Branding and Marketing: Supporting Word-of-MouthAmerican businesses spend about $150 billion annually on advertising, but from a branding and marketing perspective, many businesses don’t take full advantage of the power of word-of-mouth marketing. Consumers are turning to social media for a number of reasons, but what’s clear is that they share their opinions about products, services and providers willingly.

Consumers can influence your branding efforts

Demographics are a moving target, but generally, younger social media users are more likely to use tools like Twitter and Facebook to influence consumer behavior. In fact, 40% of consumers deliberately try to influence their friends’ and colleagues’ purchasing behaviors using personal recommendations and opinions. That has implications for your branding and marketing efforts.

About half of consumers who use social media, use the Internet to provide decidedly unvarnished opinions of the products and services they select. Interestingly, consumers are equally likely to share their dissatisfaction with a product or service, regardless of their age demographic. That also has a big impact on your branding and marketing strategy.

It’s no secret that people like sharing their opinions, but is anyone really listening? Well, yes. About half of all consumers say that they product reviews and opinions they receive from friends and acquaintances affect their purchase decisions “a great amount” or a “fair amount.” That’s a lot of influence! But does word-of-mouth marketing belong in your branding and marketing strategy? Yes!

As a business owner, you can put word-of-mouth to work for you! By asking your satisfied customers to share their opinions about your products and/or services with other consumers or by way of a good online review, you can encourage your customers to be a positive influence for the 50% of prospective customers in their inner circles who are listening. Many of them may also have a need for the products and services you offer, and may really appreciate the “introduction.”

Sharing doesn’t just involve using social media, although social media provides an easy, cost-effective way to reach a lot of people quickly. If you operate a geographically localized business, you can use other “word-of-mouth” style branding and marketing tools like mailers, yard signs, bumper stickers, t-shirts and local advertising to spread the word about your business. By including reviews and recommendations from existing customers, you can take advantage of the best benefits of word-of-mouth.

But what about “bad” word-of-mouth? Customers who are unhappy with your product or service are very likely to let the world know about it, so how you manage “bad” word of mouth is also critical. If you see a bad or even neutral review of your business online, respond to it immediately. While customers may be more than willing to lodge a complaint, they’re much less likely to follow up and let others know what you did to correct the problem.

Your response to a bad review should provide details of how you or your business responded to the situation and corrected the problem. Knowing that a business will try to remedy a customer’s bad experience can often turn a prospective customer’s “bad” first impression into a good one.

Whatever you do, don’t plant “fake” positive reviews of your business online and don’t “down-vote” your competitors! Legitimate review sites monitor their reviewers for “plants.” Your reviews can be removed, your business could be blackballed or worse, you could be publicly “outed” for planting fake reviews! Instead, rely on your good customers to help you spread the word about the great work you’re doing!

If you would like more information about branding and marketing strategies that include word-of-mouth components, contact our creative director Dave Ramsell, or give Dave a call at (330) 243-0651 for a branding and marketing consultation.

Photo Credit: Svilen Milev, via StockXchng