Word of mouth is a great sales strategy for those who don’t have the resources to spend on advertising. It is readily received by consumers, costs nothing and yet boosts ROI. It’s no wonder then that many start-ups rely on word-of-mouth referrals to bring in the business deals.
Yet getting that glowing recommendation from customers can sometimes be as hard as reaching for the moon. If it were easily achieved, everyone walking down the street would be a happy customer.
Clearly, word-of-mouth marketing requires some savvy. In order to effectively use it to drive sales, here are three things to take note of.
1. Consumers don’t talk about you unless you deliver above expectations.
Most of us would assume that good customer service is all it takes to get the customer to recommend you to his or her social circle. However, providing satisfactory service is not enough.
Customers rarely voice their feedback when they have received what they expected. What drives word-of-mouth is either delight at exceptional customer service, or displeasure at an upsetting customer experience.
Turns out there’s psychological basis in this. Emotions prompt people to tell someone about their experience, and this makes sense. A customer offering feedback voluntarily is always emphatic, be it agitated or thrilled. That emotion is what’s driving them to make the effort to share.
Takeaway: Go the extra mile in service.
2. Complaints reduce the effectiveness of your ads.
The flip side of word of mouth is that customers can share bad reviews of your company too. In fact, the individual consumer is spurred to tell more people about his unsatisfactory experiences than good ones.
These bad reviews can even blunt the receptivity of your target audience to the advertisements you paid big money for. This is something that businesses are seldom aware of. Consumers would more readily trust the bad review given by a friend or family member than a marketing effort. Given that the modern day consumer is already saturated from marketing messages, a negative referral delivers a punch to your brand name in the consumer’s eyes.
Many big corporations would rather spend on advertisements if they can afford to because it’s easier to target a mass audience. However, neglecting the impact of customer referrals is in essence shooting yourself in the foot.
It might even backfire when consumers start wondering why you would rather channel that money into ads than to fix your product or service.
Takeaway: Focus on pleasing your customers rather than promoting your brand.
3. Word of mouth is more powerful if it addresses the key buying factors.
Management consulting firm McKinsey found that customers are influenced more by word-of-mouth messages that focus on the functional features of the product or service. That means that companies should find out what is the specific feature consumers prioritise, and make sure they excel in that area.
For example, design is the key buying factor for smartphones. For skincare, it’s packaging and ingredients.
We tend to assume that we know what the customer likes about our product, but sometimes it’s not easy to pin down.
Even a giant like Coca Cola may not always get it right. When they introduced New Coke in 1985, it opened their eyes to what their customers truly liked about their beverage. And it was not the flavour. Instead, it was the long-binding emotional attachment people had to the traditional coke, and its replacement therefore was not well-received.
Takeaway: Know your customers’ needs.
Did you notice that all the points boil down to one thing? That’s right, it’s all about the customer.
To get customers to recommend you, you need to understand what they expect from you and deliver. Customers will only do the talking for you when you walk the walk.
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