Ninety-one percent of anything is a big deal, which is why you need to pay attention to this: ninety-one percent of B2B purchases are influenced by word of mouth.
A study by Blanc & Otus and G2Crowd shows the impact of recommendations and referrals in B2B is actually far greater than B2C, due to the considered nature of most purchases. Nobody is going to make a decision or give you money unless they’ve checked you out — unless they’ve vetted you — with a current customer first.
As businesses, we assume our customers talk about us. We assume our customers tell our story. But we leave our customers to their own devices to do this. For something that’s as important as word of mouth, we’re way too hands-off. Most businesses don’t have a word of mouth strategy. At best, we’re doing word of mouth on accident.
I recently released Talk Triggers, a book about word of mouth, which I co-authored with Daniel Lemin. A Talk Trigger is a strategic, operational differentiator a business adopts to create conversation and a marketing advantage. A Talk Trigger has four key components:
- It Must Be Remarkable.If it’s not worth remarking on, it’s not remarkable.
- It Must Be Relevant. Doing something just to get noticed is not a Talk Trigger.
- It Must Be Reasonable.A Talk Trigger is remarkable enough to be a conversation catalyst but reasonable enough to be trusted.
- It Must Be Repeatable. A Talk Trigger must be available to every customer, every time.
A Talk Trigger isn’t a PR gimmick, it’s not a surprise-and-delight tactic. Like I said, it’s a strategic, operational differentiator your customers want to talk about. Here are three examples of B2B companies that are word of mouth pioneers.
Back in 2006, Austin-based Spiceworks decided it would upend the established protocol for software provision and use, and would instead, give its software away to IT professionals to manage their networks for free. The company was motivated by a realization that IT professionals have tough jobs. At the time, they didn’t have a common set of tools to help them.
Spiceworks launched a product suite that allowed IT pros to scan their computing network, monitor up-time, and track issues or problems via a built-in digital help desk. It monetized through highly-targeted and highly-tailored ads.
To get feedback from early users, Spiceworks set up a web page where customers could submit product ideas. Users voted by “spicing up” or “spicing down” the suggestions they were most interested in. Spiceworks realized the collaboration and community needs of IT professionals superseded their software needs, and it formed an online support group.
As conversations grew, developed and morphed into longer threads that covered topics beyond IT, Spiceworks knew it was on to something. In 2010, Spiceworks opened the community to non-customers. That’s when word of mouth kicked in. That’s when people started to tell their friends and colleagues that if they were in IT, they needed to go to the Spiceworks community. It was THE place to be.
The accounting and bookkeeping software company, Freshbooks, executes its Talk Trigger a little differently. Its “I Make A Living” program is a traveling series of events where the company goes to its customers.
Let me explain.
Freshbooks’ customers are self-employed. Their businesses span a range of industries from interior design to accounting to plumbing. When Freshbooks first began, it was small. Its founder, Mike McDerment, was cautious about spending money on travel for conferences and events.
On a trip to New York, McDerment decided to email some customers and invite them to dinner. This idea turned into an entire program. Today, when Freshbookers (employees) travel they seek out customers and organize group dinners with them. Sometimes the group is 20 people, other times it’s 120. The dinners are done at no-cost to Freshbooks’ customers.
These events connect business owners in the same community, an opportunity not everyone has. The dinners have led to a series of live events, known as #IMakeALiving, where Freshbooks brings in authors, speakers and experts to share information with their customers. It’s all free, and the program generates considerable word of mouth.
Amazon Web Services
This last one is a bit of a cheat, but it’s an example I recently shared as a guest on the #FlipMyFunnel podcast hosted by ABM extraordinaire, Sangram Vajre. Sangram asked me for a Martech example, and I thought of Amazon Web Services.
If Amazon Web Services adds capacity, services, or adds to a data center to the point where costs go down as it scales up, they email their customers in the region — proactively — and alert them their bill will be lower beginning next month. This is a tremendous example of a company doing something its customers do not expect.
This example is not a true Talk Trigger because, at this point, it’s not repeatable. Remember the four key components? Amazon Web Services only does this in regions that have cost savings. If it happened to every customer, it’d be one of the most tremendous Talk Triggers I’ve seen.
Jay Baer is the founder of Convince & Convert, a Hall of Fame keynote speaker and emcee, host of the award-winning Social Pros podcast, and the author of six books including Talk Triggers: The Complete Guide to Creating Customers with Word of Mouth.
Check out more of Jay’s blogs here!