Did you know that only 7% of word of mouth happens online? Social media, web presence and visibility are important, but it cannot be your unique strategy to grow your business.

We tend to think that since people spend hours and hours online, this number would be much higher, but it’s not. A Research by the Keller Fay Group found that only 7% of word of mouth happens online.

We overestimate online word of mouth because it’s easier to see: we can measure our reach, the number of comments or ‘likes’, pages viewed, etc. Now don’t get me wrong: I believe social media and an overall web presence is mandatory for today’s businesses, but this cannot be your exclusive avenue to grow your business.

I often discuss with entrepreneurs about their web presence and communication strategy and many, to my surprise, still believe in the adage ‘build it and they will come’. We need to adapt to today’s reality and to today’s consumer behaviours to build and grow your business.

Your newsletter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are technologies, not strategies. This is why you want to be intentional with your word of mouth marketing.

Harnessing the power of word of mouth, online and offline, requires understanding why people talk and why some things get talked about and shared more than others.

The power of word of mouth marketing

Word of mouth marketing has been identified as the most valuable form of marketing – the one that people trust above all others and the one that is most likely to drive sales. Here are a few stats:

  • According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising.
  • 64% of marketing executives indicated that they think word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing.

John Moore, marketer for Starbucks and Whole Foods says, “If people are not talking about you, they are forgetting about you.”

Generating word of mouth

You can have a great approach and service offering, but if people don’t know about it, then you won’t have the impact you want to have on the world around you. Word of mouth from everyday people is ten times more effective than any other form of traditional advertising.

And it is more than just sharing articles on LinkedIn, creating a Facebook and a Twitter page.  Successful word of mouth requires strategic thinking.

Here are the most important steps to take when developing out your word of mouth marketing strategy:

  1. Target Influencers. Connect with centers of influence who are in contact with your ideal client; these can be other professionals, journalists, bloggers – think outside the box. Make a list of 25 influencers and follow them on social media, start building a virtual relationship, learn about them and engage with their content (like, comment, retweet, etc.) and step into a human-human connection.This is the exact strategy I used to become one of the key resources for a pan-Canadian newspaper – for the last 7 years now, they’ve called me almost monthly to contribute to articles for them. They have a much broader reach that I have (and probably will ever have!).
  2. Be a thought leader. Clarify your uniqueness, or as I like to call it your ‘X’ factor, what makes you and your business unique, and tell people about it.  This should be communicated on your website, brochure and all your communication platform (newsletters, social media profiles, etc.) Your uniqueness makes people interested. If you’re ordinary, people won’t notice you, nor will they talk about you.
  3. Make your marketing content interesting and sharable. People will talk about things that make them look more interesting to others. For example: Did you know that Starbucks spends more on health care insurance for its employees ($300 million) than on coffee beans?

Imagine yourself at a dinner party and you share something like that or: Did you know that two thirds of the people on the planet have never seen snow? That would make you interesting and could be a great conversation starter, right? People will remember you as interesting, and they will go out there and repeat this interesting fact to others, doubling the effectiveness of this strategy.

What does sharing facts have to do with growing your business? Twofold:  First, people often talk about whatever comes to mind and, second, people remember stories. As they think about the fact or the story, they will remember  you, hence, your solution offering and the problem you solve. (If you’re looking for interesting fact, we share a weekly #FridayFunFact on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook)

When you master these 3 steps, you will have a strong foundation to increase your reach and your visibility and grow your word of mouth marketing with remarkable and valuable content they want to share.

Always keep in mind, your brand and your reputation are only as good as what people say about it.

Now go out there and be remarkable!

Sara Gilbert

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