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10 Cost-Effective Marketing Tactics To Grow Your Online Store’s Word-of-Mouth Referrals

By Reading Time: 11 minutes

Word of mouth is a powerful marketing channel for one simple reason – your customers do the advertising for you.

People love recommending things to others. If they had a great experience, they feel the need to let their friends know about it. If they love a product, they want everyone around them to try it, too. And the best part is, 92% of people trust recommendations they receive from friends.

But how can your store get word of mouth referrals from customers? Fortunately, this isn’t a closely guarded industry secret. This blog post will walk you through some cost-effective word of mouth tactics that will get more people talking about your brand or products.

1. Create a meaningful story that makes your brand stand out

If you want people to spread the word about your store, you have to give them a reason to do so. Start by telling a story about your brand or products that is intriguing and easy to relate to.

How can you implement this tactic?

When it comes to storytelling, there are two simple yet not easy ways you can create a story that people will find remarkable.

  • Product storytelling

If your product is one of a kind and it’s the first to solve a problem that many people have, they will then have no choice but to talk about you.

Think about it, Elon Musk wasn’t the first person to create an electric car, but he was the first one to make it a status symbol – sexy, reliable, safe, and acknowledged by authorities. As a result, people had no choice but to talk about how wonderful the Tesla Model S was.

But what if you’re not Elon Musk? What if your product isn’t as innovative as a Tesla car? What if you are an online merchant who sells custom t-shirts? You have to find a way to tell your story in a way that’s meaningful and relatable.

Take Pura Vida Bracelets as an example. Meaning “pure life” in Spanish, Pura Vida sells bracelets that are handmade in Costa Rica. Every now and then, this company partners up with charities to support different causes by producing and selling unique bracelets.

Pura Vida brand storytelling

Whenever a customer purchases a bracelet from the charity collection, 10% of net profit is donated to the particular fundraiser. Thanks to this initiative, Pura Vida has already donated over $600,000 to 175 different charities.

Key Takeaway

Telling compelling stories isn’t always easy, especially if you’re not selling a revolutionary product. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t create a story that your followers would want to share with others. Connect with your customers through stories that speak about your company’s beliefs and values.

2. Use urgency

Robert Cialdini, the author of Influence, a widely recognized book on persuasion, believes that “we value things more if they have recently become less available to us.” If a product is in short supply, it means it’s difficult to acquire. The more difficult it’s to acquire, the more valuable it must be.

How can you implement this tactic?

There’s no golden rule to follow when it comes to creating a sense of urgency in sales. However, there are three commonly used scarcity principles that will create more buzz around your store’s products.

  • Limited stock products

Use this tactic to focus customers’ attention on a limited number of products that won’t be available once they sell out.

Take a look ar BookDepository store on Amazon. The store lets their potential customers know which items are low in stock. It compels the shoppers to take the plunge before a specific product is no longer available. 

  • Limited time

You can also create a sense of urgency by presenting a special offer or a product that is available only for a limited time period.

Online clothing brand Girlfriend Collective first launched their website in 2016. Instead of spending all of their advertising budget on ads, company decided to make a hard-to-resist offer for their audience.

For a limited time only, people could get a pair of $100 Girlfriend Collective leggings for free, if they shared a link to company’s website on Facebook. Just like that, on the first day of their campaign, Girlfriend Collective sold 10,000 pairs of leggings.

  • Limited access products

This scarcity principle is used to encourage purchases of items that are available to a selected few like loyalty program members or people with invites only.

Let’s analyze an example to understand this approach better. As we know, smartphones are traditionally sold offline in flagship stores or online. However, a Chinese smartphone company OnePlus flipped this model on its head in 2014.

OnePlus 2 Invite

Source: OnePlus

After introducing a new phone, the company announced that customers can buy it only if they had an invite. This caused a great deal of commotion as consumers weren’t used to the unconventional sales methods. People started spreading the word about OnePlus, desperately seeking out invites to get access. As a result, OnePlus received over 25 million visitors to their website in less than a year and sold over a million smartphones.

Key Takeaway

Scarcity is a powerful psychological trigger that you should include in your marketing strategies. Just make sure that what you’re promising is believable. Uphold the limits you’ve set and stick to them. Doing the opposite will only ruin the trust in your brand.

3. Target niche influencers

Influencers are people that have a strong internet presence and the authority to influence the behavior and opinion of their audience. A recommendation from such a person can generate chatter among a great number of people, who later spread the word to their own family and friends.

How can you implement this tactic?

Most commonly, companies work with influencers on a paid sponsorship. This principle is pretty straightforward, you pay the influencer to create content that promotes and recommends your product. However, this isn’t the only way to run an influencer marketing campaign.

ModCloth is a large online retailer of vintage-inspired women’s clothing. In order to get more publicity when it first launched, the brand decided to run a low-cost influencer marketing campaign by creating series of blog articles called “Blogger of the Moment.”

modcloth blogger of the moment

ModCloth cleverly featured some of the top fashion influencers on their blog and later named the dresses after each of them. The fashion influencers were thrilled. They were so excited to be featured on the ModCloth blog that they bragged about it to their own communities. That generated a ton of awareness for the brand, eventually turning ModCloth into a 150 million dollar behemoth.

Key Takeaway

Work with influencers to promote your product to their audience. You can pay them a fixed fee, or find a creative way to flatter them so they speak about your brand or product to their devoted followers.

4. Piggyback off events

While it’s true that you can reach more people using digital marketing channels, events still have a place in today’s marketing world simply because they can attract higher-quality prospects. You see, nobody would attend an event they’re not interested in. That’s why people who turn up have a great potential to convert.

How can you implement this tactic?

There are two ways in which you can get more word of mouth referrals from different events.

  • Piggyback off a real, physical event

This one is quite self-explanatory. To get your brand name out there, find ecommerce conferences or trade shows you can attend or exhibit at. Use these events as an opportunity to build partnerships, nurture your leads or further expand your prospects list.

  • Piggybacking off a news event

Another way to get the people talking about your brand is to hijack a breaking news story. That’s exactly what Missguided did when it created an email newsletter themed after the famous Kardashians.

Missguided kardashians email

There isn’t a day that goes by when at least one of the Kardashians doesn’t appear in the news. Missguided took an advantage of this type of news by riding the coattails of the famous family. This decision resulted in high user engagement, as Missguided customers are also avid followers of the Kardashians.

Key Takeaway

Attending different events or hijacking trendy news can help you reach wider audiences and strengthen current customer engagement. Just make sure these events and news are interesting to your target audience.

5. Organize your own event

You can also consider organizing and hosting your own event to bring your customers and brand followers together and spread the word about your products.

How can you implement this tactic?

Organize a small-scale meetup or other event to nurture relationships with your customers or brand followers. With a little bit of work and creativity, you can even hijack a larger event.

Back in 2011, Warby Parker was an unknown startup that offered glasses and desperately wanted the attention of the largest fashion editors in the world. They knew these fashion editors would be attending the New York Fashion Week, but they simply couldn’t afford to participate. Instead, they decided to create an event on their own.

Vogue and Warby Parker

Fashion and lifestyle magazine VOGUE writes about Warby Parker event.

They staked out the New York Public Library and then sent out invitations to a “secret show”. When the editors arrived, Warby Parker sent out models wearing their glasses to swamp the library. The editors were thoroughly impressed, writing positive reviews about the brand saying they stole the show.

Key Takeaway

Seriously consider setting up small-scale events where you can talk to and mingle with your customers and brand followers. People are more likely to spread the word about their favorite brand if they know the people behind it.

6. Participate in an online community

There are thousands, if not millions, of communities online that come together to discuss different topics, interests, and, most importantly, brands. If there’s a community whose members are also in your target audience, you need to be there to get more word of mouth for your brand and products.

How can you implement this tactic?

Whether it’s a Facebook group, a subreddit or an offline community you’re joining, you can’t expect to receive unconditional support from the members after sharing a couple of links with them. To gain a community’s trust, you have to actually participate: ask questions, help others out, give recommendations, or start a new discussion yourself.

Make sure to check this list of ecommerce Facebook groups you can join. If you want to connect with fellow ecommerce entrepreneurs you can also join the r/entrepreneur, r/ecommerce and r/smallbusiness subreddits.

Will this help you generate more word of mouth for your brand? Ask Beardbrand.

Eric Bandholz, the founder of Beardbrand and a proud beardsman, participated in all sorts of beardsmen communities and eventually become a “beard expert.”  He even coined the term “urban beardsman.” By actively participating in different communities, he connected with his target customers and became a million-dollar company in less than a year.

Key Takeaway

Be where your customers are. Join different communities and contribute to them. With time, you’ll gather a group of people that trust and believe not only in you, but also your brand.

7. Start your own community

If you don’t want to join established online communities, create one yourself. That way you’ll have more control over the topics and discussions happening.

How can you implement this tactic?

Building an online community is easier than ever. For example, you can create a Facebook group and invite your customers and fans to join. You can also set up a forum and encourage your customers to participate in discussions.

Brands do it all the time now. Wearable technology company Pavlok has a Facebook group in which they answer user questions, or give advice how to use their device to its full potential.

Pavlok Facebook Group

Even media organizations like Today Online have Facebook groups for their readers.

Key Takeaway

Concentrate on developing a strong relationship with both your customers and your prospects. Provide lots of value upfront so they grow to like and trust you. This will eventually result in a loyal community that supports and speaks about you.

8. Publish quality content

Creating and sharing quality content that educates or entertains your audience is yet another way to get more word of mouth referrals.

How can you implement this tactic?

Start by choosing the right medium. Think of how your customers prefer to consume the content you create and what kind of content they’re interested in. Depending on the answer, you can write blog posts, record podcasts, and videos, or even craft visual material.

Take a lesson from clip-in hair extensions retailer Luxy Hair that has built a massive YouTube channel (3.1 million subscribers). The brand discovered that their customers love video tutorials, so they created tons of video content on topics about hair and clip-in extensions.

Luxy Hair YouTube channel

Once you know your medium, concentrate on creating valuable content. If you’re not sure what your audience likes, simply asked them. You can also use tools like Ahrefs to discover content that is already popular within your industry and could potentially be interesting for your audience, too.

Key Takeaway

It’s not a secret that quality content tends to spread. So take your time creating and sharing content that’s valuable, popular, and has high search demand.

9. Reward loyal customers

Satisfied customers are likely to share their experience with up to 9 people from their network. And you can further expand your word of mouth referrals by rewarding these customers for sharing.

How can you implement this tactic?

By setting up a loyalty program – there are many different ways to do it. For instance, you can choose to give them a prize after they’ve collected a certain amount of tokens, or award them points once they complete specific actions on your website.

You want your loyalty program to be as simple to understand as possible. The easier it is for the customers to earn and redeem the rewards, the more willing they’ll be to join the program.

Every Sephora customer can sign up for their famous loyalty program, Beauty Insider, for free. It gives you the inside scoop on the latest promotions and entitles you to a reward on your birthday month. However, the most ingenious part of their loyalty program is the upgrade to the “VIB Rouge”, which anybody can access once they spend $1,000 in a year.

Source: Beautezine

It’s an exclusive status that gives members unlimited access to the Sephora Beauty Studio and Rouge. People even brag about it online! And that’s how Sephora generates tons of word of mouth by making their customers feel good about shopping with them.

Key Takeaway

Happy customers share more. Keep your customers satisfied by inviting them to join a loyalty program where they stand to win exclusive experiences or privileges.

10. Use a referral program

One of the most effective methods to get more word of mouth referrals is to incentivize your customers to spread the word for you. With a referral program, you can reward your existing customers for every new customer they bring to your website.

How can you implement this tactic?

There are two main ways you can implement a referral program:

Develop a custom solution

The first option is to get a developer to design a custom referral program solution for your store. However, unless you’re a huge online store (like ASOS), or have an in-house development team, this option is usually out of the question.

Use a referral program software

The second option is to use an automated referral program software like ReferralCandy. Software like this makes setting up a referral program easy. All you have to do is to choose the type of incentives you want to offer your customers, upload your brand assets, and your referral program will be ready to go.

Amuze is a members-only shopping site that gives you access to huge discounts off designer labels. Being a “members-only” shopping site, referral programs play a huge part in driving their traffic and revenue.

A simple referral program like this can also drive tons of social sharing and word of mouth.

Key Takeaway

Set up a referral program and incentivize your best customers to spread the word for you.

Start getting more word of mouth referrals

With a successful word of mouth strategy in place, you no longer need to pay out of your pocket and struggle to get your ads well-run and optimized. Instead, customers will be banging down your door, wanting to purchase your products because their friends told them to.

If you’re looking for a proven marketing channel that can sustainably grow your business in a cost-effective way, then word of mouth is the way to go. Hopefully, with these 10 tactics you’ll get more people to spread the word about your brand and products. It’s only a matter of time before you see your sales start to skyrocket.

Si Quan is the Content Marketing Manager at ReferralCandy. ReferralCandy has helped thousands of online retailers run successful referral programs, and recently launched CandyBar to serve offline retailers too.

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  1. Tom Buckland

    In marketing language, this is known as the unique selling proposition, or USP. Deciding on a USP is possibly the most important decision you can make about your business.

    If you make your business stand apart from the crowd, everything you do will be easier. Customers will be easier to come by. Adoring fans will gladly spread the word about what you do because they love it.

    On the other hand, if you don’t develop an effective USP, building an audience or getting any customers to pay attention to you will be a constant struggle.

    It’s the main perfect reason why each elements of becoming a successful seller and running the best SEO process is very important as this will get you leading the competition.

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