Why Word of Mouth Will Never Fail

Word of mouth. How important is it to you and your business? You might turn to family or friends for a recommendation, but quite often we actually rely on testimonials and reviews for help when making choices. So how do you get people talking about your product, brand or service?

You would think that word of mouth is easy. After all, how can an ad compete? Advertisements talk about themselves. They focus on their assets and so aren’t always credible. You only get one half of the story.

However, our friends tell us exactly what they think. ‘Yes, Fred is a great plumber and does the job well but he’s not cheap.’ You get the whole story. They are both candid and objective. ‘I really enjoyed the meal but the service was so slow.’ It’s this kind of response that makes us trust our friends and also our online communities.

Get the Whole Picture

The thing about word of mouth is that it’s far more targeted than any other form of promotion. Your friends are not necessarily making their opinions known to the world. They are often sharing an opinion with someone who they believe will be interested. Think about networking. If you were at a cupcake convention your topic of conversation and approach would be different compared to a boiler manufacturers’ convention. We amend our conversations to the people we are with. We change our approach depending on our target audience. Word of mouth really nails it.

Thinking About Audience

There’s no point blanket bombing your marketing messages in the main – although it has worked in the past. Remember lots of people don’t want or need what you are selling. But think if the difference if your messages were to wind up with the people who really are interested. Imagine selecting specific people or groups to whom you give relevant information. This is exactly what you do when you call someone and say, ‘Hey I’ve just been in town and seen your favourite shop has a sale that finishes tomorrow and guess what, they have that coat you liked at 75% off.’ Think of the impact that conversation would have. It’s the right message to the right person at the right time.

Real World Example

I’ve been reading Contagious by Jonah Berger and one of the interesting anecdotes he mentions in the book I will repeat. If you’re reading this then you’ll be interested in what I have to say. In essence I am also recommending it. No one has paid me or sent me a free copy. I bought it, enjoyed it and thought I’d like to recommend this title.

Jonah Berger lectures at uni. One book publisher sent him two copies of a book they thought he might like and would eventually recommend to students. But two copies of the book? Isn’t that excessive? No, the marketing team said that he might like a copy to read and one to pass on to anyone he thought might find it of interest.

Word of Mouth: From one sale to the next

Clever huh? There’s no reason we would keep two books and immediately it’s likely we’d look for one of our community that would appreciate such a book.  You don’t necessarily have to worry about finding the budget for double mailing as word of mouth works for everything no matter who you are. Think about the times you’ve said, ‘Hey, I’ve just used the local cleaning carpet service, and wow my carpets look like new. It’s amazing.’ This is the kind of offline conversation that can’t be measured into numbers but is happening all the time. Make a list of all the times you’ve spoken positively about a book, film, new toaster, club, clothes shop etc and look for patters, feelings or tricks that helped push you towards that choice.

People love talking and they adore sharing. The psychology of sharing is complex and interesting. We might ask ourselves why some things go viral and others are ignored. How does something become a social epidemic? Here are six things Jonah Berger thinks are important to successful word of mouth adoption. How can you utilise them?

[bctt tweet=”Six key ideas to assist word of mouth virality” username=”@supposeiam”]

1.Social Currency

To create information that travels, you have to create something that others want to share, but this can be harder than you would think possible. Put yourself in the mind of your audience – what is it that they want their peers to see about them? This becomes almost mind-reading experience. If I am my audience, what do I want my network of friends to know that I enjoy? This can be humourous or creative, political or family friendly – it all depends who you are talking to.

Remember what we talk about influences others, and this means that to enter the conversation you must be 100% aware of what you are expressing. When we share the right thing we seem sharp and in the know – so what information do you hold that can be considered exclusive or niche? By sharing we make people feel like they are insiders. It is your job to recreate this experience for your audience.


How do we remind people to talk about our ideas? This can be done by creating a brand that seems logical. Peanut butter goes with jelly right? You want your brand name to become synonymous with whatever your industry might be. You can do this by picking themes and reusing them in fun and creative ways, over and over again until it seems completely logical to call your business when services are needed. The more often people think about a product or idea the more it’s talked about. Create your target triggers and go wild with new information and repetition to keep the message top of mind and then tip of tongue.

3. Emotion

Oh the pathos of it all! Remember this: when we care we share.  So the trick here is to get your audience to care about what you are doing. Make people feel something – usually positive but not always. Think helpful, charitable, loving thoughts and see how your business can work to help the community (globally or locally) and let your customers help you. How can you help local charities or schools? Who needs the most help in your town? What should be accomplished in the neighborhood, but hasn’t been done yet? Your brand can create lasting change and become associated with those warm fuzzy feelings forever more.

4. Usability and Visibility

Picture yourself in the front seat of a sports car, racing down a coastal highway. The wind is blowing in your hair as you take a drink from your glass. What’s in the glass? Why is that product what you would be drinking? Did you see any problems with this scenario? This visualisation process helps you understand your loyalty to a product. Customers have to believe in what you are selling before they actually purchase. Remember the phrase ‘Monkey See, Monkey Do’ it works. It’s hard to emulate something you have never seen or thought of using – so make yourself more visible. The more you are seen the more you are imitated and the more visible you become.

5. Practical Value

How can we craft content that’s useful? This is easy – just figure out what questions are being asked and answer them. Display the value of your product or service and you are ready. If you can show how our products save time etc. the word will be spread, it’s just a natural occurrence. People love to talk about their latest life hacks, so your brand needs to become one by answering these questions:

  • In what ways does your business can stand out and become memorable?
  • What about your product or service is a life hack or a time saver?
  • How can you package your knowledge so it’s super easy to pass on to new audiences?

6. Stories

Business is all about stories. So ask yourself, what broader narrative can we wrap our business idea inside of? Stories are the natural way that information passes through communities. Think gossip, think folk tales, think legends. How can your brand become a narrative with a moral that makes customers feel good about their purchases and want to talk about them later on? By creating stories that people want to tell you become the hottest topic on the block.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to think of all the ideas by yourself – VKN Digital can help. We can add some creative life to your brand and get people talking. Feel good about pushing your business in a positive direction by sending a quick email to info@viviennekneale.com

Write a comment