How to Create Word of Mouth Marketing

(Episode 2 of 2 with Geno Church)

How to Create Word of Mouth Marketing

In the last episode with Geno Church we discussed how to create a digital community. In today’s episode, we’re going to go over word of mouth marketing and how we can get our customers to talk about our brands. 

Word of Mouth Marketing 

Word of mouth marketing is the authentic, natural way we give recommendations. For example, if my friends were going to Disneyland, I might recommend a certain hotel to stay at or a specific restaurant to eat at. This is word of mouth marketingthe honest ways we recommend things to our friends and family in conversations.

Word of mouth marketing is similar to an advocacy program. One of the best ways to market our products and services is to create something our customers love so much that they naturally think to recommend it to people they know. The key to word of mouth marketing is finding those customers who will go out and advocate for us. 

“My definition of an advocacy program is to build a program where you have real people that are living messengers that believe in something so much that they carry that through their life, and it becomes important to them,” Geno said. “Your success is their success; they gain from being a part of it.”

Word of mouth marketing has become so successful because our customers trust the source. “The biggest thing for brands and organizations is trust and getting people to trust them,” Geno said. “90% of word of mouth that leads to a recommendation purchase still happens offline. . . . The Holy Grail is offline, face-to-face, word of mouth, someone that we know or someone that we can see, because we trust them.”

When we try to find a place to eat on a Friday night, how do we choose where to go? Do we first try to remember advertisements we saw on social media? Probably not. Often, our first option comes from a recommendation. We may even seek out a friend and ask them for their opinion. We do this because we trust them. Word of mouth marketing builds trust around our brand and in turn, helps us gain customers. 

3 Word of Mouth Motivational Triggers:

So, how do we spark word of mouth marketing? How do we get our customers to talk about our products and services naturally? How do we get them to recommend us? Geno gave us three motivational triggers for word of mouth marketing: 

  • Functional  

The first type of conversation that can trigger word of mouth marketing is functional conversation. Functional conversations help us navigate the world and interpret what is around us.

For example, Geno had an experience where he got in a car accident in a Mini Cooper. A woman rear ended him going 45 mph, and his car saved his life because it was built like a tank, had an airbag, and was properly equipped with safety technology. When he had a conversation with a friend about having a Mini Cooper, Geno could share his story and confidently recommend the car to his friends. This is a functional conversation. 

Other functional conversations could be about choosing a new high school for your kid to go to, buying new tires because yours need to be replaced, or picking what restaurant to eat at for dinner. Functional conversations help us share information and knowledge relevant to the subject we are discussing. 

  • Emotional 

The next type of conversation that can trigger word of mouth marketing is emotional conversation. These are the conversations centered around things we love or hate, typically in face-to-face situations. If we love a product, we are likely going to tell someone about it so they can get it. If we hate something, we are also likely to tell someone about it just to rant or to warn them against purchasing it.

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“The things that we love or hate, the things that make us laugh or make us cry, are the things we talk about,” Geno said. “When you think about customer service, when it’s okay, when it’s the minimum bar, we don’t tell anyone about it. It has to be exceptional or it has to be terrible, then we tell people about it.”

  • Social 

The next type of conversation that can trigger word of mouth marketing is social conversation. These conversations are how we signal our interests and uniqueness to our friends and family. These conversations typically happen in a public setting.

For example, by having a Starbucks cup, we may communicate our morning routine and tastes. By wearing Patagoinia, we may signal that we love the outdoors. By wearing a ​​Louis Vuitton bag, we may signal our wealth and style. The social signals tell the world a little bit about who we are and what we value. 

Creating Experiences and Community

“If we have a clear understanding of these three motivational triggers, it really can help us think about what type of experiences we should create [for our customers.] Are they digital? Are they face-to-face?” Geno said. “Where do you meet people face-to-face? Is there an opportunity there to create that moment, an experience, that sparks something emotionally in them that is worthy of talking about?”

Above all else, word of mouth marketing comes down to creating an experience for our customers that is worthy of sharing. If we want our customers to have an emotional conversation about us, can we create an emotional experience? If we want them to recommend our brand in a functional conversation, can we create a functional experience for them? 

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“The things that we, as humans, share the most about [are] experiences that we have. It’s going to Disney; it’s seeing a new movie,” Geno said. “To spark word of mouth, our goal is simply to get people to talk about us and to recommend us, to recommend our product or service.” 

Part of creating an experience for our customers comes down to knowing what trigger conversations they are having. What are the emotional conversations around our brand? What are the functional conversations our customers have? We should monitor how people are using our product on social media. How are they living with it? Once we know what types of conversations our customers are having, we can find a way to create a brand experience they will share within these trigger conversations. 

A great way to create experiences for our customers is to build a community. Can we create a Facebook group or other digital community where we can really connect with our customers? By building a community, we can learn more about our customers and have the knowledge to create experiences they will really be passionate about. 

Heroes in Recovery 

Geno used to do a lot of work in addiction recovery where he helped create a program called Heroes in Recovery. He focused on how everyone can be a hero in the recovery journey, not just the addict. The mother, the father, the friend, or the co-worker could be the hero in the addict’s journey. This program worked really well because it called everyone to action and gave the community an opportunity to help those around them. 

They created a safe space where everyone could tell their story—the addict, the mother, the father, anyone. They could share what got them through the day. What was supposed to be a passage for the next step of their journey ended up being a cultural mechanism for them to share and build community within the organization. 

“That comes back to . . .  word of mouth and community. It’s creating experiences to get people to talk, to share their story,” Geno said. “It helps brands and organizations have empathy for the people that they serve and see them in a different way as human beings and not just as money on a ledger sheet.” 

Just as Geno built a community where members could share their stories, we can also build a community for our customers where they feel safe and cared for. This can help us with our word of mouth marketing strategies as we begin to know and connect with our customers. 

Fitness Rebellion

Another experience Geno helped create was the Fitness Rebellion. He found that many people who joined a gym membership didn’t come back to the gym and ended up canceling the membership a year later. Geno and his team thought this was unacceptable so they found a way to work with trainers to help get them back in the gym and make their membership worth it. They called it the Fitness Rebellion. 

The Fitness Rebellion became a positive experience for many people at the gym who paid for a membership. Not only did they get their money’s worth from their membership, they also got an experience. Geno helped create an experience that benefited many of the gym’s customers. This experience could also help generate more word of mouth marketing. For example, if someone they knew talked about going back to the gym, they may recommend going to that specific gym based on their experience with the Fitness Rebellion. 

By creating brand communities and experiences, we connect with our customers on a deeper level, getting to the point where they will recommend us through word of mouth marketing.

Key Takeaways

Thank you so much Geno for sharing your stories and insights with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:

  1. Word of mouth marketing is the authentic, natural way we give recommendations to people around us.
  2. Word of mouth marketing builds trust around our brand and in turn, helps us gain customers. 
  3. To spark word of mouth, we can create experiences related to any of the three motivational trigger conversations: functional, emotional, and social.
  4. Above all else, word of mouth marketing comes down to creating an experience for our customers that is worthy of sharing.
  5. By building a community and creating experiences for our customers, they will be more likely to recommend us.

Connect with Geno

To learn more about or connect with Geno:

Next Steps

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    About the author

    Nathan Gwilliam

    Nathan Gwilliam

    I help organizations navigate tectonic shifts that are transforming the business landscape, so they can optimize marketing, accelerate profits, and make a greater difference for good.

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