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Word of mouth marketing. It’s a matter of focus.

Word of mouth marketing is like the gold at the end of the rainbow for eCommerce operators and marketers.
It’s a dream that many follow but few achieve. Word of mouth marketing (WOMM) is the ultimate marketing tool. Wikipedia defines it this way, “an unpaid form of promotion in which satisfied customers tell other people how much they like a business, product, service, or event. Word-of-mouth is one of the most credible forms of advertising because people who don’t stand to gain personally by promoting something put their reputations on the line every time they make a recommendation.” Word of Mouth Marketing

Social media makes word of mouth marketing fools gold.
Marketers face a big temptation from social media because it provides an easy medium to support WOMM. Social media enables messages to scale and multiply because with social sites each person has a network they can communicate with very quickly. Social media doesn’t require face-to-face contact and can quickly jump to additional people circles. The trick for marketers is to determine how to get people to share their experience with the product or service.

Therein lies the problem. The focus for WOMM is not about convincing people to talk about your products. It’s about giving people a reason to talk about your products and services. The social media aspect is useful because it makes it easier for people to share your product and services with others. Customers talk to prospective customers not because marketers convince them to, but because of the experience they have with the product.

Word of mouth marketing originates from seeds within your company culture.
I don’t think I’m out of place to say that WOMM doesn’t come from a focus on turning profits and making money. I’m not arguing against the fact that companies exist to make money. I recognize that companies are in the business of making profits. But where is the focus of the business? Is it to provide the best customer experience possible? Is it to continually innovate products and services that wow customers to meet a need? Profits come as a result of satisfied customers.

A great example of this is Southwest Airlines. The are well known for winning customer service awards and have a great loyal following. This is an airline folks! In an industry where its common place to criticize and share bad experiences, Southwest uses service tactics such as games and activities when flights are delayed. They don’t charge customers a fee when they want to check a bag at the counter. They maintain a low ticket price. Oh, and this is a profitable company. But it’s a company focused on customer service and they have a string of customer service awards to prove it.

My argument is that WOMM comes from companies obsessed with finding connections with customers through their products and services. Not companies obsessed with finding profits through price increases, fees, and sales trickery.

What is your obsession and focus?
People don’t like recommendations from friends if it feels like a sales pitch. The message still has to be relevant. This is why product reviews and sites like Angies List are popular. Even the power of recommendations from a stranger hold weight for persuading purchases.

Customers feel the urge to do this based on their experience with the product, not from the pleading of your marketing copywriters.

So to find WOMM, we have to first find our focus.