Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM) is a form of promotional campaign which operates through an individual’s personal recommendations of specific brands, products or services.
Like its literal meaning, word-of-mouth marketing spreads from one person to another outside of a formalized setting, without heavy intervention by advertisers.
A recommendation from someone familiar and trust-worthy is the easiest path to a product sale, link or new subscriber. Why? Because recommendations are generally perceived as incentive-free, unlike the obvious motivation of advertisers, who may over-promise in a bid to increase sales.
If you want to sell more products, get more affiliate commissions or just gain more new readers or supporters for your website, word of mouth marketing is one the most powerful ways to do so. What better way to spread your brand than to have an army of supporters constantly talking about or referencing it online or offline, through conversations or links?
Five Word of Mouth Marketing Strategies You Can Use
Here are some word-of-mouth marketing strategies you can use for your own website or business. All of them are D-I-Y and you don’t need to hire an expensive marketing firm to initiate them, although you should preferably have access to web designers and programmers, along with a basic budget for viral marketing.
- Leverage Existing Social Networks. Online communities have a tightly knit group of users who can help to increase brand awareness for your product. Tap into these communities with tools or content targeting their specific sub-culture and you are likely to get a lot of attention.
These can include applications for platform-specific websites like Facebook, Firefox and Wordpress, which each have a large body of users. Content which examines, mentions or analyzes mini-communities or sites within large overall niches will work as well.
- Target the Influencers. Look for individuals who are trend-setters or authorities on a specific topic. They should preferably be individuals who have many personal connections or a large and loyal audience.
If these people spread your message, your website or product will very easily be disseminated within a targeted group of potential users.
Identify these influencers, build a relationship with them and market through their existing sphere of social influence. Examples of influencers include celebrities, power users on social websites like Digg and popular webmasters or bloggers with many loyal supporters (e.g. Ashley Qualls).
- Exclusivity and Scarcity. Many websites or businesses launch virally through the private beta approach by offering a limited number of site invites. Some dangle the bait of limited edition products or temporal discounts. Combine this with influencer marketing and you’ll have an excellent method to disseminate brand awareness for new websites, products or services.
Exclusivity invites curiosity and scarce products generate consistent demand and conversation. Remember how people were incessantly asking for or writing about Gmail, Joost or Pownce invites a while ago?
- Micro-Market. While online viral marketing leverages the interconnectedness of the web to spread unique content or user-supported promotional schemes, micro-marketing focuses on marketing to the individual by providing highly customizable products.
Nike and Puma’s Mongolian Buffet are examples of micro-marketing schemes which allow you to design and purchase your own unique sneaker online. Micro-marketing can be combined with scarcity and existing social networks to generate word-of-mouth exposure.
- Industry Marketing. Instead of focusing directly on customers, focus on the people who can build your brand. Instead of seeking for thousands of views from a wide audience, make your mark within a niche community (like Sphinn) to build relationships and leverage-able connections.
Get recommendations from others in the similar industry to be mentioned, promoted or included in an industry-specific ranking or recommendations list. This builds your overall brand within a specific niche, which in turns promotes your site to traditional media and buyers looking in from the outside.
If you were a consumer, would you buy from a reputable brand that is recommended by many others within the same industry or would you go for a little known company with no reputation or recommendations?
The Philosophy Behind Word-of-Mouth Marketing
Word of Mouth Marketing is a rhizomatic discipline. Conversations online or offline are often multiple, non-hiearchical, horizontal and mutational. The message is not controllable by the advertiser, although they can attempt to manipulate buzz flow by devising campaigns to structure dialog and conversation.
Dave Balter, in his Manifesto on Word of Mouth (PDF) suggested that Word of Mouth is the desired end result, one that is achieved through viral or buzz marketing:
It’s a medium made up of the conversations and communications between people. Word of mouth can go viral…But in order for that to happen, you must have actual brand advocacy, and people must be willing to go out of their way to share an opinion, an experience, or their passion about a product. The reason that word of mouth is so powerful is that it is a mutual conversation; you can’t find it with a hundred other messages waiting to be deleted from your inbox.
Word-of-Mouth marketing doesn’t exist in a vacuum and it can certainly develop without any efforts on your part if your product or website is seen as extremely helpful, interesting unique or valuable by a specific niche market.
More often than not, you will need to kick start some promotional method to initialize word of mouth buzz. While there are many strategies available, it’s important to focus on producing an excellent product or bait as this will greatly facilitate the word-of-mouth process.
There’s a lot more I want to write about WOMM but I’ll stop here for now. Expect more articles on related marketing strategies for businesses and websites. ^_^
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