Word of Mouth (WoM) Adds Trust to B2B Sales

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According to Forrester Research, Nielsen and other industry analyst and research firms, Word of Mouth (WoM) is the most effective sales tool for B2B marketing and sales – influencing 84% of B2B purchases.

What is Word of Mouth (WoM)?

Word of mouth communication is the passing of information from person to person face-to-face, by email, phone, social media or any other medium – where the communication is unpaid. The unpaid nature of WoM communication is the key attribute – meaning that the communication is impartial, unbiased and inherently more trustworthy than that of a salesperson working on commission. Consequently, a word of mouth recommendation is far more powerful than a product flyer in influencing a major purchase decision.

Why is WoM so important?

With B2B purchases often running into hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, purchasing managers naturally want to be certain that they are making the right decision. Consequently, B2B customers look for peer opinion to validate purchasing decisions as a means of reducing risk: they want to hear about the value delivered (or not delivered) from an impartial and trusted source. Whilst salespeople are clearly a major influence on purchase decisions, prospects want to confirm the claims of a vendor with as many impartial peers as they can. The higher the purchase value, the higher the risk and the more peers from which a prospect will seek recommendations and references. When considering high-value purchases, managers will actively seek out and network with peers who have faced similar problems to validate what are potentially career-changing decisions.

Word of Mouth in the context of trust

In top performing companies, marketing and sales work together to push prospects along the customer cycle, driving increasing value through increased customer acquisition, upselling and brand advocacy.

  • Know – Brand awareness, awareness of your value proposition
  • Like – Good fit with requirements, expectations and ethics
  • Trust – Ready to buy from you, confident that your products/services represent a solid investment
  • Buy – New business closed
  • Repeat – Repeat selling and up-selling
  • Refer – Customers actively advocating your brand, products and services

In the context of the customer cycle, a word of mouth recommendation coming from a customers in the “Refer” zone can quickly push a prospect from an early stage (“Know” and “Like”) directly to the “Trust” stage, helping to drive rapid revenue by increasing the number of ready-to-buy leads in the funnel and shortening the overall sales cycle.

Starting out with word of mouth marketing and customer advocacy

Business peers naturally network and communicate with each other to share ideas and recommendations, but there is always more that can be done to optimize brand advocacy. Organizations who want to shorten sales cycles need to drive relevant word of mouth communication to early-stage prospects to boost them into the “Trust” zone – and follow up with progressively more relevant, bespoke and personal interaction with brand advocates at each stage of the cycle as the customer progresses towards the point of sale.

To support this, marketing organizations need to be actively engaged with their customers as a cohesive community. You need to know:

  • Who are your customers? Both the “who” and the “what”. E.g. contact details, demographics, firmographics and any other information that will allow you to match advocates to prospects.
  • Are they happy to recommend your products/services? Will they provide positive or negative feedback if you put them in front of a wavering prospect?
  • How can you contact them? It is very important to be respectful of your customers’ wishes. In most cases, email will be the preferred method, but brand advocates are valuable and you should never assume.

Clearly, positive word-of-mouth is valuable to B2B organizations – and the marketing department must optimize customer advocacy and word-of-mouth marketing to get the best results. However, organizations often have trouble getting started with brand advocacy programs, fail to connect efforts with business objectives or burn out a small set of advocates by using them too frequently. Having a clear, long-term strategy is essential to success. Even though word of mouth communication is unpaid, it can be fostered and guided to support specific business objectives.

Contact us to find out how we can help you plan and kick off a customer advocacy program.

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