How to Use Word of Mouth Marketing to Grow Your Business
If you know me, you know that I place great value on ethical marketing and building trust. As a consumer, it can be hard to sift through the noise you are bombarded by each day. But one form of marketing consistently cuts through that noise and stands out – word of mouth marketing.
I am going to share how you can get more customers without spending a lot of money on marketing by leveraging word of mouth marketing.
Word of mouth is perhaps the most effective and cost-effective way to grow any company. Yet we often take it for granted, like free coffee refills or another U2 album.
~ Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin, Talk Triggers
Before I begin, I want to put any fears to rest that this word of mouth marketing only applies to B2C (business to consumer) businesses. Word of mouth marketing is actually incredibly important in the B2B (business to business) world also:
Word of mouth isn’t applicable only to consumer spending either. In fact, a study conducted by Blanc & Otus and G2Crowd discovered that the impact of recommendations and referrals in business‑to‑business (B2B) scenarios is actually far greater, due to the considered nature of most purchases, the high average prices, and the limited number of total customers.
~ Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin
Chatter Matters – Create a Word of Mouth Strategy
So now that we have established that word of mouth marketing works for every type of business, let’s talk about the three biggest reasons as to why your business needs to incorporate word of mouth marketing:
- It is the most personalized form of marketing because the person doing the recommending personalizes the recommendation to fit the needs and context of the person they are recommending to.
- It saves the person being recommended some or all of the time required to research possible solutions.
- It is based on trust. People today trust businesses far less than they ever have before and this is particularly true when it comes to adverting and marketing. In contrast, recommendations from other consumers have far more value today, whether they know the person providing the recommendation or not, because they provide an independent opinion that is not based on financial interest.
According to research from Nielsen, 83% of Americans trust recommendations from friends and family and 60% trust online reviews. This is compared to the less than 50% of survey respondents who said they trust companies from 16 of the 28 countries surveyed.
What does this mean for you and your business?
Regardless of your business (including its size, industry and past performance), less than half of your customers (and community) believe you and any messaging you share with them.
You need to inspire your customers to “…tell authentic, visceral, trusted stories about the business and its products or services; stories that create new customers through referrals and recommendations.”
And while all businesses might “care” about word of mouth, less than 1% have a plan for achieving it.
That is why you need to create Talk Triggers.
What is a Talk Trigger?
Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin define a Talk Trigger as a built‑in differentiator that creates customer conversations.
Now you might be thinking, “…but my company offers many different features or USPs (unique selling propositions).”
But a USP is NOT a talk trigger. Jay and Daniel have a great explanation to clarify the difference:
A USP is a feature, articulated with a bullet point, that is discussed in a conference room. A talk trigger is a benefit, articulated with a story, that is discussed at a cocktail party. A USP is important, but the problem is that almost every one of them has plenty of SP, and very little U. Sure, “quality food” or “good service” are selling propositions. But they aren’t unique, and that atrophies word of mouth.
Simply put, an operational strength that doesn’t encourage conversation may grow repeat business from the original customer, but it does not create new customers at little to no cost.
This is an important difference.
The best way to create sustainable conversation among your customers is to have a selling proposition that is actually unique. This is because same is lame. We are physiologically conditioned to discuss what is different and to ignore what is average. Unique and different is the key to creating a talk trigger that actually works and propels the story about your business from one customer to thousands of potential customers.
So just how often will your customers actually notice talk triggers and then share those differentiators in person with people they know or online on their social media platforms?
That depends on the quality of your talk trigger.
Most businesses don’t optimally benefit from word of mouth simply because they give their customers inadequate reason for conversation. In short, the story isn’t good enough. Keep in mind that if your product isn’t talkable, then cost will become the sole basis of comparison.
Quite simply, a detailed story—the most compelling and dynamic talk trigger—can set your business apart in ways that incremental upgrades to customer service or price reductions cannot.
Unfortunately, on the other hand, improved customer experience is not a competitive advantage. If everyone has good food, what’s your edge? If everyone has good service, is yours so much better that it’s a deciding factor for potential customers?
This doesn’t mean that your customers can’t or shouldn’t be both satisfied and unexpectedly delighted.
It’s not about having good customer experience OR a talk trigger. You should always work to build a good customer experience first, so you aren’t losing frustrated customers. But if you already have an excellent customer experience, focus your energies on creating a talk trigger that stimulates conversation.
And contrary to popular belief, letting word of mouth happen in random and unexpected ways is not a sustainable business practice. You need to engage in word of mouth marketing with intention – by having a plan and a purpose.
This is the difference between word of mouth and word‑of‑mouth marketing.
“Word of mouth is just talking. Word of mouth marketing is the organizing of that talk and driving it in a particular way. It’s doing something intentional.”
But not every differentiator will work as a talk trigger.
How to Create Talk Triggers for Your Business
Thankfully Jay and Daniel have developed Talk Triggers: The Complete Guide to Creating Customers with Word of Mouth, a framework for how to create word of mouth in any business.
In their new book, they literally turn word of mouth marketing into a science.
This book not only explains in easy to understand language why word of mouth is so vital to your business’s success, but it also shares an easy to follow, step-by-step-approach to using this strategy in your own business.
To make it easy for your business to be successful at creating talk triggers, their book covers:
- each of the four criterion that needs to be present for an operational differentiator to function as a consistent conversation catalyst
- the five different types of talk triggers that can be developed and optimized to turn customers into volunteer marketers
- a comprehensive six-step process for identifying, analyzing, testing, measuring, and operationalizing talk triggers in any organization.
As well as their impressive step-by-step strategy, you will also find numerous examples of how companies are creating and using talk triggers successfully. With all the different examples provided, it’s hard not to find inspirational ideas for your own.
I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of Talk Triggers from Jay Baer and I can confidently say that if you are interested in capitalizing on the very powerful as well as very affordable marketing strategy that is word of mouth marketing, I would recommend you get your copy of Talk Triggers.