When businesspeople talk about word-of-mouth marketing today, they're often complaining. They're usually saying something like, "paid marketing tactics don't work in my industry! It's all just word-of-mouth!" or "Our best customers don't come from online; they come from word-of-mouth referrals."
This mindset is completely normal, and more often that not, the complaints aren't far from the truth. Even in today's highly digital—highly virtual—world, word-of-mouth continues to be the most effective form of marketing. Across industries, companies with great word-of-mouth visibility get more leads, higher quality leads, and they tend to close leads more efficiently too.
The challenge for marketers is that too often, we settle for thinking word-of-mouth can't be influenced or systemitized. We often act like it depends on what industry we're in; not how we operate or go to market.
Today, I'd like to address how B2B companies can and should build word-of-mouth referrals with a focused, intentional strategy. And it all begins with defining really precise targets...
Using Target Personas to Generate Word-of-Mouth Referrals
These days, digital marketers are the professionals talking most about target audiences. That's because online data has made it possible to target and and track marketing activity to highly specific audiences. But digital marketers didn't invent target marketing! Marketing leaders have been aiming for focus and specialization for years.
There's a reason why.
Target marketing, specifically persona-building, is incredibly important for the oldest of marketing methodologies, such as word-of-mouth and referral generation. When you define your company's position and take a stance in your market, your ability to generate brand recognition and referrability will naturally rise. Here's how...
Defined Targets Will Improve Your Elevator Speech
When you and your employees have a precise sense of who you're targeting, you tend to explain your company and its mission more effectively. For instance, not that long ago, I was explaining Weidert Group's business to a new friend who works in healthcare management. While I could have said, "Weidert Group helps companies grow their business with inbound marketing," I instead explained that, "Weidert Group help manufacturers grow their business because we're very good at using inbound marketing to help sell highly considered purchases like capital equipment or longterm industrial service contracts."
Then, I continued to explain Weidert Group's story and how we got to be so good at industrial B2B marketing. A few days later, when I told the same friend that I'd be out of town for a conference, he said, "Oh, is it a manufacturing conference?" I took that as proof he associated me more with my target personas (manufacturer marketers) than the broader field of marketing.
Target Personas Help Other Professionals Associate Your Company with Their Own
In B2B markets, one of the reasons marketers feel like they have little control over word-of-mouth is because you need others to know who you are and what you do in order to generate effective word-of-mouth. If your business is complex or niche, then word-of-mouth can feel like a tall order.
Defining target personas and explaining your business in terms of those personas helps other professionals understand what you do.
For instance, if you're in equipment manufacturing, you need your vendors, customers, and partners to be able to articulate your business at a basic level. Rather than explaining the customizability or variety of capabilities in what you do, you should instead focus on your most important case study.
Equipment manufacturers are a great example. If you're an OEM, and there's a lot of customizability in the equipment you create, the story you tell—your elevator speech—should not be about that customizability; instead, you should make it simple—a single target: the situation that's most profitable and most frequent in your business.
Defining Your Targets is a Process
If you've never engaged in target marketing, then you need to plan. Defining your company positioning and establishing effective target markets is a serious process that must involve key stakeholders and leaders in your company. To get started in the process, check out this guide below.