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Why word of mouth is still your best marketing tool

Ani Mkrtschjan | October 3, 2014

Your brand’s job isn’t over after a customer has made a purchase. To the contrary: it’s often the most important stage in the customer’s lifecycle. Whether your customer has a negative or positive post-purchase experience with your brand can make the difference between a lousy first date or a fulfilling, long-term relationship with your brand.

The post-purchase experience gives your brand an opportunity to build loyalty with recent customers and find ways to improve content for future customers. Marketers can kill two birds with one stone by encouraging the long-time influencer of perceptions and trust: word of mouth.

Research from Nielsen shows that the most trusted forms of advertising among consumers are recommendations from people they know and consumer opinions posted online. Another Nielsen report shows that 77% of global customers are more likely to buy a new product when they’ve learned about it through word of mouth from friends and family.

Consumers have access to a wide range of tools and resources for gathering information about our brands, products, and services, opening up a huge opportunity for marketers. Today’s most successful brands deliver an engaging, customized experience that makes it easy for prospects to access customer opinions and recommendations.

How can you get your customers talking and sharing? Try these three tips to get started.

1. Engage your customer after a recent purchase.

From your brand’s website to social networks to other third-party resources, buyers have more information at their fingertips than ever before. It's no longer enough to simply send a generic email asking a recent buyer to review the product/service she just purchased. It's about re-engaging with your customers through thoughtful content that expresses a genuine interest in their opinion.

Modcloth does a great job of this with its ratings and review follow-up campaign. In the example below, Modcloth follows up with the buyer after she has made a purchase, asking her to provide a review of her new item—along with some tips on how to do it, like offering feedback on the size and fit and sharing a photo of herself wearing the new item. Those reviews and pictures are then posted online so prospective buyers can see what other customers thought of the item.

Slalom Consulting - Why word of mouth is still your best marketing tool - Modcloth image

2. Use review data to close the loop.

We know who our happy customers are, and we know who our frustrated customers are. Both are more likely to be vocal about their buying experience. Close the loop with both types by leveraging real-time data gathered during the review process.

  • For happy customers, encourage the social share: We know that customers most trust recommendations from people they know, and that social platforms like Facebook and Twitter provide the perfect forum to express likes and dislikes. After a purchase, send customers to a personalized landing page that encourages them to spread the word to their social networks.

  • For not-so-happy customers, send a customer service response: Depending on your business, you might have several different approaches to responding to negative feedback. It might be as simple as an onsite pop-over or a personalized landing page reminding the customer about your fantastic return and exchange policies. For more serious, service-oriented issues, it might make sense to trigger a customer service call to resolve the issue.

3. Encourage customer feedback across your digital strategy.

Customer feedback provides a wealth of data that can help marketers create content that better captures the product experience and aligns with customer expectations.

For example, if you’ve started to encourage your customers to submit photos of their purchases in action, build community programs to share those photos. Consider some of these opportunities:

  • Create an image gallery from pictures submitted by customers, providing an additional resource for gathering information and inspiration about your brand and products. Through West Elm’s “Share Your Style” campaign, customers are encouraged to share pictures on Instagram of West Elm products in their homes by tagging #mywestelm.

  • Re-think how customer reviews are being presented. Are your customers looking for visual cues to help them with their buying decisions? West Elm’s “Share Your Style” photos are now also being displayed on individual product pages, providing a “real-life” touch to enhance purchase decisions.

  • Add editorial content to your email programs to connect with a wider audience, build trust, and enhance the customer experience. Lancôme demonstrates this by sending customers makeup tips, like a step-by-step guide to the perfect “smoky elegant” eye.

Word of mouth might be a small piece of the customer journey puzzle, but an integral one. Motivated and armed with the right tools, your customers can be your most powerful salespeople.

Slalom Consulting's Ani Mkrtschjan

Ani Mkrtschjan is a digital marketing consultant in Slalom's Customer Engagement practice. Ani is passionate about delivering data-driven strategic recommendation for cross-channel customer lifecycle marketing programs and automations. Follow Ani on Twitter.


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