Whom do we really trust? People we know. And when people we know recommend a product or service, we tend to listen to them. That’s the power of word-of-mouth marketing.

It’s amazing how persuasive this seemingly casual marketing technique can be. According to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (which, admittedly, has a point of view to push), Americans mention particular brands some 3.3 billion times a day. The typical American mentions specific products some 60 times each week. And 59 percent of Americans believe recommendations from friends or acquaintances are highly credible.

These are powerful numbers. But how can you take advantage of word of mouth to grow your business?

As a public relations and marketing firm in Washington, D.C. and Seattle, we regularly help clients control word-of-mouth marketing and take advantage of its ability to persuade. Here’s how:

Identify your enthusiasts. Not everyone is going to become a product evangelizer, so businesses need to work at identifying those willing to assume that role. Talk to customers and find those that are enthusiastic about your product and may be willing to speak up on your behalf. Then equip them with the right tools, such as marketing collateral or slide decks,  and boldly ask them to speak at trade shows, conventions, or local customer meetings. You’ll be surprised how many people will offer to help.

Motivate evangelists to talk. People who voluntarily evangelize for a product typically do so to gain recognition or visibility, or to help friends. But they rarely do it for money or other remuneration. Avoid the trap of “buying” loyalty. To motivate people, instead follow these steps:

  • Identify associations, user groups, or other communities of people who are familiar with your product or service.
  • Devise ways to communicate with those people.  Social media immediately comes to mind, but don’t forget online forums, blogs, and targeted events.
  • Give people a reason to talk positively, either through quality products or superior customer service.
  • Don’t be afraid to turn a negative into a positive. A bad customer experience can be an opportunity to showcase excellent customer service, reinforce brand value and win back support.

Give evangelists a role in your business. Successful word-of-mouth campaigns share one other key quality: They cede control to a company’s self-appointed evangelizers. That can be difficult for some companies. But it’s an essential step. Create a blueprint for how a word-of-mouth campaign should develop, and know when to let go. So perhaps give your evangelists free rein as to the groups the meet with, and what they say.

Ready to try word of mouth? Give us a call – we’ll help you get out the good word.