Word-Of-Mouth Marketing: 7 Rules For Creating Conversation

Data show that 50% of consumer purchases are influenced by word-of-mouth, and 91% of all business-to-business sales are. Yet it’s rare for companies to have a word-of-mouth marketing strategy.

That’s according to Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin, the authors of “Talk Triggers: The Complete Guide to Creating Customers With Word of Mouth.”

Baer is the founder of five multimillion dollar companies; Lemin is a former communications leader at Google (GOOGL).

“We just assume that our customers will talk about us,” Baer said. “But will they? And what will they say?”

Tips on getting a productive word-of-mouth marketing campaign started:

Seed conversations. Creating word of mouth isn’t something you say differently in a marketing campaign, it’s something you do differently operationally, Baer and Lemin emphasize.

Hilton‘s (HLT) DoubleTree Hotels have been giving away a freshly-made in-house warm, chocolate chip cookie to every guest at check-in for nearly 30 years. Each day, they distribute some 75,000 cookies.

In the authors’ national study of DoubleTree customers, they found that 34% of them have specifically told someone else about the cookies. That’s about 25,500 customer conversations each day about that differentiator.

Same is lame. People discuss things that are different, and ignore things that are average, Baer says.

“Competency doesn’t create conversations,” he added, “and the more you try to fit in, the more your customers tune out.”

To get customers to tell your story, give them something unexpected or remarkable, Baer and Lemin say. For example, the authors’ national study of customers of The Cheesecake Factory (CAKE) found that 38% of them have mentioned its huge and varied menu to someone else in the past 30 days.

Be relevant. If all you care about in word-of-mouth marketing is attention, “just rent an elephant and walk down Main Street,” Lemin said.

That will create conversations, “but probably about the elephant, not your business,” he added.

Reach people emotionally. Brains cause pain, says Ken Schmidt, author of “Make Some Noise: The Unconventional Road to Dominance.” Schmidt, the former director of communications for Harley-Davidson Motor (HOG), says humans aren’t brain-driven. “We’re an emotional species that follows our gut and instincts.” If a potential customer has to process data or do math “to determine whether he or she should buy from you, you’ve likely already lost.”

Don’t “give people terminology they don’t understand, then put a meaningless data point in front of it!” Schmidt said.

Remember and repeat. Those are the two most important words in competing to dominate, Schmidt says.

When looking at the word-of-mouth marketing of your business, “it’s the primary role of business leadership and management to determine what specifically do you want consumers to remember about you and tell others,” he added.

Know what’s important. Customers today don’t ask businesses if they have great quality, or are focused on excellence, or care about customers, Schmidt says. “This stuff’s the lowest tier of customer expectations.”

Companies that generate word-of-mouth marketing do so by meeting the unmet human needs of their customers in ways they don’t expect and that converts them into loyal, vocal advocates, Schmidt says. These companies “dominate those that simply meet expectations.”

Stand out. When you describe and promote your business and the products and services you sell using the same language as your competitors, Schmidt said, “you’re sending the market clear messages that say ‘we’re the same as everybody else.’ It’s a guaranteed way to ensure they won’t remember you.”

At your next trade show, he says, don’t let employees use predictable, demand-killing language like “Can I help you?” Instead, watch what happens when they greet prospects with, “Hey! Wanna see something cool?”

“There’s no product or service you can sell me that I can’t get from someone else for less money,” he said. “So stop pushing what you sell or do and instead focus your go-to-market energy on meeting customers’ and prospects’ basic human needs for validation, ego boosts and delight.”

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