Word of mouth marketing is so effective because it uses the personal and business relationships that already exist between people. In some cases, such as celebrities or media personalities, the people involved may never have met, but a trust relationship still exists. As a marketer, being aware of these relationships and finding ways to leverage them can be the key to a product’s success.
On October 24 of 2008, talk show host Oprah Winfrey mentioned the Kindle, the electronic book reader from Amazon.com. She gave a free kindle to everyone in her audience, and also offered a $50 discount to viewers at home. Most importantly, Oprah said “I’m telling you, it’s absolutely my new favorite thing in the world.”
On that day, traffic to Amazon.com was up 6%; the following day, traffic increased another 4%. After the show, over 80% of blog posts about the Kindle have mentioned Oprah’s endorsement (including this one), and the term [Kindle] saw a 479% increase in search volume(stats via adage).
What happened through this endorsement was the Amazon Kindle transformed from a geeky toy that was known and used by early adopters in the technology world to something that soccer moms all across the United States were now looking at. Oprah had single handedly started a viral word of mouth campaign. She went from being a loyal and happy customer to a salesman for the product.
Not everyone has celebrity customers like Oprah Winfrey that they can leverage as a salesman. In some cases, micro-celebrities are just as effective. For example, lets take a look at Cali Lewis. Cali Lewis is the host of a daily video podcast called Geek Brief. On her show, she covers a wide variety of technology news, gadget news, and gadget reviews. Her perky personality and love of technology are infectious, and when she really likes a product, it shows. One of the items she mentioned regularly was the Drobo automated backup system. The makers of the Drobo product eventually became sponsors of her show. They had contest giveaways, and even had Cali do a live demo of the product at the MacWorld Conference. Viewing the video below, it’s impossible to deny that her belief in the product is anything but genuine. That makes her much more convincing than a website with content written by your marketing and advertising department will ever be.
Ultimately you don’t need celebrities. All you need to do is empower your customers to become your advocates, and give them the tools to turn into virtual salesmen. For example, let’s look at the Flyclear program. Flyclear is one of the registered traveler programs that’s in airports across the United States. Members of the program share biometric information (fingerprints and retina scans) and, once verified, are allowed to bypass long security lines at airports. Flyclear has an affiliate program where everyone you refer earns an extra month membership for both parties. Danny Sullivan first introduced this program to me on his blog. I eventually joined and we both gained an extra month. I now like the program so much that I am now referring other people with my Flyclear discount code (excuse the shameless self promotion).
Marketers who are looking to promote their products with word of mouth marketing should take a few key steps. Examine your existing customer base and look for your strongest advocates – the people who genuinely love your products or services. Approach them with special offers if they refer new customers to you. Give them early releases of your new products to try or demo, and if possible let them discuss these products in public. Leverage these relationships as potential advertising opportunities. Lastly, look for ways to make all of your customers brand advocates. Give them the tools and the incentive to promote you. Make it a win-win scenario for both parties, and everyone ends up happy.