What is Word of Mouth Marketing and How To Use it for your Brand
By David Morneau 14 min READ | Dec 11 2022
Word-of-mouth is as old as time itself. It happened when that first caveman discovered fire and told their peers.
When you’re recommending that awesome dentist or kindergarten to your acquaintances, you’re also creating WoM.
But word-of-mouth marketing is different.
This concept implies strategic planning, results tracking, and constant reassessment. And you’re on the right page for that.
After explaining what WoM marketing is and why it works, we’ll take you through seven comprehensive strategies. We’ll analyze their benefits, offer step-by-step plans to enforce them, and illustrate them with word-of-mouth marketing examples.
In the end, we’ll tell you how to scale up your word-of-mouth marketing campaign as well, so keep reading below.
What Is Word-of-Mouth Marketing?
Word-of-mouth marketing represents the totality of marketing strategies a company uses to promote word-of-mouth about its brand, products, events, etc.
Word-of-mouth (WoM) represents discussions that spark organically about a company or its products and events. Basically, WoM is like rumors.
Why would sane marketers want to encourage those rumors?
Find out in the section below.
Why Word-of-mouth Marketing Works
Here’s the step-by-step process of how word of marketing works and why it generates results:
When people talk about your brand and the associated services or products, these rumors create buzz.
That initial buzz leads to curiosity and the need to be part of a special community.
The idea of exclusivity makes people feel special, so they will start buying your products, attending your conferences, and so forth.
When the customer base is large enough, the feeling of exclusivity wanes, but trust starts to shine brighter.
This trust acts like social proof. Potential customers are no longer as wary of your products or brand because everyone uses them.
More people start purchasing your brand.
Your brand has the potential to become synonymous with an entire niche like Xerox became synonymous with the photocopying industry, or Coca-Cola with soft drinks.
Let’s review some numbers:
Word-of-mouth generates $6 trillion annually from consumer spending, representing 13% of consumer sales.
Word-of-mouth is the most popular news-sharing channel, with 72% of people getting information like that.
Word-of-mouth is also a popular channel for product discovery as 50% of shoppers find out about new products from their peers.
64% of marketers claim word-of-mouth advertising is their most effective marketing strategy.
90% of people across all ages base their purchasing decisions on word-of-mouth. The percentage increases to 97% in the 18 to 29 age category.
Some UGC is not WoM: Let’s say you’re selling chocolate chip cookies. If one user leaves one online review saying your chocolate chip cookies have an orangey aroma – that’s UGC, but not word-of-mouth. If you’d have hordes of people posting about the orangey tang on social media, that would be WoM.
Some WoM is not UGC: UGC is content generated about a brand. When you’re recommending your favorite weird orange-tasting chocolate chip cookies to your grandma on the phone, that’s WoM but not UGC. Making a social media post with this recommendation would be UGC, but not WoM.
Why, oh why, are we splitting hairs like this?
Let’s say you want to build a word-of-mouth marketing campaign, but you think WoM and UGC are the same. As such, you only use UGC strategies.
That means you are missing other important WoM strategies you could leverage.
Remember: UGC is just the first strategy you can incorporate into your WoM plan. We’ll discuss it below.
1.1. Encourage UGC Indirectly
Encouraging UGC indirectly means nudging people into creating WoM without expressly requiring that of them. So, your product and overall user experience are so good that people can’t help but talk about it.
Here’s how you can get that organic UGC:
Ensure customers’ first experience with your brand is stellar.
Create an amazing product that solves one of your customers’ most pressing needs in a completely innovative way.
Build up that initial contact with your brand and ensure every customer experience with your product is stellar, from online navigation to shipping.
Go above and beyond for your customers with quality products and top-notch customer service.
Ensure your advertising messages are worth repeating. Build TikTok campaigns with catchy tunes that everyone will repost or campaigns that connect your brand with an important value in society.
Netflix provides an interesting case study for the power of WoM. The brand is huge, but it came up with an interesting idea you can easily replicate:
Lesson learned: Get your marketing team to create regular memes about your brand.
Set a goal for your UGC campaign: Think of what you are trying to accomplish with it. Is it building awareness, creating engagement, increasing sales, or regaining lost customers?
Consider your audience: Research your audience to understand who these people are, the messages they would deem persuasive, and the channels they mostly use.
Pick the right tools: Understand the type of UGC you need (e.g., reviews, TikTok clips, photos). Then, incentivize your existing customers to produce UGC. Some audiences respond well to contests and rewards. At the same time, other segments are more motivated by the possibility of making a difference.
Collect UGC: To make UGC collecting easy, ask your audience to use a hashtag or to send you that UGC directly. Gather that UGC and comb through it to ensure it follows your initial guidelines. And yes, studies show that 53% of shoppers want guidelines to create UGC.
Post UGC: After collecting and curating your UGC, post that UGC throughout your social media channels, on your website, and even in marketing e-mails. Ensure you’ve asked for permission from your audience first, though. Also, when engaging in email marketing, keep your domain security in hand. Include DMARC, DKIM and SPF in the process. Learn the steps of tracking the reports and what to do when there is a "no-DMARC report found" message.
One of our clients, Bluehouse Salmon, bases its entire content calendar on UGC:
2. Use Influencer-Generated Content
Influencer-generated content is different than UGC because you will partner with people that create content for a living.
There are also different ways to go about using influencer-generated content:
2.1. Product Seeding
Product seeding entails sending products to some content creators so they can test, evaluate, and tell their audience about your products.
Has a low customer acquisition cost: You’re not paying your influencers for their posts; you are simply sending them your products. A nano-influencer with 2,000 followers and a 10% engagement rate can reach 200 people and convince at least 20 to purchase your product. So for the cost of one product, you can make 20 purchases.
Increases your recognition and credibility simultaneously: People trust influencers’ recommendations, meaning you will shorten the decision-making process.
Boosts sales by up to 50%: You can convince more people to try your products than with other tools.
Create a connection first: Ask the content creators how they would feel about receiving your products and if they would be open to reviewing them. Underline why you have reached out to them and why you like them for your brand.
Send a personalized package: Include a friendly thank-you note and a customized package according to that influencer’s profile.
Check-in: Get in touch with the influencer a few days later to ensure they have gotten your package and to ask for their opinion.
Give them credit: Once that influencer has produced a review or post, give them a shout-out on your social media and website.
Measure results: Check likes, comments, and shares for that post/review. Keep track of the sales you’ve gotten through that influencer by asking them to use a discount code or UTM link.
Jordan Trent, an Instagram micro-influencer, has been kindly gifted a piece of jewelry from Liou, which she sports on Instagram:
inBeat has also successfully used the product seeding strategy multiple times. One of our clients is Deux par Deux kids, a kids’ clothing brand that partners with highly engaged parent influencers:
Pro tip: At least for this type of brand, nano-influencers like Janice work best because they’re highly engaged and authentic.
Ensure your influencers are meeting their requirements.
Keep track of results using promo codes and UTM links. Otherwise, you won’t know where you got your new customers from.
Adapt your strategy if something goes wrong.
Pro tip: To truly generate word-of-mouth with influencer marketing, you must scale up that initial campaign and build on that buzz.
You can start with an influencer campaign to build awareness of your brand. Let’s say your influencers are doing a TikTok dance to promote your products.
Then, build a UGC contest with prizes asking people to send you their dances.
Repurpose that content on other channels, from social media platforms to marketing e-mails.
Take part in the challenge yourself, if you can.
Keep the buzz going even after the campaign is over with special insider access or prizes for your customers.
Gymshark’s “66 Days to Change Your Life Campaign” encouraged people to adopt a habit during 66 days and document their journey:
The winner would get a year-long supply of Gymshark products. To kickstart the campaign, Gymshark partnered with six mega influencers. However, their UGC content skyrocketed:
Engagement rate (overall average): 11.11%
Hashtag usage (in views) #gymshark66: 45.5 million views
And there are over 781,000 Instagram posts using this hashtag at the time of this writing:
3. Encourage Customer Reviews
Customer reviews are another strategy you can employ in your word-of-mouth marketing campaign. To do that:
Leverage review websites: Allow satisfied customers to post their opinion on renowned online review platforms like Yelp.
Encourage customer feedback: After people purchase your products, send them follow-up e-mails encouraging testimonials and reviews. You can use some incentives or even appeal to their good intentions.
Set up a system to collect reviews: Make sure people send these reviews to the right e-mail address or post on the correct websites using the required hashtags. But some shoppers won’t respect those directions. In this case, use an automated software tool to search the World Wide Web for mentions of your brand. Some examples include Brand24, Brandmentions and Mention.com.
Respond to reviews: Ensure your answers are personalized instead of generic. Don’t focus on positive reviews, deleting negative feedback; take the time to respond politely and actually try to solve the problems people are having with your product.
Post your product reviews: Collect and curate the most suggestive reviews, then post them on your website, social media, and marketing e-mails. You can even turn them into ads, but remember to always ask for customers’ permission first.
Thinx, a brand that retails menstrual underwear, publishes customer reviews on its website. Here’s the twist: those reviews are grouped by categories so that people can click on the stories they’re interested in:
4. Run a Referral Program
Referrals are word-of-mouth recommendations. Referral marketing programs offer specific benefits for existing customers that recommend your products to their acquaintances. The most important advantages for your brand are:
You have a much lower cost per acquisition.
The purchase rate increases because if 90%+ of people trust random Internet reviews, they will also trust personal recommendations from someone they know.
You can build customer loyalty.
It’s easy to monitor the results.
The entire referral program is easy to automatize with the right software.
To set up a referral program:
Consider your goals.
Outline the rules.
Decide on the rewards:
Access to limited events
Build a specific page on your website.
Popularize that page on your other social channels.
5. Run an Affiliate Program
Affiliate marketing is an effective form of marketing to generate word-of-mouth, although affiliate programs have a unique point:
They’re best for increasing sales.
Here’s how affiliate programs work:
You partner with influencers or regular people to promote your products.
These people will create their own websites, writing blog posts to review your products.
Your affiliates can also popularize their website using their social networks or other forms of advertising.
Each time one of their website visitors clicks to purchase your products, your affiliates get a sales commission.
Here’s a neat example:
Online consultant Amy Porterfield has 250,000 followers thanks to her podcast and blog, teaching digital entrepreneurs how to build online courses. However, Amy is also a Kajabi affiliate, so she promotes this course platform tool on her website:
6. Leverage an Ambassador Campaign
A brand ambassador campaign is a long-term program that includes people loyal to your brand. Unlike an influencer campaign, brand ambassador programs:
Can include regular people, such as employees or customers, not just influencers
Are built on stronger relationships, similar values, and shared experiences
Aim to build a strong community of loyal customers, not merely create buzz marketing
As such, ambassador campaigns may use tools other than simply social media. Many such campaigns use PR tactics like special events or team-building.
Maybelline, for example, is famous for its college ambassador programs that aim to create positive experiences. The brand relies heavily on the sense of community its college customers keep alive:
FIGS partners with medical professionals who become its brand ambassadors:
Pro tip: It’s important to choose the best ambassadors and strategies, but we’ve already written a thorough piece on brand ambassador programs.
7. Create Social Proof with Social Media Marketing
Turn your social media into a word-of-mouth hub.
Use social media to generate organic WoM: Post relevant information, be funny, and engage with your followers. Respond to negative comments and consider people’s feedback when creating new content.
Use social media to encourage direct WoM: Popularize your WoM campaigns on social media, getting people to talk about your product. Have your followers share photos or videos of themselves using those products.
Use social media to collect WoM: Post content produced by ambassadors, affiliates, influencers, and happy customers. Build specific sections for each type of content so your followers can easily find it.
Enchanted Scrunch is harnessing social media extremely well through various posts that elicit shares, questions, user interactions, and sales.
According to Shopify, Enchanted Scrunch now makes 90% of its sales thanks to TikTok, getting from zero to 170k followers. And more importantly, from two to 500 orders each week.
Scale Up Your Word-of-mouth Campaign
This guide has shown you different word-of-mouth strategies to incorporate into your campaign. As always, the key is to understand your audience. That’s how you can pick the strategies that would convince them best to disseminate WoM for your products. And then purchase according to that WoM.
More importantly, you shouldn’t let your WoM campaign unravel by itself.
You must keep a close eye on it, monitoring results and reassessing marketing techniques. And remember to scale up your campaign once you’ve reached intermediary goals. You can also consider using ERP software or integrated marketing software to manage your WoM campaigns efficiently.
For example, suppose your TikTok influencer marketing has produced the desired buzz. In that case, you can move on to a UGC campaign and build an ambassador program.
How do you know when your goals change and which strategies to adopt?
inBeat can help. Our agency has years of expertise in UGC, influencer marketing, ambassador programs, paid media, and more. We have assisted hundreds of companies in their marketing efforts already, but you can also try our tools: