What is Word-of-Mouth Marketing (WOMM)?

Have you ever wondered how some companies manage to gain new customers without spending a fortune on advertising? Or how some brands manage to pop into the conversation more frequently than others? It’s not magic and it’s not random. What you’re seeing is the power of word-of-mouth marketing at work!

Word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) begins with the basic premise that personal recommendations are the most powerful form of advertising. Put simply, focusing on word-of-mouth means providing positive, memorable experiences throughout the customer lifecycle and keeping your brand at the forefront of the conversation.

Put simply, focusing on word-of-mouth means providing positive, memorable experiences throughout the customer lifecycle and keeping your brand at the forefront of the conversation. Click To Tweet

Why is WOMM so Effective?

Everyone from marketing professionals to university academics agree that when it comes to buyer behavior, trust is one of the most important factors. According to M. Nick Hajli of the University of London, trust influences buyer behavior “by directly influencing intention to buy and indirectly influencing perceived usefulness.” When someone trusts your company and the work you do, they’re more likely to recommend you to family or friends.

Countless studies have found that consumers believe personal recommendations from friends and family more than advertising; further studies have found that 88% of consumers trust recommendations from social media as much as those from friends and family in real life. In other words, people trust family, friends, and even strangers on the internet more than advertising.

People trust family, friends, and even strangers on the internet more than advertising. Click To Tweet

So how can you take advantage of WOMM? The answer is simple: don’t be passive, be proactive.

Build an Effective WOMM Strategy

When it comes to WOMM, the fact of the matter is that most businesses are still taking a passive approach. Authors Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin estimate that less than 1% of companies have a defined WOMM strategy. It’s not enough to simply provide great service and hope that your customers will share their experience with others. Seven out of ten consumers say that they are willing to leave a review if asked, but only 33% of businesses actively seek out reviews.

Let that sink in.

Seven out of ten consumers say that they are willing to leave a review if asked, but only 33% of businesses actively seek out reviews. Click To Tweet

Delight and Retain Customers

According to the National Law Review, it costs about five times more to bring on a new customer than it does to retain a current one. Combined with estimates by management consulting firm, Bain & Company, which states that a 5% increase in your customer retention rate leads on average to a 75% boost in a business’ profits, and it’s easy to understand why delighting and retaining customers is so important, not only for your WOMM strategy but for profitability.

Providing great customer service isn’t an option, it’s a necessity in today’s competitive landscape. Every WOMM strategy starts with improving the customer experience and making it more memorable. Negative experiences leave lasting impressions more so than positive experiences; in fact, 65% of consumers claim to have stopped using a company’s services after having just one poor encounter.

Give People Something to Talk About

How do you create positive experiences that people will want to share? Give them something to talk about! As a marketing services provider, you’re fighting an uphill battle when trying to acquire new clients. The market is saturated with competitors providing slightly different (but essentially the same) services as your company. Around every corner, there’s someone willing to undercut your prices and steal every deal away. Most marketing providers look at the state of the industry and see this saturation as a challenge, when in fact you can use it to your advantage!

There’s a scene in AMC’s Mad Men in which the protagonist, Don Draper, brilliantly takes on a similar situation: his client (a tobacco company) sells more or less the same product as their competitors, so how can they convince consumers to purchase their cigarettes? The answer is remarkably simple: “It’s toasted.” All tobacco is toasted before being rolled into cigarettes, but the power of marketing is that it allows you to turn a commonality into a differentiator. Speak about your services in new ways, promote a part of the process that’s easily forgotten, do something different!

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel to differentiate yourself from your competition. Marketing is about perception. Control the conversation and tell the story that you want to tell. Take for example the way that digital marketing agency, Knowmad talks about their brand on their homepage. There are less than 25 words above the fold and yet already visitors understand three key things about what makes the Knowmad team different: their personalized attention to clients (“helping YOU…”), their industry experience (“proudly celebrating 15 years…”), and their award-winning past work (“award-winning digital marketing agency”).

Compare this to another internet marketing company like Straight North and you’ll see a drastic difference. Their copy explicitly states that Straight North is a results-driven marketing company, which in and of itself is no different from most agencies these days. What makes them different is their transparency and their assertiveness. While other agencies might be results-driven as well, Straight North proudly exclaims it and provides the proof to back it up in the form of a counter that displays the number of qualified leads they’ve generated to date.

Both of these examples prime visitors and customers to expect a certain type of experience. By ensuring that your messaging and the services you provide align, you prepare your customers to tell the story that you want them to tell.

Encourage and Share User-Generated Content

Consumers are more research-savvy than ever and the internet has put an unimaginable wealth of information at their fingertips. The majority of consumers claim that they won’t trust a business with less than a four-star review rating. The difference between good marketing providers and the best marketing providers can often be a single star. By surveying the top 1% of providers on UpCity’s Marketplace, we found that the best agencies in North America have 7.8x more reviews on average. That is to say, marketing providers that excel at WOMM understand the power of those five little stars and invest time and effort into encouraging user-generated content.

Marketing providers that excel at WOMM understand the power of those five little stars and invest time and effort into encouraging user-generated content. Click To Tweet

Driving new reviews is crucial, but putting those positive words in front of the right eyes is even more essential. Social proof is a psychological phenomenon in which people conform to the actions or behaviors of their peers with the assumption that the actions of others are reflective of appropriate behavior. In other words, people tend to follow others. This isn’t a modern phenomenon. Companies have included testimonials in their advertisements since the early days of print! These days it’s important to display your reviews. Make them a prominent part of your website, include them on sales and marketing collateral, share them in the bottom of emails. Your options are limitless!

Listen, Learn, and Improve

A successful WOMM strategy is open and adaptable. As with any type of marketing, the only way to truly know what will work is to try, test, and try again. Keep your ears open and be receptive to the feedback your clients provide. You may find that what you thought would set you apart and create conversations isn’t what resonates with clients at all! The type of qualitative feedback that your clients provide is priceless when it comes to improving your business and demonstrating social proof.

What your clients tell you directly will only paint half the picture. Luckily, data can fill in the rest! Quantitative analysis of your number of reviews, average star rating, number of form-fills or calls, number of qualified leads, and other key performance indicators throughout the campaign will give you a better idea of your word-of-mouth strategy’s effect on your business.

Leave a Lasting Impression

When it comes to dominating WOMM, the most important thing is to leave a lasting, positive impression on every customer. As humans, we have an innate desire to communicate with each other, to share things that make our lives better or easier in some way. Word-of-mouth marketing is about leveraging that inherently social aspect of human nature to build trust in your brand.

UpCity helps marketing service providers across North America improve their word-of-mouth marketing strategy by improving their credibility and showcasing their expertise. Improve your recommendability and join the UpCity community today!

Manager of Content & Product Marketing at

Jordan is the Manager of Content & Product Marketing at UpCity. With almost a decade of experience designing websites and writing copy, Jordan has helped countless brands find their voice, tell their story, and connect with real people.