Word of mouth plays an increasing role in the marketing strategy of many companies and ranks high in the priority lists of modern marketers.
Although word of mouth is still predominantly an offline matter, the growing role of online media, the network economy, the increased focus on the customer and the explosion of communication channels all have an influence on the rise of word of mouth marketing (WOM).
Remembering that word of mouth is primarily something that simply ‘happens’, we know that today word of mouth marketing campaigns can be created, seeded, steered, monitored etc.
And since so many surveys have shown that word of mouth campaigns have a very good ROI it’s obvious that it’s such a hot topic.
So let me give you some benefits of word of mouth marketing (because that’s what I promised in the title of this post):
- WOM is tailor made for the networking economy
Word of mouth marketing is a very powerful marketing tool. It has an exponential effect that is strengthened by online communication channels and the network society. WOM has a life of itself that feeds of social networks. The rise of online media and communications, the speed with which messages are distributed and the scale of networks gave birth to online WOM. At the same time the ROI of WOM is often higher than that of traditional forms of communication.
- WOM offers a solution to new marketing challenges
The explosion of communication channels and the changing media consumption has made the marketing and communications reality more complex. Every day customers are exposed to an abundance of advertising, while the impact of traditional media is decreasing. The fragmentation of the communications landscape is one of the most important breeding grounds for word of mouth marketing. WOM generates a significant response to all these challenges.
- WOM is customer-centric
In a conversation you choose with whom you speak. Word of mouth marketing occurs between people. And these people decide who they trust if the conversations take place in making up their minds about purchasing a product or service or working with a company too. The impact of an opinion of a trustworthy person like a friend is many times stronger than that of an advertising message from a biased source, namely a business. Moreover, the message in WOM is by definition customer-centric because it’s the customer who decides whose opinion he trusts and what ‘stories’ he believes.
- WOM is / seems reliable
This is related to the previous benefit but is crucial. The advice of friends is much more reliable in the perception of customers than that of a sales rep or marketer. As people participate more and more only and even create their own media, like blogs, a new group of opinion leaders arises. It goes without saying that identifying these opinion leaders is an important task for the marketer. Working with opinion leaders is certainly not a prerogative of online WOM alone. It has been used successfully for years in all sorts of industries. Think for instance of how the pharmaceutical industry is working with ‘neutral’ researchers and scientists for years.
- WOM is manageable
Word of mouth marketing can not be completely controlled. It largely escapes the control of the marketer since it is interpersonal and consists of ever spreading dialogues, in contrast with the communication monologues marketers used to have in good old mass media when the customer was nothing more than a passive consumer of marketing messages. But it is not because WOM is uncontrollable that you can not initiate, manage, steer and measure it, even much more than you suspect.
- WOM accelerates the buying process
George Silverman, author of ‘The secrets of word-of-mouth marketing’ presented a completely different view on marketing. In his book he writes that actually all forms of marketing, advertising and communications should be seen as opportunities to generate WOM. Silverman is not saying that other, more traditional ways of looking at marketing are pointless. He simply proposes to look at marketing from a WOM perspective. Doing so, leads to some important insights. One of them is that WOM significantly accelerates the purchasing decision because, as we said, in WOM people trust the opinion of the person with whom they talk or to whom they listen. Silverman says that in addition to traditional views on optimizing sales (more customers, more revenue per customer etc.) the acceleration of the buying process is a direct path to more sales. And maybe that’s the main reason why WOM has become so important in marketing.
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