Word-of-Mouth Builds Trust... Still

Marketers have more tools at their disposal than ever before to influence and persuade people. But perhaps the oldest form of persuasion still is prominent today: word-of-mouth communication.Messages spread from person to person have a level of trust and personalization that is virtually impossible to replicate using paid mass media communication. According to a recent Nielsen study, word-of-mouth messages from trusted friends and family members rose above all other message channels in terms of trust.

The WOM Advantage
Among the findings concerning trust with different communication channels were:

Results of the Nielsen study send a clear message on two fronts: 1) the death of traditional media advertising has bee greatly exaggerated and 2) word-of-mouth communication is as effective as ever. The toolkit analogy for marketing communication strategy is very relevant today. A wide mix of communication channels are needed to reach customers and prospects- no one channel is potent enough to build and nurture customer relationships.

WOM Works But...
The power of word-of-mouth communication is undeniable. The challenge for marketers is how to harness the power of WOM to take advantage of the high level of trust it enjoys. Here are two simple ways to let your customers be marketers on your behalf- one is old, one is new:
  1. Reward referral behavior - Do you encourage referrals, I mean really encourage referrals by giving customers incentives to tell others about their experiences with your business? Don't just give referrals lip service; reward customers for bringing new business to you. The ROI will likely eclipse any advertising campaign that you could run.
  2. Encourage social sharing - Make it easy for people to advocate for you via social media. Sadly, many of the efforts in this area are quite lame. "Please like us on Facebook" has all the appeal of a trip to the dentist. Facilitate sharing in social media as well as e-mail. Your fans can help build your e-mail list by sharing their permission-based messages with people in their networks. In turn, they might come to you and become a customer. Create excitement about social sharing by campaigns or even contests that call on your fans to spread the word on your behalf.
You know the old saying "the more things change, the more they stay the same." That adage holds true in marketing. New media channels give us more ways to connect with audiences, but the gold standard of person-to-person influence remains as one of the most powerful ways to build customer relationships.

Marketing Daily - Nielsen: Consumers Trust WOM Over Other Messaging

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