Marketing

Five word-of-mouth marketing strategies to boost your business

Fi Bendall /

People trust what their friends and family tell them about businesses and brands, which is what makes word-of-mouth marketing so powerful. Here are five strategies to help you create the kind of word-of-mouth marketing that will help your business grow.

Give them great content

Camera company GoPro is a great example of a business that has realised the power of content in shaping consumer perception. Not content (excuse the pun), with just making excellent action camera products, GoPro also makes sure its visual content gives its users plenty of inspiration to use their products in all sorts of wonderful ways. “They don’t just sell a video camera, they sell the memory of the wave or the ski trip down the slope,” Ben Arnold, a consumer technology industry analyst at The NPD Group, told Wired.

In the age of social media, and especially on platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat, content is the conduit for people to share their thoughts and feelings. They share these thought, feelings and experiences most often with friends and family. As a business, it’s increasingly important for you to facilitate the means for people to share content that puts your products and services in the best light possible. You can do this by creating highly shareable content, or another way is by giving people the chance to create their own content that showcases what you do. Alternatively, do both if you have the resources available.

Deal with mistakes honestly, promptly and with grace

One of my biggest bugbears is corporate speak and the way some businesses hide behind it to mask their deficiencies and mistakes. If you’ve screwed up, own up to it and fix it. Not dealing with customer complaints is like letting a scratch fester and become an infected sore; deal with it early, clean it up, and move on. The longer you allow people to stew in their discontent, the more likely it becomes they will vent their spleen with friends, family and the broader world on social media. Word-of-mouth marketing is a double-edged sword that cuts both ways.

A few years ago, Air Asia chief Tony Fernandes provided a command performance in how to deal with a PR crisis when stepped up as the spokesperson for his beleaguered airline after the tragic crash of Air Asia flight QZ8501, resulting in the deaths of 162 people. This was more than just a simple customer complaint, and hopefully, your business will never have to deal with anything of this magnitude. Fernandes was compassionate but in control. As one assessment put it: “He was the man with the facts.” Treat your customers with respect and they will do the same.

Know what they want before they know it themselves

Whether you achieve it by instinct or algorithm, customers love it when you seem to know exactly what they want — even before they know it themselves. Netflix, YouTube and Amazon do this well with the use of algorithms, but even without the aid of an algorithm, your business can deliver what customers want ahead of time.

In many cases, an algorithm is a tool engineered to replicate the workings of the human brain. The algorithms that suggest or recommend particular choices for us as consumers are in many ways doing the job that very switched on sales reps and business owners still do. When you know your customer well and you know the industry you work in, it’s highly probable you will be able to anticipate what your customers will be interested in and what they may want to buy.

We’ve all had that experience of talking to a sales rep who had a knack for picking out the exact thing you didn’t even know you needed! One of the great strengths of a small business is the ability to develop the kind of relationship with customers where your opinion counts for a lot. That connection gives consumers a sense of being heard and understood, of being respected and treated well. It’s something that leads people to recommend a business to their friends and family.

Do it differently

Steve Jobs built Apple on the back of doing things differently. This was the idea at the very core of Apple’s unique selling proposition — we will design products that are easy to use for non-computer people and look beautiful as well. The success of Apple products (the Mac computer, iPod, iPad, and of course the iPhone) paved the way for the cult-like status the company has achieved. People who used the products were quick to recommend them to others.

You don’t have to be Apple to do things differently though. Look at the products and services you provide and think carefully about what differentiates what you do from your competitors. Are you just another vendor, just another lookalike? Or are you giving customers something they can’t get anywhere else? Have you found that unique spin that only you can provide, which makes your offering stand out from all the rest?

It’s this element of the unique that gets consumers excited and inspires them to advocate and recommend you to others. If you’re an ice cream vendor, it might be that you use only specific ingredients sourced from select suppliers, or you create genuinely original flavours other ice cream shops don’t stock.

Focus on true believers

The quickest way to spread the good word on your business is by letting your fans do it for you. Treat your most ardent and loyal customers well, and they will return your love in spades. Identify and recognise the customers who make repeat purchases or who use your services on a regular basis. Find out what it is they love about your business and sharpen that offering to make it even better.

When people see you care about their experience and that you are continually working to improve, rather than resting on your laurels and taking their money, they are far more likely to recommend you to their friends. Take feedback seriously, especially from your best customers, and don’t be afraid to create something like a customer advisory board, which is one way of staying in touch and procuring helpful insights for improving your business.

NOW READ: Let word-of-mouth ignite your marketing fire

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Fi Bendall

Fi Bendall is chief executive of The Female Social Network and a Westpac/AFR 2015 100 Women of Influence, who was described by CEO Magazine as 'The CEO's Secret Weapon'. An expert and pioneer in digital strategy, she has over 23 years’ experience in the digital and tech sectors.

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