Definition: Word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing describes both targeted efforts and naturally occurring instances where users share their satisfaction with a brand. Many best practices and marketing tactics encourage natural word of mouth, but campaigns — particularly on social media — can have the explicit aim of promoting an online business' social exposure.

According to Nielsen, 92 percents of people trust recommendations from friends and family over any other type of advertising. For enterprises that earn it, WOM marketing is one of the smartest techniques for improving brand loyalty, user satisfaction, and acquiring new customers.

Why word-of-mouth marketing is crucial for online businesses

Word-of-mouth accomplishes something that few marketing mediums can provide with such effectiveness: credibility. Consumers look for social proofs and other forms of validation to ensure that an online business is trustworthy. Unlike brick-and-mortar businesses, where someone can decide for themselves if a merchant is worth buying from, users require more from a website who receives their payment information.

Social proofs have a significant impact on ecommerce and web content overall, and WOM marketing builds up measurable proof that can translate directly to increases sales.

Connect with customers

Word-of-mouth marketing is both cost-effective and better perceived by customers than other marketing efforts, makign it a crucial component of online business growth. Boosted social media campaigns can reward users for liking or sharing a page, and the visibility generated from such campaigns can be much more effective than other expensive mediums.

This interaction is part of the Three E's: ecommerce sites must engage, equip and empower their consumers to truly reap the benefit of WOM marketing. This means listening to what customers have to say, giving clients reasons to share their experiences — great products and customer service, for example — and helping people find ways to distribute their opinions and start a conversation.

By using the Three E's as a guideline, companies can target their WOM marketing toward customers who would make strong brand ambassadors.

How to create a WOM marketing strategy

Businesses are always looking for ways to attract new customers. WOM marketing is a smart tool that is not only cost-effective, but credible in the eyes of consumers. To create a successful advertising strategy, enterprises must:

  • Go above and beyond for clients: Make customer service a priority, paying special attention to inquiries made in public forums — aka social media. When issues are resolved, customers often return to their original post and follow up with a public "thank you."
  • Pay attention to details, both large and small: Focus on everything that will affect a customer's experience, down to the nitty gritty. Product packaging, estimated shipping times and notification emails all contribute to a customer's satisfaction.
  • Incentivize referrals: Adding a reward gives current customers more of a reason to refer a brand. These rewards increase their exposure to your products, which then encourages further referrals and purchases.
  • Utilize influencers: Reaching out to influencers such as bloggers and prominent fans is a powerful form of social proof and is more effective than a large quantity of regular WOM shares. Positive recommendations from influencers can be the difference that elevates a brand to the next level.
  • Blog regularly and promote across marketing channels: Create useful, engaging content that's easy to share. Social media and email are particularly important for maximizing content reach.
  • Be respectful, social and honest: Clients should feel as if their sentiments matter and will affect a business in a positive manner if shared. When you make a mistake, acknowledge it. Word-of-mouth depends on forging connections with customers, and by demonstrating your brand as genuine, it will resonate further and encourage natural referrals.

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