Someone is talking about your group right now. Are they saying something good or bad? That depends on whether you’ve done a good job nurturing Word of Mouth, or WOM as it’s known in marketing circles(you know it’s a big deal if it’s got it’s own abbreviation). If you haven’t given much thought to WOM, you should start because people are more likely to be influenced by recommendations and referrals from people they know. Not only is this common sense – whose opinion do you trust more, your friend or a salesman? – but marketing studies back it up.
The reason WOM is so powerful is because it is genuine, but don’t assume that means you can just sit back and hope that it happens. Here are six ways you can encourage, facilitate, and increase WOM within your organization:
1) Make members happy. Real talk? Any efforts to recruit new members will be a waste if your existing members are dropping like flies. When existing members are happy, they will be more likely to recruit others, which is why investing time in your group is also a major investment in WOM. Ensure you are always working towards the purpose that members joined for, run operations as smoothly as possible, and keep communication clear and open. When members feel that their purpose for joining is being fulfilled, WOM will occur naturally.
2) Encourage guests. Suggest that your members bring along guests to any meetings or events rather than keeping them closed to non-members.
3) Free swag. Budget some funds towards providing members with stickers, shirts, pins, etc. These items can all spark a conversation members wouldn’t ordinarily have started about their involvement in your organization.
4) Arm your members. Make sure that there is not only a clear purpose for you group, but that it’s been communicated to all members so they can sum it up easily in conversation. Do they know what links to send to interested friends? Do they know who potential members should speak to for more information? If you haven’t communicated to members how they field questions from interested parties, they may not know!
5) Track referrals. This is as simple as adding a “Were you referred by someone?” field on your group’s registration form. If you don’t specifically ask, you may not discover who your biggest promoters are! Those are the members that you want to work to keep engaged, which brings me to our last tip…
6) Reward referrals. You could establish a literal reward program where you offer discounts on membership fees or gift certificates, but you may find that members respond even better to non-material rewards. An acknowledgement of their efforts – privately or publicly at a meeting or in a newsletter – is often reward enough. Alternatively, you might consider rewarding a particularly strong recruiter with a title in your organization – Membership Manager or something along those lines – and task them with overseeing group recruitment efforts and developing new strategies for building membership.
Has your group benefited from word of mouth, and do you make any efforts to harness it?