Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon claims to have mastered the art of “fighting without fighting.” Marketers are always looking for a similar concept. The art of marketing a product or service without having to appear like a marketing campaign. A campaign that is low cost, with high engagement, and leads to consistent conversion. George Silverman gives a method for creating this type of campaign in his book "The Secret of Word of Mouth Marketing." Word of mouth marketing is when customers give recommendations of a product or a service to their social networks. However, the trick is how to create an effective marketing campaign that initially creates strong word of mouth among your potential and returning customers.
Silverman identifies multiple stage of a purchase decision (deciding to decide, identify, study, weigh, trial, adoption, and expansion) and the standard model of customer life cycle (innovators, early adopters, middle adopters, late adopters, laggards) and describes that to be effective a campaign needs to modify the message for those different groups at different stages of their purchasing decision. This means that marketing should be focused on what the customer is like at what stage, and avoid blanket campaigns because it will inevitably lead to high churn and minimize conversions.
The key is to create simplicity, ease, and fun. Individuals are likely to share their experiences with people in their social network. The more a customer talks about a meaningful experience the more they become an advocate for your brand. Eighty seven percent of consumers say that they look at online reviews as much as reviews within their social networks and most online reviews focus on the experience. Look at any Yelp review. Most of it talks about a particularly memorably bad or positive part and expands on it (it seems less and less that the food is talked about for restaurants but whether the customer was treated well to their expectations).
This does not mean that that marketers should try to look for campaigns that “go viral” almost no campaigns do go viral and 90 percent of word of mouth communication happens offline. So, the purpose of effective marketing is not to force the conversation or measure it in the number of comments that you get online, it should be about building a meaningful experience for the consumer. Even referral programs that have incentives for a product have been shown to not lead to high levels of new customers. And the dark side of word of mouth advertising is that a negative review has been shown to cause four out of five customers to look for a different product.
Therefore, word of mouth marketing should not be a goal by itself, but part of an additional resource and a result of effective marketing campaigns that encourage and enhance how a customer feels about personal treatment by a brand. Apple is a great example of a company that valued the experience of the user in their product design, user experience, and how a customer interacted with a brand, which has led to a cult-like fanaticism. Silverman suggests that markets think of their message, mavens (transmitters), means (what will you do), motivation (why will people talk about you), measurement (how will you know people will talk about you), and multiplication (how will it spread) and use different versions of these techniques to effectively create that conversation and start “a marketing campaign that does not seem like a marketing campaign.”
Flickr / Photo by darwin Bell.