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How to Build a Killer Word-of-Mouth Marketing Strategy that Skyrockets Brand Awareness

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Hey there!

Looking to get more people talking about your business? You‘ve come to the right place.

Word-of-mouth marketing can be an insanely powerful way to spread brand awareness – but only if you know how to get conversations started.

In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll walk you through everything you need to build a word-of-mouth strategy that gets real results.

I‘ve boiled it down to a simple 6-step framework anyone can follow. I‘ll also share hard data, real-world examples, and tips to optimize your approach.

So whether you‘re starting from scratch or looking to improve your existing efforts, you‘ll have all the tools to make your brand impossible to ignore.

Let‘s dive in!

Why Word-of-Mouth Marketing Matters

Before we start strategizing, it helps to understand why word-of-mouth is so crucial for brand growth.

Here are 3 compelling reasons to make it a priority:

1. People trust people more than brands.

Numerous studies reveal most consumers place far more weight on personal recommendations than brand messages.

In fact, Nielsen reports 92% of people trust word-of-mouth referrals from friends and family above all other forms of marketing.

Compare that to how people feel about branded ads – only 33% of people say they trust them.

This makes intuitive sense. If your best friend raves about an amazing new restaurant, you‘ll probably give it serious consideration. But a random TV ad will likely get tuned out.

The takeaway is clear: what we hear from real people carries much more sway than what brands broadcast directly.

2. WOM drives sales more than other media.

Because of its high trust and influence, word-of-mouth also directly impacts sales.

According to McKinsey research, WOM marketing generates more than 2x the sales of paid advertising.

A famous example is Pampers‘ adoption of the "dry max" technology back in 2010. Though only 10% of customers actively talked about it, those referrals accounted for a staggering 90% of new sales growth.

The ability of WOM to drive such outsized results relative to investment is why 66% of marketers say it‘s their most effective marketing channel.

3. It reaches audiences you can‘t buy access to.

Paid ads are limited to the eyeballs you can afford to reach. You‘re confined to the people your budget allows you to target.

But WORD-OF-MOUTH knows no such bounds. It can expand your reach exponentially as each person shares with their own networks.

Just imagine the difference: You spend $1,000 on Facebook ads that reach 1,000 people. Or you can get 1 influencer with 10,000 engaged followers to share your content for free.

The takeaway is that organic WOM can expose your brand to a much wider audience than you could ever buy access to. It‘s made up of real people sincerely sharing their preferences – and that‘s powerful.

In summary, word-of-mouth marketing matters because:

  • It‘s more credible and influential than branded messaging
  • It increases sales response and drives growth
  • It can reach vast audiences and new networks

Now that we‘ve covered why it‘s so important, let‘s explore how to actually make WOM work for your business.

6 Types of Word-of-Mouth Marketing

There are a variety of proven tactics brands use to spark organic discussion about their products and services.

Here are 6 of the most common and effective:

1. Buzz Marketing

Buzz marketing aims to get people talking by creating entertaining, surprising experiences that people want to share.

The goal is to provide "WOM fuel" by giving people exciting experiences worth evangelizing to their friends.

Popular examples include staged publicity stunts, contests, games, pop-up events, and participatory activities that get people engaged.

For example, back in 2009, Gummi Bear brand Trolli staged an attention-grabbing stunt in New York‘s Times Square. They had an 8-foot long floating gummi worm emerge from a manhole cover.

This unexpected surprise sparked buzz and chatter amongst bystanders, who ended up sharing photos and videos widely across social media. That organic WOM brought mass awareness to the Trolli brand in a fun and memorable way.

2. Viral Content

Viral content aims to create WOM by producing highly engaging, relevant social media posts, videos, images or campaigns.

By making content tailored to resonate with their audience, brands can sometimes create media that spreads rapidly online.

For example, graphic design marketplace Design Pickle created a hilarious series of funny videos targeting their niche customer base.

The funny, entertaining content struck a chord in the designer community, gaining millions of organic views, likes and shares. The viral engagement dramatically boosted brand awareness.

3. Influencer Engagement

Identifying and partnering with relevant influencers provides a WOM amplifier. Their established audience offers a readymade word-of-mouth network.

Collaborating on giveaways, co-created content or endorsements allows brands to tap into these networks. The key is finding influencers whose audience aligns closely with your target customer profile.

For example, an electronics brand might partner with tech YouTubers to feature their newest gadget. A food brand could collaborate with Instagram chefs to showcase recipes with their products.

Influencers act as brand megaphones, spreading awareness to their followers. Studies show it takes an average of 8 recommendations before someone buys from an unfamiliar brand – influencers fast track this process.

4. Referral Programs

Referral programs encourage existing customers to spread the word among their own networks in exchange for incentives.

The rewards give customers more motivation to proactively share and recommend your brand via word-of-mouth.

For example, Dropbox gained millions of users by offering 500MB of free storage space for both referrers and referees.

The incentive sparked a viral loop of sharing and supercharged growth. Dropbox credits much of their success to this simple tactic.

5. User-Generated Content

User-generated content (UGC) provides great social proof as real customers showcase their brand experiences. This authentic peer content often performs better than brand-created ads in driving awareness, engagement and sales.

Brands can encourage UGC by running contests around reviews, creative content and hashtags. Showcasing great examples across owned channels spreads the WOM further.

For example, Forever21‘s #F21xME Instagram campaign asked followers to share photos of themselves wearing the brand‘s clothes for a chance to be featured.

The flood of stylish customer photos organically boosted brand awareness and expanded their reach.

6. Community Building

Online and offline brand communities allow enthusiastic customers to closely interact with your company and each other. These tight-knit groups foster greater sharing and advocacy.

For example, the Peloton fitness bike has spawned hundreds of highly engaged user communities. These "Tribes" coordinate group rides, in-person meet-ups and more.

By satisfying users‘ needs for social connections, communities strengthen brand loyalty and word-of-mouth promotion.

Now that you know the most common WOM marketing tactics, let‘s look at why building a strategy needs to be a priority for your brand.

4 Reasons You Need a WOM Strategy

Here are some of the key benefits that make having a WOM marketing strategy so valuable:

1. Increased Brand Trust

Studies show that 83% of customers need to hear company claims validated by an independent source before they trust the brand enough to buy.

Customer testimonials, reviews and recommendations offer that vital third-party validation for potential new buyers still on the fence.

First-hand positive experiences from real people provide the social proof people seek before committing. So facilitating and highlighting honest WOM builds credibility and trust.

2. Higher Conversions

We already discussed how Nielsen found 92% of people place more weight on friend referrals vs brand claims. So positive WOM directly translates into higher conversions.

Even reviews from strangers carry more weight than what a brand says about itself. So tapping into networks of potential advocates expands your sales reach.

3. Enhanced Organic Reach

WOM activities like UGC, mentions and engagement boost domain authority with search engines like Google.

Higher authority leads to better rankings and more organic traffic. So not only does WOM widen your direct referral reach, it also amplifies your SEO efforts.

4. Lower Customer Acquisition Costs

According to Epsilon research, referred customers have a 16% higher lifetime value over those acquired through normal advertising.

Most importantly, referral conversions happen at an extremely low incremental cost. Brands invest upfront to create WOM incentives and sparks. But the actual referrals are free, only costing a small reward.

This makes word-of-mouth one of the most efficient sources of profitable new customers at scale.

In summary, a WOM strategy is critical for:

  • Driving brand trust and credibility
  • Boosting conversions and sales
  • Expanding organic reach and traffic
  • Reducing customer acquisition costs

Now that you know why it‘s so valuable, let‘s get into the step-by-step process for how to build an effective strategy.

How to Strategically Build a WOM Marketing Strategy in 6 Steps

The keys to WOM success are understanding your audience, activating relevant conversations and optimizing the ripple effects over time.

Follow these six steps as a framework for creating your own high-impact word-of-mouth program:

Step 1: Set Measurable Goals

Like any marketing initiative, the first step is to define your specific WOM goals and metrics for success. As the old saying goes, "what gets measured gets managed."

Consider goals like:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Drive X number of sales referrals
  • Boost social media engagement by X%
  • Get X new customer reviews
  • Achieve X mentions per month

Whatever your objectives, identify concrete metrics you can track over time to gauge performance. Digital platforms make this easier than ever to quantify.

Step 2: Understand Your Audience

Gaining deep audience insights is key to sparking relevant conversations. Ask yourself:

  • Who are our ideal buyers and what motivates them?
  • Where and how do they engage online?
  • What platforms and influencers matter most to them?
  • How does word-of-mouth already spread in our industry?

These learnings allow you to craft tailored experiences that align with audience interests and channels. You can also identify existing WOM networks to tap into.

Step 3: Identify Brand Advocates

The most powerful WOM often comes from influencers with established followings. Seek out individuals who already know and love your brand and wield influence in your space.

Great targets include:

  • Bloggers and industry experts
  • Authors and journalists
  • Social media personalities and leaders
  • Loyal/VIP customers

Consider collaborating directly with advocates through content, perks or your ambassador program. Their built-in audience provides readymade WOM fuel.

Step 4: Create Sharable Campaigns and Experiences

This step involves brainstorming tangible activities and campaigns to generate buzz.

Get creative in providing value that motivates people to talk. For example:

  • Partner with influencers on giveaways or original content
  • Host pop-up events with fun experiences worth sharing
  • Run UGC contests around hashtags and reviews
  • Release cool, helpful videos and content
  • Send increasing referral rewards

Ideally combine multiple tactics together to increase participation and visibility.

Step 5: Make Sharing Effortless

The easier you make it for people to spread the word, the further it will travel.

Directly embed social sharing buttons, reviews, and referral options across your website, product pages, and post-purchase touchpoints.

Feature UGC prominently. Highlight stellar reviews. Have a clear branded hashtag. Remove any friction from advocating for your brand.

Step 6: Monitor and Amplify

Closely track campaign metrics andlisten for organic brand mentions. Pay attention to what resonates then double down on it.

Thank advocates for their support. Repurpose and share UGC on your own channels. Turn up the volume on what‘s working through additional promotion.

Keep optimizing your activities over time as you learn more about your audience. WOM marketing is never "set it and forget it."

Real-World Examples of Effective WOM Campaigns

Now let‘s check out some stellar examples of successful WOM marketing campaigns from leading brands:

Example 1 – Dropbox Rewards Referrals

When Dropbox launched, user acquisition was a major hurdle. People had to experience the platform‘s value firsthand before committing.

Their brilliant referral program overcame this by rewarding both referrers and referees with extra free storage space for signing up.

This incentive created a viral loop of sharing. Dropbox credits this program for driving millions of users through organic word-of-mouth.

Example 2 – Dove Features Real Women

Dove‘s Real Beauty campaign dramatically shifted brand perception by using real women of all body types in their ads.

By tackling the long-ignored issue of female self-esteem and distorted beauty standards, Dove created a cultural movement.

This authenticity struck an emotional chord across the world. The resulting word-of-mouth buzz generated over $1.5 billion in earned media value.

Example 3 – Red Bull Becomes Media Company

Red Bull radically expanded organic reach by transforming into a media publisher. It creates endless extreme sports content tailored to its young, adventurous audience.

From daring stunts to athlete profiles, Red Bull‘s media provides a steady stream of buzzworthy, sharable content. This cements its brand image as extreme and adventurous.

Views of its YouTube channel now exceed 9.7 billion – and it‘s still growing. That‘s the power of great content marketing.

Example 4 – Movember‘s Mustache Campaign

Movember demonstrates how turning customers into walking billboards can create massive WOM.

They encourage men to grow mustaches during November to raise funds and awareness for men‘s health programs.

The mustaches provide a fun, visible cue that demands conversation. This sparks viral social buzz and exponential promotion.

Over 6 million people now participate annually, helping expand Movember‘s reach and positive impact.

7 Tips to Improve Your WOM Marketing Strategy

Here are some proven ways to get more bang for your buck with WOM:

1. Use multi-channel marketing – Layer in different tactics across platforms for maximum visibility. Don‘t silo efforts.

2. Reward and recognize top advocates – Identify evangelists providing exceptional value and shower them with perks and appreciation.

3. Repurpose evergreen content – Refresh older content with new headlines, images and testimonials to recirculate.

4. Respond and engage on social media – Reply to mentions and participate in relevant trending topics. Don‘t just broadcast.

5. Feature credible 3rd party validation – Prominently showcase customer reviews, media mentions and expert endorsements that reinforce credibility.

6. Make measurement transparent – Report back to team members and advocates on the tangible impact of their WOM efforts.

7. Promote branded hashtags – Incorporate consistent hashtags into all activities and encourage customers to use them.

The more creative you get with your campaigns, the more buzz you‘ll generate. Always be testing and optimizing.

Wrap Up

Hopefully you now have a solid blueprint for strategically building your own high-impact word-of-mouth marketing machine!

The key takeaways are:

  • WOM provides unmatched trust and influence due to the sincerity of customer advocates
  • A multi-pronged strategy can organically expand reach faster than you ever could with paid media alone
  • Incentivizing and activating brand evangelists is crucial for sparking conversations
  • Monitoring, optimizing and amplifying WOM signals is key to maximizing the return

By putting these principles into practice, you can earn the type of brand affinity and exposure that simply can‘t be bought. And that‘s an invaluable competitive advantage.

So get clear on your audience, bring creativity to your campaigns, and leverage the influencers who already love your brand. Establish simple ways to track and promote customer content and referrals.

If you make WOM a priority, you‘ll be shocked at how rapidly awareness and engagement can grow. But it does take strategy and commitment.

You need to keep providing value that educates, entertains and delights people enough that they feel compelled to share your brand story. Do this consistently, and you‘ll build an army of advocates that becomes self-sustaining.

But I don‘t need to tell you all this – you‘ve got it from here! Let me know if you have any other questions. I‘m excited to see what you come up with.

Go get ‘em!

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