Word of mouth
influences more than 90% of B2B purchases. Yet, almost every
B2B company takes it for granted. They just assume that customers
will talk about the business. But that’s not how people really
behave, is it?
Word of mouth influences more than 90% of #B2B purchases.
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We discuss things that we don’t expect and ignore
things we do expect.
From a word-of-mouth perspective, B2B companies almost
reflexively make the same mistake: thinking that competency creates
conversation. Being a “good” company might keep your customers
happy, but it gives those customers no raw materials with which to
tell your story.
This is why B2B companies need a defined word-of-mouth
strategy: a noticeable, operational differentiator that compels
The Case for B2B Word-of-Mouth Marketing Strategy
My colleague Daniel
Lemin and I detail how to create and implement a word-of-mouth
strategy in our book,
Talk Triggers. We also go into far greater detail in our
brand-new online training course: The Word of Mouth Marketing
Master Class, which launches February 1 (just a few spots
remaining, if you’re interested).
But in case you don’t want to read a whole book (but you
should, we have a money-back guarantee on the book), here is a
summary of the six-step process for creating a word of mouth
Note that this is essentially the same strategy we use here at
Convince & Convert when we create word of mouth strategic plans
for our clients. If you’re interested in that type of service,
take a look at our
word of mouth consulting program.
But first, let me tell you the unequivocally WORST way
to create a B2B word of mouth strategy: to sit in a conference room
and brainstorm an idea. If it was that easy, you’d have already
The worst way to create a #B2B word of mouth strategy is to sit
in a conference room and brainstorm an idea.
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I’ve been working on word-of-mouth strategy and the
talk triggers concept for eight years, and I can tell you that
this strategic planning process is not only worth the time and
effort, it dramatically curtails the likelihood that your word of
mouth program will fail.
Here’s our 6-step process for creating a B2B word of
mouth marketing strategy:
Step 1: Map Your Customer Journey(s)
Document every touchpoint you have with customers, throughout
sales cycle and beyond (post-sale). If you have different
customer types whose customer journey with you varies based on
their region, product/service purchased, or some other factor,
document that as well.
Step 2: Interview Your Customers
This could be the most important step in the
word-of-mouth strategy process. You simply MUST have customer
input, because you might think you know what’s
talkable, but you are NOT your customer.
I want you to interview 15 customers. Phone is best. Email
survey is possible. The 15 customers should be divided into three
groups: new customers, long-time customers and lost customers. The
lost customer groups could be defectors or just people that got
deep in the sales funnel and then didn’t convert.
During each interview you want to review the key components of
the customer journey and ask each interview subject “at this
stage of the process with our company, what did you EXPECT would
happen?” What you’re seeking in step 2 is to overlay customer
expectations on top of your
customer journey map.
This is critical because human beings are wired to talk about
what they do not expect. Thus, your ultimate word-of-mouth strategy
must fall into that category
Step 3: Create Candidate Talk Triggers
Now that you know what customers expect, create between five and
eight ideas for talk triggers.
A talk trigger is a strategic, operational
differentiator that compels conversation. It must be repeatable,
meaning every customer has access to it. The hilarious on-hold
music that Uberconference uses is a good
B2B talk Ttrigger.
There are five types of talk triggers: talkable generosity,
talkable usefulness, talkable speed, talkable empathy and talkable
attitude. Your talk trigger ideas must fit into one of these five.
Ideally, your candidate triggers should come from 2-3 of these
Step 4: Test Your Trigger
Decide on a talk trigger that your research indicates will be
talkable and operationally viable for you to implement.
Take one portion of your customer base that you can segment and
partition (a particular product, region, et al) and introduce your
talk trigger ONLY to that segment. Do this until you have
approximately 100 customers that have fully experienced your
Step 5: Measure Your Trigger
In some cases, if customers sufficiently notice and talk about
your operational differentiator, you’ll see the evidence right
away. It will show up in social media (although that’s more often
true for B2C companies). Or they’ll mention it to your sales or
customer success team.
The best way to gauge the impact of your talk trigger is to
survey the ~100 customers who have experienced it. Create a
three-question survey (email is fine for this) and ask these
- In the last 30 days, have you told anyone about our
- What did you say?
- Did you mention any of these things? (present a list of six
attributes, one of which is your Talk Trigger)
If your three-question survey shows that 15%+ of your customers
mention the talk trigger in question 2, and/or 25%+ of your
customers select the Talk Trigger in question 3, your
differentiator is talkable enough for expansion.
Step 6: Operationalize Your Talk Trigger
If your talk trigger meets the talkability threshold in step 5,
roll it out to all customers, in all circumstances. If it fails
step 5, go back to your list of candidate triggers and pick a new
one to test, repeating steps 4 and 5, as needed.
There you have it. The abbreviated, 6-step process for creating
a winning B2B word of mouth strategy. Of course, the key is to come
up with interesting talk triggers ideas that customers will
genuinely not expect and subsequently talk about. If you can do
that, you turn your customers into volunteer marketers, which is
the best way to grow any B2B company.
A lot more information (including dozens of examples and case
the book. And if you’d like to work closely with Daniel Lemin
and me on crafting your own Talk Trigger, consider our new Word of Mouth Marketing
Master Class. It debuts February 1, and pricing goes up January