You’re much more likely to buy a product or a service that you hear about from a trusted source such as a friend. Your friend has no reason to lie. When a product or service is offered to a customer it’s only natural for someone to consider the source before taking the plunge. The more positive experiences that a customer hears from their peers the more likely they are going to be swayed toward a similar course of action. Face it. There’s no sales pitch that’s so great that it hasn’t been heard before in some form or another. After all we live in the information age. People are inundated by messages coming from every direction. Audiences have gotten a lot smarter and a whole lot less trusting of messages that come directly from the marketer. Word of Mouth Marketing is an umbrella term for a number of marketing approaches such as buzz, viral marketing, influencer marketing, blogging, loyalty programs, and leveraging social media. They all rely on word of mouth to some extent and they take advantage of existing networks to facilitate exponential growth.
Networks begin when people form connections with others. The strength of a network is based on both the reputation of the members in the network and the sphere of their influence. For word of mouth marketing to work in an organization’s favor they must earn respect through instituting transparent policies that eschew anything that can be perceived as deceptive or manipulative. Word of mouth can work both ways. It can be positive or negative. Transparency is important because it establishes trust by showing your customers that you have nothing to hide. If you are perceived as being deceptive or manipulative then you will not be brought into any network with any considerable amount of influence because the mere inclusion of you lessens the value of that network. Permission based Email Marketing is an ideal way of generating good word of mouth because you begin with a network in the form of a list of opted-in subscribers. The key words here are permission based. They are already receptive to your message or else they would not have opted in to your list.
Word of mouth marketing in emails often relies on viral components such as forward to a friend links at the end of a message. While viral marketing may sound scary its actually a good thing. In marketing its any strategy that encourages people to pass along a marketing message to others in their network. The term viral is unfortunate because people often associate that word with computer viruses. Computer viruses are bad. Viral Marketing is good. A message goes viral when it creates exponential potential for exposure by taking advantage of your subscriber’s existing networks. Like a virus… For a message to go viral however it is not enough to simply add a forward to a friend link to the bottom of the message. The message must be worthy of being forwarded. Think about subjects or material to use in your mailings that are likely to get people to want to forward your material to their friends. Also think about what is likely to get people to talk. The great thing about forward to a friend is that it is trackable. You could include a forward to a friend link through your email marketing software and then use A/B split testing to test multiple campaigns to see which one generates more word of mouth.
Keeping risk factors low is essential for positive word of mouth. This includes offering incentives such as discounts. For example you could send out a mailing that includes a discount for your subscriber and for the person that they forwarded your mailing to. Just be sure to cap off any incentives that you offer to prevent a customer service nightmare. Avoid rewarding people based on how many people your subscriber forwarded your mailing to. Such practices lend themselves to abusive handling of your mailing. It also gives your message the unsavory perception of being spam. You can avoid this by capping off discounts at a fixed rate such as 15% off for all parties involved. Another incentive is offering something that is free and therefore poses no risk to potential customers. Free 30 day trials or free versions of software that contain links to your product are both examples of things you can do to generate word of mouth. As are the policies that you use. A positive customer service experience is essential for positive word of mouth. A 60 day money back guarantee gives you good word of mouth because it lets people know that you are willing to let them try your product risk free.
What you need to do to generate positive word of mouth extends well beyond email marketing. You should make it easy for your customers to contact you by providing a phone number, address of a physical location, support area, and possibly even live chat. How easy it is to contact you is something that people will talk about. You should also offer ways for your customer to leave you feedback in public and private. People listen to what their peers have to say. Allowing people to leave comments on blog posts, documentation, and forums can give you a vehicle for generating word of mouth. Ultimately, however, it comes down to how well you match appearance with reality. Its one thing to have good policies but its another to follow through on them. You will ultimately be judged on how responsive you are in handling the good policies that you put in place.