As early as 1967, Professor Johan Arndt from the Colombia Graduate School Of Business identified “word of mouth” as “one of the most important, if not the most important source of information for the consumer”. As time marches on, word of mouth has only become more influential.
The plethora of information online has resulted in “official” marketing messages, produced by companies, being seen as less credible and, therefore, less influential than in any previous age. This, together with the decline of trust in institutions, has meant that we increasingly turn to our colleagues, friends and family for information we trust.
Of course, social proof — in other words what others say and do — has always been one of the most influential factors in the decisions we make. However, the web, together with digital technology and the resulting rise of social platforms, means that today we can access more social proof with greater ease than ever before.
Word of mouth has always happened face-to-face and that is still the case. However, there are now two important factors to consider. Firstly, where the catalyst for word of mouth was often broadcast media such as TV, billboards and adverts; today, a growing catalyst for word of mouth is online media. Secondly, conventional word of mouth and online are merging, as more of us post opinions on social platforms, having conversations online rather than face-to-face.
Search is going social and the web has become our primary source of information when searching for products and services. The result is that the most important marketers, for any company today, are its engaged community of customers, prospects, partners and suppliers.
The more public support or advocates a company has, the more likely it is to be commercially successful. Rather than broadcast messages as in yesteryear, marketers today are more like facilitators, creating value, fuelling conversations and encouraging people to become involved with the company. In so doing, it is the participants themselves who become the most effective communicators of an organisation’s message.
This means businesses have to become masters of particular disciplines. Using social listening tools, a company must learn what its customers and prospects talk about and share. In so doing, it becomes more likely that a company will create content that will be well received and shared by the community it wishes to engage.
Data becomes vitally important as companies track their own content that has the biggest impact and is shared most widely. By obtaining an understanding of what content works, a business can then produce better material on an ongoing basis. Using data to understand the people most likely to share, and those with the greatest influence, means a business can invest extra time and resources nurturing these particular individuals.
Businesses should also be encouraging advocacy. That is, supporting and providing platforms where customers can leave reviews. In business to business environments, companies that are engaging face-to-face with customers should be asking if they can use positive feedback as a testimonial on LinkedIn or in a tweet.
Word of mouth has always been vital. In the past, many companies have left it to chance hoping that providing a great experience will lead to positive recommendations. Of course, this still happens. However, on its own, it is no longer enough. Businesses now have to be more strategic about garnering word of mouth.
So, what are you doing to encourage advocacy?
At the start of any new year we are often tempted to make a fresh start. Businesses frequently do the same thing — giving their websites a bit of a refresh, changing their policies, targeting new audiences and even updating how they get in touch with their customers.
So what’s in store for email marketing? It has been a key business tool for some time and it should continue to grow, but by how much? And what are the key trends for 2014?
The amount of money being spent on email marketing has been increasing for some time and 2013 saw a significant rise — 20% in fact. That’s a pretty hefty figure but current predictions suggest that email marketing spending will keep growing. Budgets are likely to increase by about 10% this year.
But what will that money actually go on? With more and more people using mobile devices, there will be an increase in spending on mobile optimisation for websites. Having a site that is mobile-optimised is likely to bring in more customers and the same can be said for emails. If businesses want to increase their open rates, they need to make their messages as mobile-friendly as possible.
This means that businesses are going to have to look closely at where the rest of their finances are going. And the likelihood is that companies are going to scale back on printed marketing material because everything is going digital.
Even if customers purchase items in-store, rather than online, there is an increasing chance that the transaction will be completed online. Digital receipts could be given out, so customers don’t have to worry about losing a little piece of paper.
Companies are increasingly encouraging people to buy online by offering them offline deals that push them towards the internet. In-store promotions, for instance, can ask customers to go online to receive a prize or more information. As retailers encourage more customers to shop online, the number of people signing up for email marketing is likely to increase.
Email marketers are constantly sending us all kinds of content. The problem is, for the most part, it's not useful to most of us. Yes, we will get the odd gem and an amazing deal that is perfectly suited to our preferences but a lot of companies just create a general email, hit send to all and hope for the best.
This year, customers are not going to stand for that and marketers are going to have to up their game as a result. Statistics have shown that 43% of emails are opened on mobile devices so it's simply unacceptable for businesses not to get on board with this. Emails need to be optimised for mobile use but the messaging must also undergo a makeover.
Rather than the generic, one-size-fits-all model, businesses will increasingly use data to drill down to specific interests and requirements of their subscribers. More carefully targeted campaigns should result in more sales.
So, there’s no doubt that change is on the way — the question is, how much impact will it have on conversion rates?
This is a guest blog from Lauren Sutton
Helping shoppers go from browsing to buying is the name of the game in ecommerce. But it’s not as easy as it looks. Did you know?
Find out more on this excellent infographic courtesy of Vouchercloud
Consumer Psychology and the E-Commerce Checkout - An infographic by the team at vouchercloud
Thanks to the internet, businesses can find themselves competing against competitors all over the world. As a result of globalisation, customers are getting bombarded every day with brand messages. Even when you have an excellent service or product, simply getting people's attention and having your company stand out is a challenge.
What’s more, people are busier than ever. Customers today know they have alternatives and won't hesitate to turn to them if you don't meet their expectations. All customers have to do if they're not happy is click away from your site, do a quick search for what they need, and then you're out of the picture. With more people shopping online, improving your customers' experience with your website is essential to maintaining a solid client base and getting referrals.
There are many ways to keep your customers satisfied online, depending on your operational constraints and needs. You could try the following options:-
Customers want to be able to see what they've picked out from your site, not only to make sure they have everything they need or want, but also because they need to see what everything is going to cost them. Make it easier for your customers to see what they've selected, what each item costs, what the total expense will be and how much you're adding in taxes and/or shipping.
Discounts need to be clear, too. They help customers feel like they're getting a good deal. Mention promotions and offers one last time, such as a reduced rate for spending more than a certain amount. This way, customers get a second chance and won't feel cheated if they find out about them after buying. In general, keep the shopping cart near the top of your page, because people tend not to scroll down far. It should be easy to spot and identify.
Customer service software, such as CRM applications, allow you to determine things like how long it has been since a customer visited your site or what they bought. This enables you to suggest other items or services, send reminders or even automate sales. Your customers often get a streamlined experience and at the same time, they feel as though you're treating them as an individual.
If you don't follow up with clients, they can get the impression that you are lukewarm about them — and that’s when competitors can easily attract their attention. Email is a decent way to follow up, but more and more companies are also using text. Remember, your customers don't just want confirmation of their purchases. They want to be involved, and they need a helping hand once in a while.
Ask for feedback and touch base just to see if their needs have changed. Offer more information, support or access, and send reminders about events, maintenance or other options. As Forbes suggests, testimonials and customer reviews work well because they build trust and inspire customers to take action.
Jack Bishop is an eCommerce guru, writing for Shopify customer service software solutions. He has a passion for helping small businesses run well with modern technology.
The business case for having a good website packed with valuable content is very strong. Many people now realise that 60% of a sale happens before clients get in touch (or don’t — as the case may be). Your website plays an increasingly important part in the path to new business.
But it’s often sheer embarrassment that finally flicks the switch between “we really must get round to doing something about our website” to “we need to do it NOW”.
Worse than driving away potential leads (who we’ll never meet and can therefore ignore), a poor website makes it difficult to look our best amongst people we respect and want to do business with.
Having an embarrassing website is like having a really messy house. You just don’t want to bring people back there. Ring any bells?
Here are six signs that you’re embarrassed by your website:
If this sounds like your website, then it’s time to take action.
Recently I’ve been hearing lots of people saying that Facebook has become their preferred choice of social network for promoting their business. Lots of people seem to be making use of Facebook, but are reluctant to start using Twitter or feel it’s not the right social network for them.
So I thought I would share my top four reasons why Twitter is better than Facebook for marketing your business, to give you the inspiration to start using Twitter, or to re-ignite your passion if you’ve started feeling a bit “meh” about it recently.
So, in no particular order:
Image credit: mkhmarketing on Flickr.
Now I know to the newbie Twitter user, the first time you realise just how fast moving it is, you can feel a bit like you’ve suddenly found yourself at Victoria Station at 8am on a weekday!
But the pace of Twitter opens up plenty of opportunities for you to get in front of your ideal clients.
Because it moves so quickly, most people don’t screen what they tweet in the way they do when posting on Facebook. Twitter users are much more likely to “brain dump” into a tweet — which means you get access to lots more detail on people than you ever will on Facebook.
On Twitter you’re more likely to post the minutiae about your day; the train is delayed, the fact that you stopped for coffee en route, your immediate thoughts after the meeting, the quick whizz around the shops, the people on the train and so on.
So think about what your ideal client might be tweeting about during their day — and search for it on Twitter. They’re right there.
It is actually miles easier to learn how to use Twitter than it is Facebook.
The reason is that Facebook changes the blooming rules every other day; so just when you think you know what you’re doing, it all changes.
I can only think of two changes Twitter has made in the past six months, and one of those was about the way you report (and they deal with) abusive tweets. The other was the introduction of a new feature that allows you to accept direct messages from anyone who follows you — regardless of whether you follow them.
Both of those changes will make very little difference to how the majority of us use Twitter.
Conversely, Facebook have made about 98,516 changes to their platform in the last month — slight exaggeration but something changes in Facebook at least once a week. Grrr!
This week we’ve needed to find three types of businesses, and as we’re new to the Isle of Wight, we don’t have many contacts in the offline world. So instead of faffing around skimming through the Yellow Pages, Google etc, we decided to do what any Twitter fan would do — we waited for the IOW Twitter Chat.
So on Monday night , we hit #WightHour to look for the people we needed. By 9.30pm, we had sourced an electrician, IT person, and a cleaning company. Job done, easy.
Are you participating in your local Twitter Chat? Or in all the Twitter chats your ideal clients are? If not, you’re very likely losing business.
I like to compare the social media world to a shopping mall; Facebook is the shops around the edge of the mall where they set out their window display, then have to wait for customers to come inside.
Twitter is the row of stands that sit down the aisles of the mall. The advantage the stands have over the shops is that they are right in the middle of the crowds of shoppers. So they can easily move into the crowds and talk to people to get their attention.
And that’s exactly what you can do on Twitter. You don’t have to wait for people to come and find your page; you can get yourself into the crowd and initiate conversations yourself. Who do you want to tweet with? Just do it.
Veronica Pullen is a social media expert and small business coach. She is the author of the free ebook, Unlock the 3 Best Kept Secrets to Skyrocket your Sales from Twitter.