In just 15 years we’ve seen ‘word of mouth marketing’ shift in ways that marketers had never anticipated or imagined. But before we see where we are and what we’re dealing with, let’s wind back the clock and consider where we’ve come from…
It’s 1999, marketers were utilising every tool they had available to increase acquisition, reduce churn, increase brand consideration and ensure positive perceptions of their product and offering. Direct Marketing, the holy grail with data allowing marketers to get a one-to-one view of their customers and profile them to allow the ability to target prospects that look similar (demo, geo, socio etc). There’s also now the ability to isolate high value customers and brand advocates and profile them allowing the ability to get more of the same or use them as acquisition vehicles with Member Get Member activities.
Then there comes the pitfalls of not dealing with negative brand experiences quickly enough and how it can have a detrimental affect on their ability to retain customers but more importantly acquire new customers who are connected to people having poor experiences. Back in 1999 we had the Institute of Direct Marketing highlighting that a customer with a positive experience will tell 1 – 3 people they know and therefore feel comfortable recommending that brand or product. Then we have the customer who has had a poor experience who go on to tell 5+ people they know and meet and are likely to be at risk of churning themselves. The idea of this alone would put the fear of GOD in to marketers. Outside of WOM people were making decisions about purchase or sign up for themselves based on their own opinion and sometimes limited view.
Wind the clock forward 15 years and we have ourselves with a whole different ball game. Word of Mouth marketing is now a fundamental part of the decision and consideration process. It also comes in multiple forms and platforms and now every view, written feeling, product or service complaint is visible by thousands of both customers and prospects looking online for help in whether they’re making the right decision or not before they buy. People today have more choice and the ability to get in depth views of how a product works, how long it lasts and what similar people think of it following their own experience. And once they’ve made a decision on a product or brand they are willing to stand by and show their support by connecting with the brand and demonstrating to their social networks their support. As we know this comes in the form of ratings, reviews, endorsements with personal views connected to them and all shared with their connections. We’re also seeing a move from just a click, like or written comment to more involvement through video being created to demonstrate physical interaction and experience of a product and give their view to then share with a wider audience willing to watch and listen.
Marketers who have embraced how their customer behaviour has changed and how they will seek out to find opinion, views, product information or comparisons and position the brand within that process are the ones winning. Today we are required to understand that pre-purchase journey and allow the ability to bring customers and prospects in to the conversation. We need to offer tools which allow customers to give ratings and reviews so we can monitor and react to positive and poor experiences in a way which is seen by others. We need to remember consumers are still people and will appreciate that nothing is always perfect however if a brand is not willing to accept and show a level of transparency as well as respond positively to a poor experience then they will not only leave but be willing to share that poor experience and brand response with thousands! In that some things haven’t changed since 1999 and what consumers expect is a product which works, a brand with integrity and one willing to support its customers.
The brands willing to communicate in this way will win fans/customers and by listening to those customers grow sales whilst gaining positive ratings, review, shares and recommendations and more importantly advocates!
Author: Colin Rebairo (Senior Digital Strategist)