Why Context Makes Word of Mouth Marketing So Powerful

by Mack Collier


Tomorrow I’ll be speaking in Birmingham to the Alabama Banker’s Association, presenting Think Like a Rock Star.  One of the points I’ll be making is the power of your fans utilizing context in their word of mouth.  We all understand the power of word of mouth, and there is a raft of research that proves that a product recommendation from another customer is considered more valuable than a marketing message from a brand.  We know this.

But what we often don’t appreciate is the power of context as it applies to word of mouth marketing.  When customers market to each other, they tailor their message to make it more appealing to others, based on their knowledge of the person they are talking to.  This is incredibly powerful, because your friend likely understands your wants and needs better than the brand that’s trying to win your business.

For example, a bank might be rolling out a new mortgage offering it wants to promote, but you know your friend is looking to buy her daughter her first car, so lower rates for auto loans is more important.  A fan of the bank would promote it to the friend with the daughter based on that context, understanding that the friend isn’t interested in a mortgage or re-financing their home right now.

Here’s another example that I’ve witnessed multiple times on Twitter.  I’ll be chatting with someone and we’ll start talking about my book and I’ll mention they should read it.  They will respond with something like ‘Thanks, I’ll check it out!’  Then a few minutes later, a friend of their’s will tweet them and say something like ‘I’ve read Think Like a Rock Star and it was great!  It would be perfect for your company, you should buy it!’  Then the person will say they are going to buy it.  My recommendation (as the author of the book) wasn’t enough to convince them to buy it.  But when their friend steps in and endorses the book, and adds context to why it would benefit them, that clinches the sale!

The end goal for your brand is to communicate a relevant marketing message to your customers because the more relevant the message is, the greater its chance of converting into a sale.  But sending relevant and customized messages to every customer would have exorbitant costs, which is why brands send a few select marketing messages out designed to reach the mass market.

But your satisfied customers are the link that gives other customers those relevant marketing messages that convert into sales.  This is exactly why word of mouth works.  And when you connect with your satisfied customers, you empower them to better communicate relevant selling points for your brand, to other customers they come in contact with.

Real business benefits from connecting with your biggest fans.  Look back at your own experiences and think about what has worked for you, are you more likely to purchase an item based on seeing a cool commercial, or hearing a recommendation from a friend you trust?

Matt Hixson February 5, 2014 at 11:18 pm

Good post. I would also add that context matters before that in the relationships people form. The reason you listen to a friend on a bank loan is because in that context you have trust. I know my brother in law but he is the last person I would take financial advice from.

Mack Collier February 6, 2014 at 7:34 am

Ha ha, Matt, good clarification. Just because you are friends or family with someone doesn’t mean you trust their advice on every topic!

Jack Steven February 11, 2014 at 12:37 am

Word of mouth marketing is a lot about your words and clarification. No one is going to buy a product if they are not satisfied with your response or explanation. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post about the importance of context in Word-of-mouth marketing

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