Have You Heard? Tips on Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Sometimes the best way to market your organization is via the people who are already a part of it. Not sure how? Here are some words of advice from three marketing insiders.

A recent survey of academics found that word-of-mouth marketing can play a significant role in helping to recruit them into scientific societies.

That is, of course, if those societies have high satisfaction levels among members. If not, word-of-mouth marketing may actually work against organizations.

But, considering the relatively high incidence of unawareness among the survey respondents who were not already members of scientific societies, there’s an opportunity, the study noted, for these organizations to capitalize on the positive experiences of existing members.

“Thirty-nine percent of nonmembers are either waiting to be asked to join, or might be persuaded to join,” the survey noted. “A society that can identify these groups of nonmembers within their wider community, and who then markets effectively to them, is likely to grow its membership. With so many nonmembers who are just waiting to be asked, societies may find they are often pushing at an open door.”

Encourage existing members to spread the news of their satisfaction among the unaware, and you might increase your membership.

There’s also data to support the power of word of mouth. According to the “2014 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report” [PDF] from Marketing General, Inc., word-of-mouth recommendations were the most effective marketing methods for acquiring new members for both trade and professional associations.

Plus, it’s a type of marketing that associations are particularly well positioned to capitalize on given their membership structures.

“Associations are great at word-of-mouth marketing,” Andy Sernovitz, creator of the Word of Mouth Association, told Associations Now. “You build communities of people who tell each other about what they’re doing, and you build communities designed to support each other and talk to each other and spread the word about various professions.”

Not sure how to make the most of this type of marketing, or need to reboot your association’s word-of-mouth marketing efforts, here are three tips from around the web:

Ask nicely. This is “first and foremost tool for creating word of mouth,” according to Sernovitz, who literally wrote the book on word of mouth.

“The challenge isn’t necessarily finding talkers, it’s triggering the talking action,” Sernovitz wrote. “Often the implied compliment of asking customers to help is what starts them down the road to becoming talkers. And don’t be shy—inviting your talkers to spread the word is a way of conferring status and making them insiders.”

Use the five T’s. In an XYZ University blog post, Shannon Neeser teased out some of word of mouth basics, which she distilled into the “five T’s”:

  • Talkers: the influencers that are likely to spread the message
  • Topics: your association’s message or messages, which should be easy to remember and share
  • Taking part in the conversation: sharing and writing social media and blog posts about the topic(s)
  • Tools: the platforms you can use to share your message (blogs, social media networks, etc.)
  • Tracking: keeping an eye and ear out for what’s being said about your association

“If you don’t like the conversation, address it,” Neeser wrote.

Create a group of insiders. “Look out for your ‘super customers,’” wrote Zack Fagan, who compiled a list of six word-of-mouth marketing tips in Social Media Today.

In the case of associations, these could be your “super members,” those who consistently engage and interact with your organization. These members can be converted into brand advocates by making them feel like insiders or letting them be first to know about and try new products and services, Fagan wrote. “By making the insiders feel special, you will make them feel more connected on a personal level to your company, so that they will be not only willing, but excited to test out your product and write reviews.”

Have any tips to help make the most of word-of-mouth marketing? Please share in the comments.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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