Hands down, word of mouth is by far the most powerful, and cost-effective form of marketing.

How powerful…?

84% of consumers say they either completely or somewhat trust recommendations from family and friends about products (making these recommendations the information source ranked highest for trustworthiness). [Nielson].

Additionally, Nielson found that 84% of consumers reported always or sometimes taking action based on personal recommendations. 70% said they did the same after reading online consumer opinions.

Our social media connections are also an important part of our lives. 81% of people admit to being influenced by what their friends share on social media. [Market Force]

In this post I will show you how to mobilise your customers in to an effective sales force, driving sales through word of mouth and positive online reviews.

Gaining control

There are countless ways for people to share negative and positive feedback about your business.

This makes it more critical than ever to have a proactive strategy in place to:

  • Make sure positive sentiment massively outweighs the negative
  • Ensure positive sentiment is left where your audience goes and trusts
  • Control your brand story

Waiting and hoping for customers to share positive reviews/comments is not an option.

Proactive businesses that understand the importance of this type of marketing are winning.

What motivates people to recommend a company?

The bad news is, there is no magic bullet.

Brands that inspire a higher emotional intensity receive up to threes times as much WOM as less emotionally-connected brands. [Keller Fay Group].

The same academic study that found these results, also found that highly differentiated brands have greater levels of WOM, as these brands allow consumers to share own sense of uniqueness.

However, more than 50% of respondents are more likely to give a referral if offered a direct incentive, social recognition or access to an exclusive loyalty program.

39% of respondents say monetary or material incentives such as discounts, free swag or gift cards greatly increase their chances of referring a brand. [Software Advice].

Whilst 72% say reading a positive customer reviews increase their trust in the business; it takes reading between 2-6 reviews to get 56% of them to this point. [BrightLocal]

The key take away points are:

  • Incentives do work, but they are far more likely to work if your customers are happy and feel connected to your brand.
  • One or two reviews won’t cut it, you need to be generating a lot of good quality, positive reviews across multiple channels.

Whether it is verbal recommendations or leaving a review on a website, you don’t have to sit and hope your customers share their positive experiences.

Putting it into practice

Here are some practical ways you can turn your customers into an active sales force:

Support customers’ micro-moments

Micro-moments are the want-to-know, want-to-go, want-to-do, want-to-buy moments that now dictate our search and purchase behaviour (check out a previous post where I looked at the range of ways you can support your customers’ micro-moments.)

As well as supporting your brand, and positioning yourself as a thought leader, this content also gives your brand fans something useful to share with friends or family, as well as linking to online in forums, email, blogs etc.

“I’m looking for a great Lamb shank recipe”

“Check out Knorr’s YouTube channel, they’ll have one…”

Mobilise customers who give high NPS ratings

If you are using NPS to measure customer sentiment, you have already taken a huge step to identifying those most likely to leave a positive review online.

Net Promoter Score

(Image source)

Pick out your NPS Promoters (those who left a score of 9 or 10) and contact them asking them to leave a review on your target website(s) e.g. TrustPilot etc.

Keep the approach email concise, and don’t ask them for any specific type of review, it is up to them.

Here as an example template I have used successfully in the past.

We Want To Know What You Think

Hi [Name]

Thank you for taking the time to rate us.

We are writing to ask if you would review us in more detail on [URL]’s website here [Link]?

It only takes a couple of minutes to do and you can review any aspect of our service you wish. We aren’t looking for biased reviews, just honest ones from our customers.

Kind regards


This has been in play for quite a few years now, and not once has anyone left a negative review.

Give customers something to physically pass on

At the end of your transaction/ correspondence with a customer, send them something tangible they can pass on to friends and family.

This can be as simple as a handful of business cards, a leaflet with your contact details or a full blown brochure.

For example, snack company Graze include a batch of discount codes with your snack box to pass on.


Incentivise them

You can encourage your customers to refer people through financial incentives that they also personally benefit from.

For example, give them access to coupon codes they can spread around, which in turn gives them money off their next order if someone then uses it.

For example, SKY TV run a ‘Introduce a friend’ program that (at the time of writing) rewards both the referrer and the new customer with £125 Mastercard credit.

Sky Rewards

In conclusion…

With so many ways available for your customers to consume media and marketing messages, the age of interruption marketing is quickly coming to an end for all but the biggest marketing budgets.

The new battlegrounds are customer sentiment and content marketing.

Make sure your business is at forefront of this shift, and put processes into place to direct customers to sell for you via positive online feedback, word of mouth and referrals.