The Most Cost-Effective Marketing Tactic

What powerful marketing tactic builds brand awareness, creates trust and establishes long-term value – all at a low cost? The most effective way to win new customers and grow your business, especially when starting out, is word of mouth.

Word of mouth spreads the word about your business by encouraging delighted customers to recommend your company to their friends, family, colleagues or neighbours. Online reviews also provide word of mouth that drive sales and business results.

Just how powerful is word of mouth? Research by Nielsen showed 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising. This

How to Boost Word of Mouth Marketing

Whether you’re a CMO or an entrepreneur, use these tips to unleash the power of positive word of mouth and lucrative referrals for your company:

  1. Share your ideas: Proactively create content to answer your target’s most common questions to demonstrate your knowledge, position yourself as a subject matter expert and establish credibility. Write a white paper, offer a webinar or speak at industry events to showcase your talent and be seen as a thought leader.
  2. Network: As a Harvard Business Review article states, “Networking is sales now… Today if you don’t have access to a network that gets you introduced, you can be brilliant and get nowhere.” So, get out and meet your target market – and their influencers.
  3. Connect: Listen to your target, join the conversation about your brand and encourage conversation. Respond to their feedback to build meaningful, lasting relationships.
  4. Be social: Embrace technology and social media. They have increased connectivity, making it easier than ever for consumers to do your marketing for you.
  5. Set expectations: Tell new customers that, in return for your company’s high-quality customer service, you and your business rely on word-of-mouth referrals.
  6. Set a time limit: Offer a time-bound referral bonus, such as a two-week window, for customers to receive a specific discount or gift if they refer you to their network.
  7. Make it easy: Use a specific process, such as providing a referral form on your website for customers to fill out.
  8. Surprise them: Leave a positive lasting impression by offering an unexpected gift, such as a free additional 30-minute consultation or an inexpensive accessory many customers need.
  9. Show gratitude. Thank anyone who refers your company to others. Making a quick phone call, send a handwritten note or send a gift for a referral to say thank you is always worth the effort.
  10. Standardize your process: Automate and schedule your referral process and correspondence, including thank-you emails. Use your CRM system and calendar to generate reminders so you handle each step at the right time.

Proof Word of Mouth Works
The following mini case study provides evidence of how well-executed marketing campaigns can boost word of mouth (or digital “word of mouse”) and enhance business results.

November 2013:
Volvo release the “Epic Splits” video featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme on YouTube. On its release date alone, the video earned over 6.5 million views and 32,000 shares.

December 2013:
Within four weeks, the video earned its 6-millionth share across social networks, making it the most shared video on YouTube.

Marketing Results:
The video received extensive media coverage (20,000 editorial pieces online alone) from all over the world. The positive word of mouth fueled more than conversation: Volvo truck sales immediately rose 31% over comparable monthly sales from the previous year.

To generate word of mouth, use a strategy that reflects deep insights and value-add for your customers. As John Moore, marketer for Starbucks and Whole Foods says, “If people are not talking about you, they are forgetting about you.”

How does your company encourage positive word of mouth?
Lisa Goller
Lisa Goller helps businesses tell their story. As a Toronto-based Strategic Freelance Writer & Editor, she helps executives and entrepreneurs stand out, look good and save time. Learn more at

Related articles:

Measure Your Marketing Muscle
Why Successful C-Suites Embrace Social Media
Position Yourself as an Expert
Barquilla, Brian. 3 Ways to Boost Word of Mouth and Referrals for Your Business. January 30, 2015
Fox, Justin. The Freelance Economy Still Runs on Word of Mouth. Harvard Business Review. October 9, 2014.
Rood, John. 6 Tips for Increasing Word-of-Mouth Referrals. Start-up Collective.
Whitler, Kimberly. Why Word Of Mouth Marketing Is The Most Important Social Media. Forbes. July 17, 2014.
Zander, Christina. The Van Damme Dividend? Volvo Truck Sales Rise 31%. The Wall Street Journal. December 18, 2013.

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