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Small Business Guide to Word of Mouth Marketing

Posted on Tuesday 9 July 2017 in Word of Mouth


If you heard about a marketing idea that could bring you more leads and sales, would you be interested in learning more about it? What about an old one that you dont pay much attention to any more but that you probably use to some extent without thinking about it? What about word of mouth marketing?

What exactly is Word of Mouth Marketing?

Entrepreneur.com describes word of mouth marketing (WOM or WOMM) as being 'An unpaid form of promotion in which satisfied customers tell other people how much they like a business, product or service. Wommapedia.org says its В harnessing the power ofВ people to build brand awareness.

Marketing concepts like buzz marketing, influencer marketing, viral marketing and social media marketing all comes under the banner of WOM but what theyre talking about basically all boils down to the same thing: getting customers to talk about you and tell others about your product.

Reviews are a large part of WOM, and weve covered this in How to Get Your Customers to Leave Reviews

The History of WOM

Its been around as a marketing concept since the 1970s when a psychologist (George Silverman) noticed that a One or two physicians who were having good experiences with a drug would sway an entire group of skeptics. They would even sway a dissatisfied group of ex-prescribers who had had negative experiences! (The Free Library)

Why is WOM important?

Only Pizza Vouchers

There are a few reasons why word of mouth is as important as ever, despite our reliance on the web:

The Stats

'a person with 300 friends on Facebook may happily ignore the advice of 290 of them. Its the small, close-knit network of trusted friends that has the real influence. McKinsey

Marketing through friends

Providers of local SEO tools, BrightLocal, found in a 2012 survey of consumers that

77% of people have recommended a local business to someone they know via WOM.

36% of company owners rate word of mouth as best for their business.

All they need to do is know how to harness that willingness to recommend for their own business. Easy, eh?

The importance of social media in spreading the word is important (especially Facebook), but still, conversations about brands are largely done offline В  90% of them, according to the authors of Face-t0-Face (and 75%, according to the Keller Fay Group).

Encouraging word of mouth conversations

However, with moreВ  of us than ever before getting our news online, and conversation topics being generated there, well need to split our efforts between online and offline.

In this article Ill suggest some methods and provide real-life examples on how local businesses can encourage word of mouth conversations.

Local Influencers

Bear in mind that your Facebook and Twitter fans arent the only ones you need to be targeting WOM campaigns with.

Only 1% of social media users create over half of the conversations, and those influencers spreading the word about your company will be a much quicker and more effective way of spreading the word. As well as helping to bring in new customers, theyll help to keep your brand in the minds of those who have already clicked your Like button but havent been back to your Facebook page since.

Another benefit of targeting influencers is that it doesnt devour too much in the way of resources: a survey by Technorati found that only 6% of companies marketing budgets were used up by it.

Ideally, you should be looking for global influencers in your niche as well as local influencers. Links from those top influencers can result it great quality links. However, in terms of word of marketing for local businesses, Ill look at finding local influencers.

How to find them

You could try tools like Trackur (theres a limited free version) and Klout (now offering Klout for Business, which may become useful whatever you think of their scoring system). Technorati and FollowerWonk are also worth looking at, as is wefollow (Im pretending to be a small business based in Manchester):

wefollow Manchester

What Ive done in the image above is enter the search term 'Manchester. Theyve presented me with the Twitter account for VisitManchester right at the top, as youll see in the red box. Visit Manchester tell me theyre 'shouting good things about Manchester so lets hope theyll shout about my business (as their Twitter account has over 36,000 followers it would be very valuable).

Visit Manchester

Can you give them any ideas for mentioning you on their weekly blog? A sale that youre promoting, an event youre holding at your shop, or a new range being introduced?



Theres been a phenomenal rise in local bloggers in recent years who focus mainly on their local area. Get in touch with them they can do marvels for your business because they attend local events where theyll be able to mention your company if youve impressed them. And of course, locals in the area will be looking for information on their local area online. Heres an article in the Times on the subject of local bloggers.

Now Ive made a search on Google for 'bloggers Manchester and the third result that popped up was 'The Manchizzle blog by Kate Feld, tagline 'The pick of Manchester culture and hub of blogging goodness.

Its a great blog, but whats really interesting is a fantastic blogroll (list) of Manchester and North West England-based city and neighbourhood blogs, foodie blogs, and culture, fashion and design blogs down the side. Heres a selection:

Manchester Blogs

Among these may very well be a blogger who wants to talk about your business or review you.

How to engage with local influencers when you find them

Keep a track of the conversations youre having with a tool like Nimble or youll forget you who youve already contacted.

Deviate from the Expected

Conversations about brands or products begin when the experience of a purchased product deviates from the expected whether that be in a positive or negative way. Think about how youve reacted to something thats exceeded your expectations or disappointed you.

You may well have mentioned it to someone else. This could be to do with the product or, an advert or with a matter of customer support. Here are some examples of how companies have exceeded expectations:

Delivery, Packaging and Freebies

Pic credit epherielldesigns.com

Etsy sellers have it down pat when it comes to going the extra mile. They need to because theyre in an extremely competitive market.

A personal example: Christmas 2012 I ordered a tie as a present and it came beautifully wrapped in a little crisp cellophane parcel tied with a ribbon (it was a beautiful tie, too). Ive told four people about that company and Ive bookmarked them for my next tie purchases (I know someone whos very fond of quirky ties).В  Heres a comment from that accounts feedback, robintreelane

As well as great packaging, Kelly provides free swatches, fantastic quality and fast delivery. Ill bet these happy customers have mentioned her to someone else:

'The ties were everything and more of what I had hoped for. Great Quality! You went above and beyond with the pocket squares. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!! I would refer you to anyone!!! Great service and fast delivery!!!

Heres feedback for another seller, RootsAndWingsJewelry

'Item received in a timely manner. packaging was fun and Eco-friendly, which I appreciate very much! '

And another, Micasita:

'Excellent pouch, fabric, sewing everything! And it came with stickers as a an Easter present.

How have these sellers deviated from the expected?

Customer Service

Tiger Bread

Pic credit digitaljournal.com

Sainsburys got people talking with their reply to a three year old called Lily. The story went viral and eventually resulted in an online campaign to have a bread renamed from Tiger bread to Giraffe bread.

Thats something that small businesses can mimic if they have quick-thinking customer service staff that are authorised to think outside the box whenever the need arises.

A campaign that could be copied by local businesses is the Bodyform campaign: its basically a humorous take on a comment made by a customer on Facebook. Of course youll have to tread carefully with this kind of video reply, but Bodyform did it well and were rewarded with over 4 million views.

Conversation Triggers

Conversation triggers are small items that get a conversation started when other people see them. Heres an example from WordofMouth.org:

'Ive taken every business card that Ive received in the past ten years, glued my logo to the back, used a laminator to turn it into a luggage tag, and mailed it back to the person I just met. Ill bet that at least 5,000 people have my logo on their briefcase or suitcase. When they meet each other, they talk about my company. Thats a lot of word of mouth.

Ingenious, isnt it?

Buzz Marketing

Mark Hughes, author of Buzz Marketing says that the public will talk about you (offline and online) if you use some of the following in your campaigns:

Lets have a look at real-life strategies that have worked for each.

The Unusual

Arena Flowers

An example I love to use is Arena Flowers Twitter account. Not for them banal messages, oh no. Instead they tweet random poems, funny statements, quirky images and the like. As a result, theyve attracted over 17,000 followers. The first time I heard about them was when someone tweeted to say that they loved their funny tweets. You see? People talking about you.

And Ive since bought flowers from them.

The Remarkable

Womm Remarkable

The USs Dave Hirschkops 'Insanity sauces are hot really hot. And hes made the most of that characteristic. At trade shows he poses in a straitjacket a stall that what decorated to look like an insane asylum. And he made customers sign release forms before they tried it (common marketing practice for mega hot sauces now). The sauce bottle came in a coffin-shaped box wrapped in yellow police, keep out tape.

In his own words 'we have some enjoyment in what we do and pass that on to other people.

Can you think of something remarkable about your business?

The Outrageous

Shobha-no Trousers

Hair removal salon Shobha sponsors an annual event in New York where commuters travel the subway without trousers. Is there an outrageous event in your area thats relevant to your company? Or can you one you can create? It doesnt have to be big, just memorable.

NB If you have a great video to share of the event, post on YouTube or Vimeo and add a link back to your website in the description section. Hosting on your own site can be problematical unless you have lots of bandwidth at your disposal but if you can manage it, a good video will be a great source of incoming links.

The Taboo

Not for the faint-hearted but taboo advertising can be very useful. Of course its up to you as a company to see how far you want to go and whether you really want your business associated with anything controversial.

MG6 Horsemeat

The above seems to me to be a fairly innocuous one that appeared shortly after the horsemeat adulteration scandal broke. And that scandal was being discussed all around the country. As you can see from the article and comments, though, it didnt go down very well, but my, didnt it get talked about?

The Hilarious

Fuel and Fiddle

Youll know how popular funny is if youve ever been anywhere near Twitter or Facebook. But did you know that funny ads have done better during the recent recessionary years than they did in the boom years? (Here are some statistics in a Nielsen report (US-based) Dont be afraid to inject a bit of humour, even if times are difficult.

A-boards like the one featured above are great for bringing in customers off the street, but remember to take photos of them too. Add them to your Facebook page, tweet them, create graphics with the same sort of message in them and have them available to download from your site to keep the conversation going.


Ive given you some ideas on word of mouth marketing that you take away and apply to your own business. But its only half the story. In Part Two youll read about 4 advanced word of mouth tactics: community marketing, cause marketing, grassroots marketing and advocate marketing.

See you then!

By Sarah Downing-Smith

I'm a writer and marketer for Wonderland Internet Promotions and Wordtracker. I personally blog on my off the beaten path travel blog EuroHotels. Come chat with me on and Twitter.

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