Almost certainly you’ve heard of ‘word of mouth’ marketing, colloquially called ‘WOM’ – and you know it’s one of the most effective ways of promoting a business, upping sales levels and making repeat customer numbers.
Important: In purist terms, WOMM and WOM (Word of Mouth) Marketing is different from ‘word of mouth’ as many of us would define it, the latter occurring naturally – as where I recommend a company in my newsletter, based on my own experience with that business and without making money from my review.
Add ‘marketing’ and you’re talking about paid-for techniques to encourage people to recommend a business, using commissions and free bonuses, for example. Or rewarding their own customers and followers to ‘like’ the business or share one person’s recommendation with others, by getting them to re-pin something on Pinterest, for instance, or re-tweet it on Twitter.
In its most basic format, ‘word of mouth’ describes a process where satisfied customers tell other potential buyers about their experience.
What friends and relatives say about your product is more believable than what you say and much more credible than anything the world’s best copywriter can say.
That’s because people trust friends and relatives; they believe what those people say, usually, and most of us have an inherent distrust of blatant advertising.
According to international research company Nielsen, around 90% of consumers believe recommendations from family and friends, as well as past buyers in a properly regulated website feedback system, more than any other form of marketing.
All top-level research suggests one satisfied buyer who tells others about their experience can tempt dozens of other people to buy, while one bad experience can deter many more people from buying.
In effect, one negative feedback point has more impact on a seller’s sales and profits than one positive feedback point is ever likely to have.
So word of mouth is how most of the world’s top marketing companies aim to increase their customer base, and accounts for the majority of most corporate promotional money spent.
But word of mouth can be every bit as bad as it is good, such as where customers have a negative view of a company. So the most important way to begin a word of mouth campaign is usually to identify problems and common buyer complaints and work hard to solve them.
That’s pretty much how eBay’s feedback system works, and although many eBay sellers dislike the site’s in-your-face feedback system, it remains one of the best ways to identify buyer concerns and work towards annihilating them.
So rule number one in making money from word of mouth recommendation is to treat feedback as a marketing tool, not only on eBay, but also on Amazon and most other marketplaces.
Now we’ve talked before about using feedback to identify problems likely to reduce your buyer numbers, and to use it instead to improve products and customer service and move on to receiving mainly positive feedback, the most powerful form of word of mouth promoting on eBay.
So now let us consider other ways to get customers to say good things about us and encourage other people to study our products – and to buy.
1. ‘Going the extra mile’ has the greatest effect on word of mouth recommendations. It refers to giving and doing more than the average customer expects from a seller. It can be done by contacting the buyer several times to thank him for his business and to let him know his product is out for delivery and, again, to ask if he is happy with the product.
Other ways to stand out from fellow sellers include popping a small gift into outgoing packages, sending a discount coupon to buyers immediately when their payment comes through, and responding fast to emails from enquirers and buyers.
2. Do something over and above what’s mentioned in your eBay listings. The extra mile is additional to what a buyer expects from your listings and represents something unavailable from most other sellers, such as those things mentioned in Number 1 above, and anything else that makes you stand out from rival sellers.
3. Try not to whine over negative feedback. Leaving derogatory replies is one example: instead use the feedback reply feature to explain your side of the story. Most buyers understand that feedback is subjective and probably won’t believe a handful of negative comments against hundreds of positive scores.
In every case, the best response to really nasty feedback is to emphasise your no-questions-asked refund policy. A nasty comment from a past buyer matched with a positive and helpful comment from the seller can negate most unfavourable comments.
4. Make buyers feel special and they won’t expect you to behave in a way that leaves them feeling insulted or cheated. Then when the unexpected does happen, most buyers will know you made a mistake or there’s an easy explanation to why the unexpected happened.
One way to do this is by using those ideas mentioned in 1 and 2 above, as well as including a message inside outgoing packages saying something like ‘We value your business and want you to be delighted with your product and our customer service. But we’re only human and sometimes we will get it wrong and we ask you please to allow us the chance to correct our mistakes before leaving feedback.’ Most people will comply.
5. Referrals through social media can be highly effective, especially freely given by past buyers liking and sharing their experiences with fellow members. Paid-for advertisements are much less effective, so too are personal recommendations based on an obvious incentive. That doesn’t mean you can’t give past buyers an incentive to like you or share their experience in social media; it just means you have to keep incentives private, between you and your past customers, and not by mentioning incentives at the site.
6. It’s true that many more aggrieved buyers pass on their experience than do satisfied buyers. That’s another reason for keeping feedback overwhelmingly positive, as well as encouraging satisfied buyers to leave positive comments and to request people leaving neutral and negative comments to revise their feedback.
An apology and explanation will tempt most people to revise their poor feedback; a small gift or offering a refund and letting people keep the product will rarely fail. Ask for feedback to be revised before processing a refund and you should win over the nastiest of buyers.
So that’s just six ways to get you word of mouth recommendations that send your sales and profits skyrocketing. Go on and get started right away.
This article first appeared on Auction Genie. Read more and comment here