Word-of-Mouth Marketing: What it is and How to Master it

man shouting to camera

Oh my god, I love your shirt. Where did you buy it? 


You have to check out this new shoe store – they have the best sales.


Why did you buy it there? I bought my iPhone for half price online; I’ll send you the link.


The comments above don’t look like anything special. You’ve probably heard something similar in your daily conversations. They’re innocent, right? But there’s one thing you may not notice right away – all these comments recommend a business.


With 81% of consumers trusting the advice from friends and family over businesses, word-of-mouth marketing can be more effective than an Instagram reel. So, how can you use word-of-mouth marketing to its fullest potential? You’re about to find out.

What Is Word-Of-Mouth Marketing (WOMM)?

woman holding loud speaker

Have you ever bought something from a store and then went and told your family and friends about it? Received compliments about your watch and said where you bought it from? Asked a friend where they bought their fabulous candles? Well, you already know what word-of-mouth marketing is (and how powerful it can be).

Word-of-mouth marketing influences and encourages personal recommendations about a business, product, or service. Consumers create conversations about a business’s product or service with friends, family, and networks. In other words, it’s completely natural. 

While WOMM in the pre-internet world was simply defined as information shared through conversation, today, WOMM is a little broader.

Today, we can have a conversation not only face-to-face but also online. An Instagram reel or tweet about your favorite mascara or blender is word-of-mouth marketing. It’s spreading the word about your business by people who have tried your product or service.

Why Use Word-Of-Mouth Marketing?

As a small business, you’re trying to find ways to expand your customer base and gain eyes on your business without spending too much money on marketing. And while creating ads is effective, it’s important to remember that most people find businesses through friends, family, and colleagues. 

WOMM is more important for your business because people are becoming more skeptical about advertising. And the proof is in the numbers. 

90% of people are more likely to trust a recommended brand (even from strangers), and 88% have the highest trust in a brand when a family or friend recommends it. As a result, word-of-mouth marketing:

6 Ideas for Building Your Word-Of-Mouth Marketing Strategy

group of business people looking at ipad

It’s time we talk about strategy. But, before I jump into things, remember that WOMM is based on the quality and value of the product or service. In other words, if you have a good product/service, WOMM will work like a breeze.

Set up Word-of-Mouth triggers

We often think that word-of-mouth only works if the product or service is unlike anything else out there, which isn’t true. There are tons of businesses out there producing the same products, but what makes one business more successful than the other? They focus on word-of-mouth triggers. 

What do I mean by this? Word-of-mouth triggers are emotions or memories that encourage people to talk about your business. 

For example, I was flying on AirSerbia and had horrible motion sickness. A flight attendant came over with a glass of water and gave me a caring rub on the shoulder. I didn’t ask the flight attendant to do it, but she did. Since then, I’ve always praised the airline for their customer service because they cared about my well-being.

Another example if of Turn Black, a minimal and ethical all-black clothing line.

What’s different about them? Their clothing is ethically made and handloom-made. This production process minimizes their carbon footprint. It also helps them stand out among their competitors.

These are examples of experiences or feelings that make people want to talk about your business. As you can see, the triggers don’t need to be mind-blowing to be memorable or to spark an emotion.

Step outside the box and do something unique

Oh, I know, I know. It’s easy to say, “Hey, just be unique,” but this doesn’t mean you need to do something no one has done before.

Being unique could be just doing the opposite of industry norms, having a different shipping method, or selling a special product. 

Play on emotions

Who doesn’t like a good story? You can tap into your customer’s emotions by telling a story. Just think about it for a second. The advertisements we talk about with our friends and family caused an emotional reaction – why else would we talk about it to other people?


In 2019, Dove launched a #ShowUs campaign that created 10,000+ stock images of women from all different walks of life. While we all know about Dove, this sparked a conversation about inclusivity as the women featured were of different races, body types, and genders. 

Prospective and returning customers of Dove felt that if they supported Dove, they would be a part of a movement larger than themselves. 

Encourage user-generated content

I know you don’t want to look like a pushy business – who does? But you don’t need to spam your customers with emails to get eyes on your business. Instead, focus on user-generated content, content created by people rather than businesses.

Hillhouse, a women’s clothing store posts photos taken by their customers. That way, they have real people promoting their products, while creating social proof. 

Focus on reviews and ratings

Word-of-mouth marketing is essentially people rating and reviewing your business for others. This means as a business owner, you need to focus on encouraging customers to rate and review your product or service. 

Whether it’s on Yelp, Google Maps, or an email testimonial, collecting as many reviews and ratings as possible is important for the growth of your business.

Consumers read around seven reviews before trusting a business, and 85% of consumers see online reviews as trustworthy as personal recommendations. The example above is of life coach Dawn Allen. She created visual Instagram posts to share her client testimonials. 

But getting testimonials can be challenging. If you want to know creative ways to get testimonials, read this.

Create a Referral Program

A helpful way to encourage customers to recommend and promote your business is by creating incentives for them. Referral programs get customers to introduce your business to their friends, family, and network. 

Whether it’s offering a free gift, upgrading a service or product, or giving store credit or discounts – these methods help get people talking about your business. 

Oh, and this strategy isn’t only used for small businesses. Large businesses like Airbnb use word-of-mouth marketing as well. 

Offer something for free

Let’s be honest – who doesn’t like free things? A free gift product or service can work wonders. Let’s take a look at athleisure wear business Girlfriend Collective. Now what they did was amazing. 

To get eyes on their business, they decided to use their marketing budget by giving away free $80 leggings. A bold move. But it worked. 

This got people talking (obviously – leggings are expensive!). This word-of-mouth strategy resulted in 10,000 orders on the first day.

Girlfriend Collective has grown since then and all because of their word-of-mouth strategy.

Over to You

You know the importance of word-of-mouth marketing and how you can incorporate it into your business. Now what? Well, now it’s in your hands to take the strategies listed above and use them to gain visitors to your business. 

Remember, you don’t need to do everything all at once. Take your time and add these strategies to your marketing plan at a pace that suits you.

Natasha Ivanovic is a Vancouver-born creative writer that started her writing career as a freelancer while studying for her Master’s in Investigative Psychology. On the weekends, she writes short stories for her blog, TheLonelySerb, and cuddles with her bulldog, Bob.