Word-of-Mouth Marketing: What’s in it for me?

The credibility and authenticity of word-of-mouth communications (WOM) is undeniable. When people tell friends and others about their experiences with a company, product, or service, recipients of the messages know that it is not a sales tactic; it is a first-hand account of one’s interaction with a business. Best of all, WOM is viewed as “free advertising.” The messages are not only coming from credible sources, but they are delivered at no charge! Channels for WOM are plentiful today. Email, Facebook, and Twitter are like office water cooler talk on steroids. Messages can spread quickly and extensively.

Note in the previous sentence the use of “can be” as fewer people are engaging in WOM today compared to just two years ago. A study by Colloquy found that 58% of people surveyed have conversations often with others about products and services they have used, a drop from 73% in 2008. An even more troubling statistic for marketers is that the percentage of people who have recommended a product or service to others has declined from 75% in 2008 to 57% today. It seems that consumers are more reluctant today to share their consumption experiences with other people at a time when engaging in WOM is easier than ever before.

Have consumers suddenly become bashful about sharing information with other people on products and services they use? While there has been some evidence of less conspicuous consumption (which includes talking about brands purchased) following the onset of the economic recession in 2008, that trend was not so widespread that it would create a downward shift in WOM communications. The ease of engaging in WOM online may also be contributing to the caution people are exercising in making recommendations to others. In some cases, people may not want others to know every brand that is in their cabinets and cupboard and thus are reluctant to engage in WOM.

In other situations, WOM may not occur because of a lack of developing brand advocates. People may need to be encouraged to tell others about brands. Merely having a link to a Facebook fan page or Twitter feed is not powerful enough to enlist people to spread the word. Encourage customers to engage in online WOM and reward them for their advocacy. Channels for WOM have evolved, but human nature has not. The age-old question “what’s in it for me?” is being asked still. Coupons, discounts, prizes, or other incentives can be used to promote WOM among a brand’s customer base.

Marketing Daily – “People Close-Lipped on Companies, Products”