We all understand that word of mouth marketing (WOM) can be a powerful and cost efficient strategy to drive purchasing decisions.
In fact, depending on the category and a consumer's purchase journey, word of mouth can be the primary factor behind 20-50% of all purchasing decisions. And word of mouth is the only factor that ranks in the top 3 among the three biggest influences in the initial consideration, active evaluation and moment of purchase stages.
So how do you measure and drive word of mouth?
Marketing consulting leader McKinsey now measures word-of-mouth equity as volume of messages x impact. It also states that these are the three critical word of mouth drivers:
1. What is said— the message content must address the most important product or service features if it is to influence consumer decisions. For example, with mobile phones, design is more important than battery life. In skin care, packaging and ingredients create more powerful WOM than emotional "how you feel" messages. McKinsey found that while marketers focus on emotional messages, consumers buzz more about functional messages. So for golf brands and organizations, are messages like "Distance and accuracy. Most challenging course layout. Cheapest first-class hotel rates" really most important to your influencers and then consumers?
2. Who is saying it— the word-of-mouth receiver must trust the sender and believe that he/she really knows the product or service in question. This group of influencers is small (8-10% of consumers) but powerful when their common factor is trust and competence. These folks generate 3x more WOM messages than noninfluencers and each has 4x more impact. And 1% of these people are digital influencers, most importantly bloggers. See this Forrester post about volume of social media impressions. How do equipment purchase decision influencers compare and differ from travel purchases and courses to play influencers? Are they traditional teaching pros, the engaging club member who entertains clients regularly or buddy trip organizer? It's hard but it's not impossible to find them with today's social technologies.
3. Where it circulates– the environment where WOM messages circulate is essential to the power of the message. Generally, messages passing within tight, trusted networks have less reach but greater impact than those passed through dispersed communities. There is a high correlation between people whose opinions we trust and the members of our most valued netwroks. So, listen, participate and monitor trusted networks. You can pick the top 4 — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube, and be sure to concentrate and not overextend. You also can create your own community. Get in, get connected, get talking and give value.
It's important to recognize, value and execute these drivers in your WOM strategies. It is also beneficial to appreciate that the digital revolution and growing online communities have amplified and accelerated influence's reach. Now, influence operates as a one-to-many basis where reviews, ratings and opinions can be distributed quickly and powerfully.
Word-of-mouth strategies get people talking and buying.
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