How Word Of Mouth Can Drive Viral Customer Acquisition

Many CMOs see word of mouth as a “nice to have,” rather than something to invest significant time and money in. They’re missing a huge opportunity.

How Word Of Mouth Can Drive Viral Customer Acquisition

It’s amazing that many CMOs and marketers don’t get more excited by word of mouth, seeing it as a “nice to have” that’s a result of marketing, rather than something to leverage and invest their time in.

People overwhelmingly trust referrals from people they know, as Nielsen stats show. But how many brands divert more than a small percentage of their marketing budget, energy, or time to inspiring advocates?

Based on our own experience, we consider that a huge missed opportunity. Currently more than 60% of our new customers hear about us first from a friend, family member, or acquaintance. The marketing cost of that customer acquisition is practically zero. While the strength of our product remains the most important factor, it’s significant that our customer acquisition through word-of-mouth marketing has increased from just 30% two years ago.

We recognised how powerful word of mouth is as a channel, so we doubled down and worked to harness and spread customer enthusiasm. And we learned five key things that marketers can do to make the virtues of their brands and products go viral.

1. You Need To 10x The Competition

A brand needs to outperform a rival if it’s to persuade customers to switch, but it needs to be significantly better if it’s to convince those same customers to tell their friends, family, and networks about it and advocate that they do the same.

Gmail is a good example. It’s come to dominate personal email because it offered a product that was 10x its competition in terms of storage. Skype has become the main player in international calling because it was significantly cheaper, and offered incredible functionality upgrades.

With commoditised products it’s going to be harder to offer customers much more. So if you can’t 10x the existing competition on price, you will need to 10x them on everything else. Make sure your customer service and your UX is 10x better; and have an obsession with outperforming and disrupting entrenched competitors.

2. Magnify The Rational And The Emotional

Our customers recommend TransferWise for two reasons: one is rational (they see it as a better product); and the second is emotional (the brand resonates).

TransferWise offers international money transfers for a fee that is eight times cheaper than banks. That’s a pretty simple and compelling message that speaks to the rational. But other benefits like ease of use and speed are prompts as well.

Remember that what you think is the most compelling thing about your brand isn’t necessarily what turns customers into advocates. We know, for example, that a customer is far more likely to talk about us if the email they receive after a transaction doesn’t just include the message “Congrats, your transfer is completed”, but instead “Congrats, you just completed your transfer in two hours, that’s about 20x as fast as using your bank.”

From an emotional perspective, it’s essential to create a dialogue with customers that goes far beyond the key benefits. Be mission-driven and inspire that mission in your customers. Before they’re customers they are prospects. Once they’re customers, they are revolutionaries and evangelists and it’s vital to engage them on that basis. We’ve spent time identifying what our customers are interested in and what unites them as a group, even across different countries and cultures.

3. Keep Delighting

Next, it’s important to establish clearly why your offering is better. It’s much easier for people to sell their friends on trying something new when they can clearly articulate why things are so good.

Connecting to the customer’s rational view of your brand is similar to a marriage; as the relationship matures, you need to remind them why they fell in love with you in the first place. Communications need to feature consistent messaging around the benefits while staying fresh to maintain interest and enthusiasm. You also need to strike a balance between a call to action to share experiences and being too pushy. That’s all achievable, but email and social marketing teams need to remain hypervigilant.

4. Remind Customers How Smart They Are

You know what your brand means to your core user base and most likely advocates, so build content that relates to them as individuals, not just to your product. Some of the most successful videos that we’ve shared with customers via social channels and email have been fun concepts that drive home the reasons why we’re successful; unlike our competitors we have nothing to hide. That mission-based messaging resounds with customers, and serves to remind them of the smart decision they made when choosing us over their bank. It never hurts to remind someone that they outsmarted the system. Our most successful content shares the message of why TransferWise exists.

5. Build A Movement

An external profile reminds customers what your brand means to them. This is driven by content that keeps customers and advocates sharing on social media, and a solid PR campaign that demonstrates how the company is successfully fulfilling its mission.

Finally, building a narrative out around a wider mission that clients can get behind and participate in is a powerful tool. The #NoHiddenFees campaign TransferWise has implemented both impacted and involved our customers, essentially bringing them into the organization.

Create a partner instead of a customer, as that’s when word-of-mouth marketing truly connects and results in growth.