Before jumping into this final section, review how social currency, triggers, emotion, public visibility, and practical value can help you take your word of mouth marketing strategy to the next level, and watch our summary of the book Contagious by Jonah Berger.
Let's go ahead and finish discussing the last of the six steps Berger gives to make your brand catch on.
- Next Steps: Download the Guide
Last night, while I was watching TV, I saw a trailer for a new documentary about basketball star Giannis Antetokounmpo. The short clip showed him returning home to Nigeria after many years of being away in Greece and the United States. At the beginning and end of the trailer, the words “Presented by WhatsApp” appeared on the screen. WhatsApp is a free private messaging mobile app that emphasizes communicating with friends and family no matter where they are in the world. Sharing a story about a man who left his home country and returned many years later fits in perfectly with their mission to “let people communicate anywhere in the world without barriers.” What a heartwarming way to spread their message.
Berger shares, “Information travels under the guise of what seems to be idle chatter.” If you package your brand as a story, people will tell it, spreading information about your brand along the way.
Insight #1: Stories are Better Than Facts
As we all know, stories are inherently more entertaining and shareable than facts. We all want to have a good story to share, and we like being told good stories. Not only are stories more compelling, they’re more credible. Berger informs, “People are less likely to argue against stories than against advertising claims."
Keep this in mind when you’re designing and writing website copy, social media posts, sales decks, flyers, etc.
Ask yourself the following questions to figure out how to include more story-telling in your marketing:
- What questions can I ask to pull a good story out of my customers?
- How much time and resources can I invest in creating video testimonials?
- What reviews am I currently sharing? Do they tell a good story?
Action Item Ideas
Encourage story-telling in reviews
If you weren’t convinced when we were discussing emotions, hopefully you are now!
Find places where you are soliciting reviews. Look at the questions that are asked. If possible, update the questions to encourage more honest, story-telling responses.
Video testimonials capture stories better than written reviews. Choose one or two positive reviews each month to turn into video testimonials, if the reviewers are willing. Write a list of questions that will encourage people to share their experience with your product or service.
Share customer experiences
Find places you are sharing reviews. If you aren’t currently sharing reviews, think of where you could: website, flyers, social media, sales decks, billboards, videos, etc. Share reviews that tell a story. If possible, include the customer’s name and picture to make the quote feel more personal.
Insight #2: Include a Lesson or Moral
The Trojan Horse is a story that everyone knows, with a plot full of twists and turns, but ultimately it holds an underlying moral to beware who you trust. Berger asks why tell a story rather than just outline the lesson. He says, “By encasing the lesson in a story, these early writers ensured that it would be passed along—and perhaps even be believed more wholeheartedly than if the lesson’s words were spoken simply and plainly. That’s because people don’t think in terms of information. They think in terms of narratives.”
Start with the lesson. What underlying meaning should your story tell? Probably that your brand is the best. Or your mission matters. Then, encase it in a story. The key here is that the story has to somehow relate to your brand.
Answer these questions to brainstorm possible stories your brand could tell:
- What is my brand’s mission?
- What morals do we stand for as a brand?
- What stories could tell that mission? Is there a story I could insert my brand into that relates to my mission?
Action Item Ideas
Record customer testimonials
Customer testimonials are a great way to tell a story with your brand at the heart of it. Brainstorm customers you’ve worked with that have a story to tell. Ask if they’d be willing to do a video testimonial. This doesn’t have to be crazy high product value. Hop on a Google Meet or Zoom call with them and record the meeting.
Start a podcast
Start a podcast. Think about podcast topics that are industry or mission specific that you could insert your brand into. For example, a company that sells beauty products might have a mission to instill confidence in young women. They might create a podcast that interviews professionals and psychologists about increasing confidence in young women, telling stories with their mission front and center.
Create a video
Create a video that tells the story of your mission.
Insight #3: Ask for Stories
Don’t be afraid to ask customers to share their stories! How else are people going to find out about your company? Berger explains that without stories, people would have to get their information from advertisements, trial and error, or direct observation. Think about it…
Let’s say you want to invest in a home security system. Advertisements are already out of the question. People don’t trust what a company claims about itself. On to trial and error. You could purchase five separate systems and install one per month for five months until you find the one that works best for your family. That seems like a lot of work, so maybe you’ll try direct observation. You could follow a company around, watch them install the system in someone else’s house, and set up camp in their front yard until the alarm goes off so you can see the response time.
Obviously those options are ridiculous. Berger expounds, “Stories solve this problem. They provide a quick and easy way for people to acquire lots of knowledge in a vivid and engaging fashion. Stories save time and hassle and give people the information they need in a way that’s easy to remember.”
Action Item Ideas
Ask customers for reviews
Ask customers to share their stories! Email them, text them, ask them in person while you’re still working with them.
Set up review profiles
Set up profiles on third party platforms, like Yelp, Google My Business, BestCompany.com, Angi, TrustPilot, etc. Ask customers to leave reviews on these sites. Sometimes, these third party sites will solicit reviews for you!
Brainstorm story-promoting questions
Here are some questions you might consider asking customers to turn their reviews into stories:
- What was your experience purchasing [product or service]?
- Have you interacted with our customer service team? What was that like?
- How has [product or service] impacted your everyday life?
- Do you have friends or family that also have [product or service]? What’s it like to share that experience with them?
Berger summarizes, “So build a Social Currency-laden, Triggered, Emotional, Public, Pracally Valuable Trojan Horse, but don’t forget to hide your message inside.”
I know it might seem like a lot, but take it step by step!
If you already have a great product and you’re treating your customers right, leveling up your word of mouth marketing strategy will make a huge difference.
As soon as people start talking, one person shares your product with their friend, they share it with someone else, and suddenly you’ve built this unstoppable momentum around your brand. It’s contagious.