Product Marketing Rule #12: Reinvent Word of Mouth Marketing

42 Rules of Product Marketing Facebook

Product Marketing Rule #12 from the best-selling book, 42 Rules of Product Marketing, was written by Nick Coster, Co-founder, Brainmates

Word of mouth communication can be so effective that people can quite often discard  other information that might indicate competing messages.

There are a variety of statistics that demonstrate the difference and impacts between positive and negative customer experiences. Happy customers will tell three people about their experiences, while unhappy customers tell more than ten.

We call this effect “word of mouth” communication.

The power of word of mouth communication is that most people will rely more on recommendations from people that they know than from strangers.

It leverages the levels of trust that people share, that are often difficult to establish.Word of mouth communication can be so effective that people can quite often discard  other information that might indicate competing messages.

Product Marketers have always sought after positive word of mouth, by sharing testimonials and other positive experiences that seem to come from a trusted source, to overcome the inherent trust barrier that most people have when they initiate a relationship with a new person or brand.

The last 10 years have seen the power of word of mouth change significantly as the Internet has become increasingly bi-directional.

The rise of Web 2.0 allowed customers to post comments on websites.  Blogs have allowed anyone to easily publish their ideas and share them with an increasing audience. Yet it is has been the introduction of social networking services that have replicated and reinforced the historical trust relationships that people have always shared. Along the way social networking has allowed both weak and strong relationships to remain persistent, relationships that would otherwise fade away as peoples social circles change and evolve.

Before Social Networks, if you lost contact with a friend, you had to choose to let the relationship go or wait until a chance future meeting.

Now Social Networks hold these connections until they are deliberately severed. The act of ‘un-friending’ someone, while technically trivial, implies an almost malicious intent. A feedback loop that causes these social networks to grow is thus created.

Before Social Networks became popular, the effort required to share an idea, or experience with our ‘network’ was significant.

You would need to have their time and attention to share that message, so it had better be worth it! This is one of the reasons why bad experiences spread more effectively than positive ones. The bad experiences make better stories.

Now the effort of sharing an idea has been trivialised, with the most fleeting of thoughts shared to all our ever increasing network of ‘friends’ or followers who get to choose whether the idea is of value to them. To further amplify this effect, social networks provide simple yet powerful tools to share and propagate valuable ideas to their networks.

For product marketing, this means that the power of word of mouth has been amplified exponentially by social networks, so that good or bad messages about our products can ripple through the attention of hundreds or thousands of people in just hours. As we saw in Rule 11, this can provide an opportunity to Product Marketing to inject ideas that are worth sharing into these networks, by

  • Monitoring positive comments from customers about offerings and sharing them
  • Providing regular communications about products and services without selling, to develop a relationship that can create a following.
  • Identifying negative sentiment when it first appears and addressing it effectively.

These can become turning points in a market’s attitude to a product if a problem or communication is addressed effectively and promptly.

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