In the age of “fake news”, it’s no surprise that trust in companies and advertising is in decline.
A 2019 survey conducted by Edelman revealed that 41% of consumers don’t trust brands’ marketing communications to be accurate and truthful. In fact, according to research undertaken by Lithium (now Khoros), only 10% of consumers trust brands at all.
While it appears 90% of us distrust brands, in contrast, 92% of us trust recommendations from friends and family more than any other form of advertising. This translates into 20% – 50% of all purchases stemming from a word of mouth recommendation.
In other words, people trust people and especially those in their inner circle.
Today, your customers get their information from a variety of sources. They’re influenced by their friend’s social media posts, by online reviews, and by negative publicity. They are more empowered, less loyal, more informed and less trusting than ever.
In this new consumer environment, it’s vital to rethink your marketing strategy as traditional approaches become irrelevant. You can no longer rely on your advertising to cut through or your brand evoking trust.
Instead of advertising to your customers, it’s time to share your story with your customers, to encourage conversations around your brand and business. We know that people trust people. It’s time to unlock the power of word of mouth marketing to ensure your message comes from a trusted source.
Harnessing Word of Mouth Marketing for Your Business
We all know that people buy from businesses they know, like and trust. Increasingly, people buy from businesses that are referred to them by their friends. With brand trust in decline and word of mouth trust on the rise, consider your customers as your new marketing team!
As a business owner, you need to tap into the power of both online and offline word of mouth referrals – otherwise known as human-driven marketing. Internet reviews, word of mouth referrals, peer recommendations, and social media conversations are all examples of human-driven marketing, lending authenticity and trust to your brand.
While good reviews and recommendations are great, if you really want to get your customers to market on your behalf, you need to give them a reason to rave about your offering and service. You need to give them something to share, something that will spark conversation.
You need to give your customers a story. People LOVE to share stories!
Using Stories in Word of Mouth Marketing
Step 1 – Identify Your Storytellers
Stories become powerful the more they are shared, which means you need to find the right people to share them for you. Who is going to be your voice, the trusted source that tells your story? Who will spread the word? Who will be your storytellers?
For most small business owners, your storytellers will come in the shape of brand advocates.
Brand advocates (AKA your alpha audience) simply love what you have to say and can’t get enough of you. Once they know about your story, your brand advocates will authentically and passionately spread the word. Intrinsically motivated, they are compelled to share stories about the brands and products they love, through their conversations and social media streams.
Your most effective marketing team, brand advocates genuinely connect to your story, allowing you to harness the goodwill of people already familiar with your brand to spread your message. While storytellers can be incentivized to share your story, their main motivation isn’t the perks— it’s the fact they genuinely feel connected to your brand.
ACTION: Identify your potential brand advocates (your storytellers) by listing customers who’ve:
- already purchased from you and love your brand and your products
- left glowing reviews online or by email/messenger
- engaged with your social media content
- recommended your product/service to others.
Who are your brand advocates?
Step 2 – Identify Your Stories
Now you’ve identified your storytellers, it’s time to consider the stories you’re going to share with them. It can be tricky coming up with good ideas, but it doesn’t have to be difficult if you stick to these broad areas:
- Stories focusing on what sets your brand apart
- Stories focusing on the values, desires, and concerns of your customers
- Stories focusing on why you do what you do
What sets you apart?
What makes your story worthy of being shared by your storytellers and brand advocates? What would people find interesting at a party, over dinner with friends, or at a barbecue? In this news saturated world, your story needs to be authentic, interesting and relevant to set you apart.
Authentic – to attract attention, it’s vital to provide something authentic, new, and cool. In short, you need to supply something worth talking about, but your story also has to be true. It has to be honest and it has to respect your audience’s intelligence.
Interesting – a story has to be interesting, so an influencer will pick it up and investigate it. ‘Interesting’ delivers information in a novel or noteworthy manner – if you present people with something really new, they will stop and pay attention.
Relevant – if it’s going to be ‘talkable’, the story of your brand has to be meaningful to your audience. For a story to get passed around, it has to be somehow connected to the lives of the people doing the talking, it can’t just be important to you or your business.
ACTION: Use the set of statements and questions below to help you consider what your story might be. They are designed to get you thinking, help you build ideas for stories and make your brand ‘talkable’.
- How will you create stories and conversations that are authentic, interesting and relevant?
- What is your brand statement and value proposition?
- How does your spouse, loved one, or a top employee describe your company/product to others?
- How do others describe your company? What description(s) make you the happiest? What description(s) do you think are the easiest for others to share?
- What is at stake? What will happen if I don’t use your product/service? What makes using your product different?
- What does your product or service make happen for your client? What is your gift to them?
What sets you apart and makes people want to talk about you?
Understand your customers’ WHY
Your story may be authentic, interesting and relevant but it also needs to speak to your customers’ why. To be shared, your story needs to resonate with your audience and connect to their own values, desires, and personality.
A Brand Archetype helps you to better understand your audience, establish shared values and attract those who believe in the personality that your brand represents (who are then more likely to become your brand advocates).
- The Outlaw – rebellious, shocking, disruptive, feared, powerful, and liberated, the Outlaw has a disdain for rules, regulation, and conformity. They value freedom and thirst for revolution. Harley Davidson, Virgin, and Levi are brands who speak to the Outlaw.
- The Magician – intuitive, charismatic, magical, transformative, imaginative and curious, the Magician takes people on a journey of change. They believe that we are limited only by our imagination. Disney, Coca-Cola, and Lynx appeal to the Magician archetype.
- The Hero – a warrior, competitive, principled, proud, brave, and courageous, the Hero looks to prove their worth through courage, hard work, and determination. They want to feel inspired and empowered. Hero brands include Nike, Duracell, and FedEx.
- The Lover – passionate, sexy, intimate, indulgent, sensual, and emotional, the Lover desires to be desired. They love premium products and seek to become more desirable to others. Think brands like Chanel, Victoria’s Secret and Haagen-Dazs.
- The Jester – a clown, a trickster, playful, impulsive, fun, and spontaneous, the Jester is all about having fun and living life in the moment. They are eternal optimists and will always be young at heart. Jester brands include M&Ms, Old Spice and Ben & Jerry’s.
- The Everyman – unpretentious, reliable, dependable, honest and predictable, the Everyman values routine and craves belonging. They want connection, value, and understanding. Brands like Kmart, Target, and McDonald’s target the Everyman.
- The Caregiver – altruistic, selfless, nurturing, supportive, compassionate, and empathetic, the Caregiver wants to protect and care for others, especially those in need. Caregiver brands include The Body Shop, Bupa, and UNICEF.
- The Ruler – confident, authoritative, responsible, organised, and productive, the Ruler is a dominant personality who desires control. They seek respect, success, and prosperity, valuing exclusivity. Think brands like Mercedes Benz, Rolex, and Hugo Boss.
- The Creator – a risk-taker, innovative, daring, creative, imaginative, and experimental, the Creator turns ideas into reality. They want to be free to express themselves and are always looking for something new. Apple, Lego, and Ikea are global Creator brands.
- The Innocent – wholesome, pure, forgiving, trusting, happy, and optimistic, the Innocent craves safety and happiness for themselves and those around them. They value simplicity, transparency, and purity. Innocent brands include Kleenex, Dove, and Nudie.
- The Sage – confident, credible, a thinker, clever, knowledgeable, and in control, the Sage seeks truth, knowledge, and wisdom. They want to understand the world and share that understanding with others. Google, BBC, and National Geographic all centre the Sage.
- The Explorer – adventurous, independent, self-sufficient, daring and a seeker of new things, the Explorer loves a challenge. They are driven to push the boundaries and explore themselves and the world around them. Think Jeep, North Face, and GoPro.
ACTION: Use this list of Brand Archetypes to identify the desire that most closely represents your customers WHY. The trick is to identify your customer’s personality, then align your brand with the archetype that would most appeal to a desire within your customer.
What brand archetype best represents your customers WHY?_________________________________________________________________________________________
Understand your WHY
Every superhero deserves an origin story and your brand does too. Why do you exist? What is your purpose and raison d’etre? Why do you do what you do? Sharing the story of your WHY is a powerful way to give your customers a behind-the-scenes and personal glimpse of what drives you and your brand.
ACTION: Start by visualising a time that shaped who you are today, in the context of your business. When, where and what happened? What’s the a-ha moment or ‘something interesting’ element? What did you learn? If you don’t think your first attempt is story-worthy, consider another time in your business life. It can also help to speak your story out loud a few times to see how it evolves. Remember to let the story unfold…
What is your origin story?
Step 3 – Create ‘Peak Moments’
One story that people love sharing is an incredible customer experience, so create ‘peak moments’ your clients can’t resist sharing. Deliver an experience that makes them love you and eager to spread your story. Be the brand that cares about customers and help them share their positive experiences with your brand in online and offline conversations.
Empower your staff to embrace the needs of your customers. Give them the chance to delight (and, if possible, thrill) your customers by setting up your service culture to support their efforts. Listen to your staff, take a risk and do something conversation-worthy. Create a real buzz by delivering unique and personalised experiences that people will want to talk about.
Build an emotional connection into your user experience at every customer touchpoint. Think about how you can get people to talk about you. How can you create an insta-moment and make something post-worthy happen? Ensure each interaction is special for your customers, looking at each experience from their viewpoint and making every touchpoint count.
ACTION: Identify your ‘peak moments’, touchpoints in your business that compel people to pull out their cameras, share your story or leave a rave review. It’s important to be intentional about creating peak moments for your customers. Consider how you can create a peak moment that is memorable, unique, meaningful, exhilarating and, most importantly, sparks conversation!
What are your peak moments?
Step 4 – Set Your Story Free
Don’t forget to consider how you will bring the stories to the attention of your storytellers. For your stories to be known and shared, your business first needs to become part of the conversation, so be proactive in building connections with your brand advocates.
Then you can look at setting your story free in the following ways:
Organic – genuine word of mouth marketing, where people share your story because they have a natural desire to spread your message. Stories focusing on peak moments, compelling origin tales and authentic experiences tend to thrive organically through word of mouth marketing.
Paid – influencer marketing, where the story is shared because the influencer is being paid or gifted with the product. Stories introducing new and innovative products, inspired customer experiences and value add products/services tend to do better in paid campaigns.
Amplified – a marketing campaign designed to encourage or accelerate word of mouth reach. Amplified marketing is the process of publishing, promoting and distributing content for greater reach using paid, owned and earned channels, giving you the best of both worlds.
How will you set your story free?
Word of mouth marketing is king, with the most effective marketing taking place in online and offline conversations. Your brand needs to create genuine connections with customers by engaging in conversations and sharing compelling stories as part of your marketing efforts.
Focus on creating experiences and developing brand advocates to unlock the power of word of mouth advertising. Instead of trying to keep up with the latest marketing platforms, concentrate on the channels that continue to be reliable, steadfast, cost-efficient, and time-tested.
Above all, remember that people love to talk to each other. This. Never. Changes.
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