Spreading the Word

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Word-of-mouth marketing is taking off and taking many forms. Find out how this inexpensive marketing strategy can benefit a web site.

wordofmouth

Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the fastest-growing phenomena in the online space. This strategy, often referred to as “viral marketing” or “buzz” is designed to stimulate customers to talk about and refer their friends and colleagues to your products and services. According to a recent survey conducted by eMarketer™ and the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), nearly half of all online marketers will engage in some form of viral marketing campaign activity this year.

Good Buzz Begins With Customer Loyalty

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Because viral marketing is, as defined by WOMMA, “the art and science of amplifying genuine consumer enthusiasm,” an effective viral marketing program begins with a positive customer experience. So, it stands to reason that your top priorities should be to make your e-commerce site as easy as possible for customers to navigate and to provide the highest level of customer service when they do.

After all, the “80/20 rule” still applies: 80 percent of your profits come from 20 percent of your customers. That’s why you must keep them satisfied and confident about returning to your business. Then, and only then, will your customers become “evangelists,” true word-of-mouth agents, for your product or service.

Growing numbers of small online marketers are finding that the customer experience is the best place to start to differentiate your business from the competition. According to Justin Rattigan, vice president of Solid Cactus, a leading developer web sites, you can turn your customers into salespeople.

“You have to be unique,” says Rattigan. “You have to create something that is interesting enough to tell other people about. You need to be creative to create buzz.”

Once your content is optimized to create a great customer experience, you can start taking steps to spread the word. “We recommend that all of your product pages and your home page have a ‘Send this page to a friend’ feature on it,” Rattigan says. “It’s a relatively inexpensive modification to make. Then, if you want your customers to sing your praises, you must make it directly worth their while by doing it the right way, with discounts and special offers, such as ‘We’ll give your friend 10 percent off and we’ll give you 20 percent off.’”

Content Is King

While special offers and discounts can be effective as incentives for customer referrals, compelling content continues to be the best way to engage and encourage customers to spread the word about your site.

More and more online companies are searching for the “wow factor” to engage customers. Business-to-consumer and business-to-business marketers alike are getting great results from viral marketing campaigns using techniques that range from games to white papers, from contests to e-card campaigns.

One medium that has offered dramatic results is “viral video,” word-of-mouth marketing via video. Robert Adrian, CEO of Naga Langit, PT., which owns Rumahku.com, an e-commerce site that specializes in Real Estate listings and information, has just begun to see the potential of viral video. “My company had some video clips [about property and real estate issues],” Robert says.

Then, a colleague referred Robert to fliqz.com, a video-sharing site. “I realized that I could take the embedded links and use them on my site,” Robert says. “I made a little video room, where real estate brokers and owners can see the videos and send them on to friends. We noticed that ‘forward to a friend’ is used more with the videos than the products.”

Robert now plans to feature the video clips in upcoming email campaigns to targeted audiences. “We’re really excited about using video with email,” he says. “My database is segmented, so I’m going to be able to target with the video links to specific populations.”

Do It Yourself or Hire an Expert?

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Many of the most successful worth-of-mouth campaigns in recent history were designed by experienced viral marketing agencies. Yet, it’s also possible to create a successful viral marketing program in-house with relatively small budgets.

It all comes back to being creative and creating a “buzz.” After all, says Rattigan, “There are probably tons of places that sell the same products you do. Ask yourself, ‘Why would someone refer someone else to my site?’ If you think along those lines, you’ll come up with something.”

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