Originally posted on forbes.
One of the strongest tools in the marketing communications toolbox is “word-of-mouth.” Whether you are making an important decision and need your employees to carry the message internally and/or externally or you are poised to grow your business, what people say about you can make or break your business goals, not to mention your business altogether.
Communicators will often draft talking points for leaders to help carry the message organically—a modern term for the old-fashioned “word-of-mouth.” While leadership carrying the same message through many voices is a hallmark of communications, having the target audience carry your message is much more valuable and known these days as influencer marketing.
Micro-influencers may not have the largest following on social media, but they have your niche customer enthralled within your industry. You do not need to hire a social media influencer with millions of followers (though it can help). What you need with absolute certainty is an influencer who understands your product or service and the needs of your customers and who has already developed a relationship with people you want to become your customers.
Think about it: Would you rather the CEO of a company tell you why you should invest your hard-earned money into buying the company’s product, or would you rather hear it from a trusted friend who understands your likes, dislikes and needs? The latter, of course. So how do communicators identify influencers and encourage current target audiences to carry forward the business message organically? Here are a few tips:
1. Give them a megaphone. Work with your customer service team to identify several existing customers who wholeheartedly enjoy your products or services. Research those individuals. Have your marketing team meet those customers, vet them and enable those customers to drive your message using their own style, tone and voice. This can be done through social media amplification of their individual posts. When the business and customer have a contractual relationship for influencer marketing efforts, consider giving the keys to the business’s social media channels directly to the influencer.
2. Give your gratitude. Your customers will carry your message when they appreciate your business’s service and/or products solving a problem for them. In return, give them your gratitude. Your appreciation can be delivered via discounts, free swag and other opportunities like having access to a first-to-market product or service to further strengthen their loyalty.
3. Give your full attention. Great ideas come from all levels of the organization—including customers. If you are lucky enough to work in a business where everyone feels comfortable to speak up and share ideas, you are working in an authentic, trustworthy organization. As a leader, listening is one of the most important actions you can take to demonstrate your appreciation for whoever is providing the feedback and ideas, whether it be your customers or your employees. Ask questions, embrace the responses and follow up with clarifying questions so you can hone in on the feedback.
4. Give yourself permission to let go. For all you give to support your customers’ and employees’ voices, give yourself (and your mar-comms professionals) permission to let go. Word-of-mouth does not equate to full control. Word-of-mouth requires that the company be prepared to address issues, amplify testimonials and be transparent about it. While this may make you, in leadership, nervous, companies that do not shy away from their customers’ and employees’ voices demonstrate trustworthiness, a commitment to quality and relationship respect—whether that’s with the individuals who make the product or deliver the service or those who use the product or service.
Influencer marketing and word-of-mouth messaging needs time to build momentum. During this period, it is important to tend to your influencers and watch your key performance indicators. And as with any marketing plan, adjust your practices as needed to make the effort a success.