The four rules of word of mouth marketing

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In word of mouth marketing, there are a few fundamental essentials that — if you get right — can start a whole bunch of conversations. Before you worry about the advanced techniques, the latest social network, or an expensive campaign, make sure you’ve perfected these four rules:

1. Be interesting
2. Make it easy
3. Make people happy
4. Earn trust and respect

1. Be interesting

Nobody talks about boring products, boring companies, or boring ads. You’ve got to make and do special things. We talk a lot about the corned beef sandwich at New York’s Carnegie Deli. Now, that corned beef is really, really good — but that’s not why so many people tell friends about it. They talk about it because it comes stacked 7-inches tall. It’s huge and it’s delicious. It’s worth sharing, taking a picture of, and making a special trip to check out when you’re in the city.

2. Make it easy

Word of mouth is lazy. Without your help, even great topics won’t make it very far. Your job: Make it incredibly easy to talk about you. Give them things to share when they leave your store. Supply them with brand gear to show off their love for you. Embed simple sharing buttons on your website. Write the email copy for them to forward. Aggressively look for things that slow down the sharing and make it easier.

3. Make people happy

Happy customers are your greatest advertisers. Thrill them and they’ll tell the world about you. Start with the basics: Treat people nicely, answer the phone, respond to questions, smile, don’t be a jerk. Then, go deeper: Upgrade their shipping, throw in an unexpected freebie, surprise them with a discount, check in on them, and make them feel special. You’ll be surprised at how far a little effort here will take you.

4. Earn trust and respect

People don’t give referrals for companies they don’t trust and respect. They’re not going to put their name on the line for you if there’s even a chance you’ll let them down. So what do you do? You own up to your mistakes. You engage in conversations transparently. You tell them when you’re not right for the job. You never cut corners. You never take the respect of your customers for granted. Being trustworthy is something that takes a long time to earn and is easily lost forever.

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