleagues.
Turn any interaction with customers into an opportunity to gain word of mouth. Turn complaints into praise. Strike while the iron is hot. Actively ask happy customers to tell friends & family or leave great reviews.
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So, if you are working hard to build up a client/customer base using a wide range of online marketing strategies, take a quick time-out and check out what your business may be missing out on.
What is word-of-mouth?
I think it's worth quickly defining what I mean by word of mouth when it comes to growing a business online.
Word of mouth marketing relies on the natural tendency of people to talk about their experiences with a business and promote it organically in the process.
In other words, you have not solicited a review - there is no incentive offered to them from you. Word-of-mouth is, more often than not, a passive form of marketing.
It doesn't matter what medium it takes place on either. It could be over Facebook among friends, it could be at a convention down town, or in a forum, or at a church bake sale.
What are the benefits?
Ok, aside from the obvious fact that having people talking about company is good news, there are some pretty subtle advantages that you may not expect.
Conversion rates from word of mouth traffic are significantly better compared with other channels.
- Understanding: People who have been recommended to your site, generally have a good idea of what they are doing there. They understand what they are going to get because someone has already explained it to them.
By contrast, people who drop in from other traffic streams might still need a complete explanation of what you offer, and this takes effort, which in Internet speak translates to "lower conversion rate".
- Trust: If someone you know well trusts and recommends something to you, it is far more likely that the level of trust you have in that product or service is higher than an average person.
Trust is also a commodity that is in short supply in the online world.
- Proof: If someone you know had a good experience with a previously unknown company, it is a good indicator that you will too. In other words, new customers completely bypass the usual suspicion and skepticism that goes with trying something new online.
- Positive approach: Many people who arrive expecting great service tend to be very positive in their outlook. For example, if they have a problem, they won't hesitate to drop you a line and ask (because they know that your support will handle their query efficiently - because their friend told them).
By contrast new customers are often hesitant to engage with complete strangers.
I guess the quickest way to sum up the benefits is by saying that:
New word of mouth customers convert readily because they come ready-made with trust and confidence in your business.
People arriving from advertising , organic search traffic, and other online marketing channels still need to be convinced. They are a step or two up the sales funnel.
How to get more word-of-mouth traffic
It is really difficult to get people talking about your site/service in a meaningful way - especially when your business is small and online.
Here are the areas you can focus on:
- Customer service
- Special offers & deals
- Loyalty offers
I guess the magic ingredient is really contained within a combination of factors that boil down to your approach to people in general. Whatever combination of strategies works for you, there should be one overriding goal,
Transform your word-of-mouth marketing from passive to driven by using a range of strategies designed to encourage customers to talk about your amazing company.
Here are a few examples to consider:
- Offer refunds to customers for virtually anything because if they didn't get the service they were after, you don't want to take their money. Go after loyal customers who are going to stick with you - people who drift in and out have a significantly lower lifetime value to your business.
- Ensure queries are dealt with efficiently and professionally.
- Be proactive about support. Complaints are a gold mine waiting to happen because people using your products and services often have great insight into how you can improve.
- Take note of complaints. Acknowledge there is room to improve (if there is). Show how you are going to deal with those problems and follow up once they're resolved.
Work hard to reach a positive outcome. Happy customers are often more than willing to share their great experiences. Don't be shy about asking them to do exactly that.