Blog post

Word of mouth marketing is back and it means more than just influencers

24 Mar, 2021
Word of mouth marketing is back and it means more than just influencers

Word of mouth is hardly the sexiest marketing phrase of the moment.

Important though it may be to retail and fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) markets in particular, it’s probably not something your agency has recently considered highlighting as a tactic during your final pitch to a client.

Until now…

There seems to be a growing groundswell to bring the idea of word of mouth back into the picture. Indeed, like all good ideas that have since fallen by the wayside, there’s a good argument that agencies may be onto a winner simply by mentioning an old favourite; a classic case of ‘zigging whilst everyone else zags.’

But what does, or should, word of mouth marketing mean in 2021? Influencers drive online conversations, so it sounds like something they should be involved in. But does word of mouth mean more and, if so, how do you build a word of mouth campaign that will have impact?


The worth of word of mouth

Way back in 2014, Kimberly Whitler wrote this article for Forbes on word of mouth marketing. It’s still one of the first things you’ll find if you search on the subject today, probably because it nails so many of the main points.

We know, for example, that people act more often on recommendations from family and friends than they do on any form of advertising. That’s partly why influencers - particularly nano and micro influencers - have grown in popularity over the past few years; people see smaller influencers as more of a trusted peer than an advertising conduit.

So word of mouth creates action, which is a staple aim of marketing; creating a feeling that people need to go somewhere or buy something.

Exactly how much action word of mouth creates is less clear. There’s a claim that it drives $6 trillion in annual consumer spending, equivalent to 13% of consumer sales, but the sourcing isn’t clear enough to verify.

Whatever the total amount, Kimberly Whitler’s article has some very sound data from Nielsen that 92% of consumers act on family and friend recommendations and, given that, as Kimberly says: “if consumers value word of mouth and marketers believe it is effective, then why aren’t marketers more focused on it?”

Perhaps we should think about word of mouth in a different way…


Creating ‘delight’

Like the concept of word of mouth, the concept of delighting existing clients is nothing new.

The logic runs that the more customers you delight, the more customers you attract.

That idea has received added impetus in recent years, in part perhaps because of marketing behemoths like HubSpot and how much they have pushed the idea of delighting existing clients.

Marketing, after all, is expensive. Why spend on other activities when something that creates and communicates delight is statistically likely to be more effective in generating clients?

The answers to that could be immediacy (delighting existing clients perhaps won’t land you the sales volume you need immediately) or the need to reach new audiences and therefore focus on different channels.

But the point still remains: delighting existing clients and empowering them to spread the word about you far and wide is likely to be the most effective and most cost-effective marketing strategy you have.

And thinking about word of mouth as ‘delight creation’ does start to suggest practical ways of creating a word of mouth strategy...


Influencer’s part in word of mouth

If you’re creating a word of mouth strategy then it seems safe to assume that you’ll be looking at the smaller influencer tiers; nano, micro and maybe mid-tier.

Coming up with the exact actions to carry out with those influencers perhaps involves thinking through some of what we’ve already discussed. 

  • You want to create delight - how can your influencers show they are delighted with your product/service?

  • Word of mouth necessarily involves conversations - how can your influencers help conversations to start?

With that in mind perhaps influencers and word of mouth marketing could start to see some of these focal points being used.

  • Give the influencers something unexpected and see how they react - you’re trying to create a genuine moment of ‘delight’ and you can’t do that with a completely pre-planned campaign.

  • Better yet; get the influencer to give their audience something unexpected. A giveaway or chance at something unique maybe? The influencer’s posts for you could be around capturing their own audience’s delight.

  • Ask the influencers to involve family and friends with your service/product and capture their reactions. This might avoid any risk that the influencer’s reaction will be seen as having been ‘paid for’.

  • Brief influencers that their post should ‘start conversations’. Encourage them to ask questions of their audience, perhaps questions about how their audience have found your product/service or a similar product service.


Word up!

And there’s probably plenty of other tactics that meet the delight/word of mouth brief, but we’re not the experts there - you are!

It seems clear though that word of mouth marketing is back and here to stay… if in fact it ever went away in the first place. 

Harnessing the power of personal recommendations that reach a large audience has always been at the heart of influencer marketing. Combining that aim with the complementary ideas of word of mouth seems like a recipe for success, for agencies that embrace an old fashioned notion and new fashioned channels.



Written by Alec Harden-Henry

Commercial Director, Influence Network


Influence Network is an influencer platform which identifies the most aligned micro-influencers from the entire social web, then rapidly deploy and manage campaigns at an unprecedented scale, before reporting on trackable engagement and ROI. We’re the Double-Click of influencer marketing and we’re here to solve your influencer problems. Sound interesting? Get in touch on INFO@INFLUENCE.NETWORK or 0203 918 8582

Alec Harden-Henry
Managing Director

Influencer Marketing, Martech and Marketplace expert

Robust debate, constructive challenge, and a relentless pursuit of growth, improvement and efficiency enable Alec to cut to the core of the issue. Alec currently holds executive directorships at Influence Network an AI-driven influencer tech platform and equitable, The Private Equity Portfolio Talent Network, alongside non-executive and advisory roles at a number of marketing, ad tech and technology startups.

Executive experience in:

- Advertising, marketing, media, PR agencies - both independent and Big 5 agency networks in the UK, UAE (Dubai) and globally.

- Sales & Marketing strategy, planning and delivery

- Start Up and Scale Up with 400% YonY Growth

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© 2023 Influence Network.

Registered in England and Wales: 10815710

Registered Office:

20-22 Wenlock Road, London, N1 7GU