Profitable Marketing Ideas: Word-of-Mouth Campaigns

| June 16, 2014 | By
I have a confession to make.

I wrote this blog post, not becuase I'm an expert at word of mouth marketing, but because our company was terrible at it. 

I needed profitable marketing ideas that I could scale. Like all good little researchers, I hobbled over to the internet and started browsing for some help. I found a ton of articles on how to turn customers in to evangelists, but they were all filled with general thoughts. I wanted a guide. A real plan that I could follow to set up a working word-of-mouth system.

I wasn't able to find said system, so I decided to create one and write about it. The following words describe what the past 2 months of my life have been like. We've looked at this thing from every angle.

Now that our word-of-mouth plan is in place, you can reap the benefit and simply follow the roadmap below for your business.

How do you get people to care?

Ann and I sat down a while back and started unraveling this nut. Despite all of the tips and tricks that we discovered (which we will share in a second), we kept coming back to the same question.

"How do we get people to really care?"

After all, people are busy. How do you get someone to stop, take note and catch the passion?

As we dug deep, we found that there are 3 things that any business must do in order to get people to care passionately. 

The 3 Ingredients to all Profitable Marketing Ideas

  1. Create exclusivity around your business
  2. Make your product or service habit-forming
  3. Make it easy to share

Since each one of these are extremely important, let's dive into them one at a time.

#1 Make it Exclusive

secret_clubhouse3Human beings are naturally curious creatues. We want what we can't have, and if we get somthing that's reserved for only a few, we feel special. It's the reason for secret clubhouses, labeling someone a "bff" and putting up a gate around rich communities. In fact, do you remember the last time you drove past a gated community? You strained your neck to try and get a peek inside. Remember? That gate is a natural buzz creator.

Businesses with the most passionate following tend to be a gated community. Nearly all companies are trying to get everyone and their dog to buy from them. Their marketing strategy is to get as many eye balls on their product as possible and hope for a 2% conversion rate. That's why so many businesses have a lack-luster following.

Here's a question for you. What if you made your business or service somewhat exclusive? What if you put up a gate that kept certain people out?

As a business owner myself, I naturally draw back and say "Heck no! I want everyone to be our customer." But if I do that, I can't really wow anyone.

This exercise for me was heart-wrenching. As I went through it though, I realized that we aren't the right accounting solution for everyone. Even though I wish we were.

How to make your business exclusive

Start by defining who should be in your gated community. For us, our community is a group of entrepreneurs with companies generating between $1 million and $10 million in annual revenues. We're not the best option for startup businesses. We're also not ideal for most busineesses over that $10 million mark.

Additional ideas for creating exclusivity:
  1. Consider a members only section on your website
  2. Create an application process for new customers
  3. Identify your raving fans and invest in them
  4. Offer perks to members that fit your core niche

#2 Make it Habit-Forming

heick-habits-of-mindFor the purposes of this discussion, a habit is really more like an addiction. When I think of an addiciton, I think of something that brings momentary bliss in the face of all that life has to throw at you.

If you're going to make your business habit-forming, you have to get past your product or service and dig into a deeper meaning. You have to get to something that people will care passionately about. For example, if you sell vacuums, your customers aren't going to get passionate about the rally cry to buy the newest model. But if you focus your business efforts on creating a super sterile living environment, you might be able to get the "clean freaks" to rally around that idea with some passion.

Once you reach this level, your business has the potential to become addictive. Why? Because you're addressing something that a niched group of people really care about. Everytime they interact with your brand, they'll scratch that pleasure itch.

Don't sell a product, sell a mission

Brains on Fire, a word of mouth marketing company located in South Carolina, has a lot to say about creating a movement for your brand. I love these guys. I highly recommend reading their books. In one of their books, I found this little gem:
"Your ultimate goal should be to ignite something so powerful that if your marketing and PR departments or, heaven forbid, even your entire company got hit by a bus, your fans would pick up the banner and march forward with it."

Creating a movement around your company requires that you touch upon the emotional nerves of people. You can't do that when you're shouting "buy our stuff!" However, if you have a mission, one that you care deeply about, the movememnt will start.

I think the word "deeply" in that last paragraph is important. So many companies have a mission statement that they don't care about. It simply exists on the wall as a saying.

Before we started this, we were bookkeepers and tax accountants. It took us months to soul search and find the exact meaning of our mission. Once we came up with it, it became the center of every decision we've made since. It has completely changed us from the core. It has permeated our conversations, our website and our sleep.

Or mission is to help every business in America become debt free, profitable by 10% or more and grateful to the Ignite Spot accountant that cared enough to make it happen.

You care first, they'll care second

One great way to make your business habit forming is to make people feel great when they interact with you.

Is it really possible to get your customers to care passionately about your brand unless you care about them first? I don't think so. It doesn't matter how good your service or product is. But the moment I know that your company cares about me, that's the moment I'm caught by surprise and willing to share the experience with the people I care about.

There are very few companies that have touched me like this. But some have managed it. I know when it occurs becuase they are more concerned about me than making money.

If you're going to run a business this way, you have to accept that building a word-of-mouth movement is a one-on-one affair. Mass marketing kills it. It's to hard to care for people by spending $10,000 on television ads. Instead, word of mouth marketing comes from one person reaching another person.

Our plan to care for people includes:

  1. Never selling on our social media channels. We're only there to help.
  2. Sending out a weekly newsletter to help our followers get profitable. 
  3. Investing our marketing dollars in our evangelists vs. in our traditional marketing channels.

#3 Make it Easy to Share

three-steps-to-more-word-of-mouth-and-more-businessOnce someone has reached this stage and they're ready to spread the word, how are they going to do it?

Have you put any thought towards what you want them to say and how you want them to say it? As I was structuring this for Ignite Spot, I realized that I had left this up to chance.

Do you want people to get others to subscribe to your blog, become a customer or simply wear the t-shirt? I think it's important that we help craft a message for our evangelists. It makes it easier for them to bring others into the fold like themselves.

I think it's a lot to ask to have evangelists go out and get you new customers. This is why so many referral programs fall on their faces. If we expect them to take the day off to go sell for us, it's probably not going to happen consistently.  Sure, we get calls all the time from people saying "So-and-so referred me." Those are great, but I don't want my word-of-mouth campaign to force that discussion.

I think the role of an evangelists is to create awareness and trust for your brand. They spread your blog posts, talk about you at dinner and beam with pride when someone asks if they're a customer. That enthusiasm spreads and thier friends begin to engage with your brand.

At Ignigte Spot, I realized that I want our evangelists to help people subscirbe to our blog. I believe in our content and if people subscirbe, they'll find value in the tools we provide. Over time, they'll become customers as long as we do our part and help. In case you can't tell, we're very passionate about blogging. So much so, that we did an infographic on it. Click here to check it out.

As such, our goal isn't to approach people and say "who do you know that we can sell our stuff to?" Instead, our conversation is "Who do you know that would benefit from our articles on getting profitable?"

In order to make this conversation happen, we've set up an automatic email that goes out to anyone new in our tribe. The email asks them to refer people to our blog. End of story.

How can we help them to do it?

No matter how much they love your company, they're still going to struggle chatting you up. Why? Because people are busy.

It's up to us as business owners to give them the tools to make it as easy as possible to spread the love.

Here are a few ideas on how to do that:

Drip campaigns: Similar to our system, you can send every new person in your tribe a series of emails asking them to take a specific action. We send our emails out on the day they sign up, in 30 days, 90 days, and then in 6 months.

Referral software: There are a lot of referral software platforms out there. You could implement one of them into your workflow to help you spread the word. Just remember that the platforms need to make it as easy as possible for your customers to talk about you. There are a lot of programs out this like Get Ambassador,  Invite Box and Referral Candy.

Creating a word-of-mouth marketing campaign is a pretty intenisve gig. It's an extremely valuable one to go through though. We're still chipping away at it ourselves. 

Leave us a comment below and let us know what you're doing to make your business exclusive, habit forming and easy to share.

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