The Power of Word of Mouth Stories and How You Can Start Telling Your Own
Since the beginning of time, we’ve been spreading new ideas simply by talking to each other. It was and continues to be one of the best forms of marketing there is. We got away from it for awhile with companies buying up TV ads and billboards to push their ideas to people, but now in the age of the Internet, we are returning more and more to this model that has managed to withstand the test of time.
Big brands used to have complete control over their relationship with consumers. They could buy up all the ad space and practically force audiences to choose certain things. With the Internet, with blogs, and with social media, the power was given back to the consumer to decide what ideas they value most and with who and how they want to share them with.
For startups, this was a great change. Gone are the days when you needed a big marketing budget to get any traction with audiences. Now everyone has the power to share their idea so long as that idea is worth sharing and they can do so effectively. And it turns out that now more than ever, one of the best ways to get that done is with good, old-fashioned word of mouth.
One of the great thing about word of mouth marketing is that consumers trust it way more than other forms of advertising. According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising. Why bother with underhanded advertising tricks when you can get your audience to become the evangelists for your product?
Friends tell friends about products they believe in and those friends tell even more people. With social media as a driver for these interactions, it’s no wonder that this strategy has so much going for it.
Some of the biggest companies in the world — Google, Coca Cola, Twitter — have adapted incredibly well to this new form of word of mouth advertising and used it to great effect. So let’s break it down and have a look at what it means to use word of mouth successfully for your business.
The first step in creating an effective word of mouth story is to build what’s called “a wow product”. The success of wow products can be broken down into three steps. First, to make a product that’s worth talking about. That’s where the wow comes in. The second part is to make sure that product is getting into the right hands for people to start talking about it. The third and final part is to make it incredibly easy for your audience to talk about your product and spread the word further.
Making Your Wow Product
There are two core parts that make any product successful. First, that it's serving some purpose that is valuable to people and, second, that the service it offers is being communicated in a successful way. The best way to do this is with a meaningful story attached to that product.
Google found success by being the most convenient and effective search engine on the market. It didn’t get ahead of the competition by some chance. It provided a better service than anyone else was at the time and catapulted ahead as a result.
This is the key. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to succeed, you just need to create a product that solves a specific problem better than everything else that’s on the market. Convenience and simplicity are big targets when trying to get that done.
That second part — telling a meaningful story — is going to play a big role too. If you can identify what your own story is, and if you can make it simple and sticky, then your audience will know exactly what to say to prospective customers to get them engaged.
Goldieblox is a great example of a company that reinvented itself with a simple, but strong story. Goldieblox markets itself not just as a company to sell toys to girls, but a movement that is rebalancing the gender inequalities in engineering. They were able to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars on Kickstarter, well above their expectations, and their story was what made that possible.
Sharing Your Wow Product
There are a few specific ways that you can begin to spread your product and your story once you’ve got it figured out. One of the best ways is obvious. Just get out there and talk about it with people. This is exactly what AirBnB did in its early days. They went out and engaged with users. Look where they are now.
Another great move is to appeal to influencers in whatever industry you’re in. If you can make them believe in your product then they are the best kind of people to spread the word. Look at where their interests are and target your efforts in that direction.
Finding and joining established communities is another incredible word of mouth strategy. There are groups of people out there that are interested in the kinds of things you’re doing. Seek them out, join them, and work together to make your product a part of whatever solution they’re after.
Making it Easy
There’s so many little things you can do to jumpstart your efforts to spread the word. One of the best way to do this is to align yourself with a relevant cause. This is especially true if you think your product is doing something socially important. Once again, Goldieblox is a great example of how exactly this is done.
Another part is to frame your product in a way that makes it interesting to talk about. Think about what you’re doing and why people would find it interesting. Push that in your marketing, leverage the elements that get people talking.
There’s no reason why you can’t spend a little money while you’re at it. Referral programs are a great way to get it all going way, way faster. If people are practically incentivized to spread the word then it’s no surprise that that’s exactly what they’ll do.