There is something about human nature that leads us all to look for approval in one way or another. When it comes to using certain products and services, we seek approval by asking others’ opinions. This has always been the case, but in an age where everyone is so interconnected, people have started to value each other’s opinions even more.

With that in mind, it is no surprise that word of mouth is one of, if not the, best influencers when it comes time for a consumer to make a purchase decision. Thousands of people read online reviews everyday before deciding to buy a product. Even more simply ask their friends or family for a quick opinion, or maybe it just comes up during conversation. According to a Keller Fay Group study, only 7% of word of mouth marketing happens online. This means that brands have almost no true control over what their consumers are saying about them and have an even harder time monitoring what’s said.

This means that it’s excruciatingly important for brands to influence their consumers in a manner that will pave a path toward positive word of mouth. One way to ensure this is to really connect with consumers. It was found in the Keller Fay Group’s study that brands that are able to emotionally connect with their consumers actually receive three times as much positive word of mouth exposure from their consumers. This emotional tie can stem from any experiential marketing that creates an opportunity for personal connection between a brand ambassador and a consumer.

But will this investment really pay off, you ask? Let us take a look at some of the numbers. According to a Nielson study, 84% of consumers say that they completely or somewhat trust recommendations that they receive from friends and family about products. This makes word of mouth (specifically these recommendations) the trust-worthiest source of information.

Brands should also keep in mind that the market is shifting. Millennials are getting older, and brands should start to think about how to best meet their needs, as soon they will contribute most of the market’s wallet share. Radius Global conducted a study and found that as far as Millennials are concerned, word of mouth is the number one influencer for their purchasing decisions on packaged goods, clothes, financial services, travel, electronics, and other big-ticket items. It’s also important to note that the same study showed that Baby Boomers also ranked word of mouth as most important influencer for big-ticket items and financial products. This means that a negative review can have quite the impact on a brand’s target or new consumer base, so they should do all that they can to make these consumers happy.

But brands should be weary – just one great review won’t do the trick. According to BrightLocal, 72% of consumers say reading a positive review increases their trust in the business, but it really takes anywhere between two to six reviews to get over half of them to this level of trust. Brands have to make sure to not only showcase excellence, but also showcase consistency across various happy consumers.

Consumers aren’t the only ones that heavily weigh others’ opinions when it comes time to make a purchasing decision. USM found that 91% of business-to-business buyers also take word of mouth into consideration when making their final decision.

Of course word of mouth is something that marketers can directly invest in, so the best way to improve it is to not only ensure a positive brand image, but also to invest in other marketing efforts that will generate the positivity needed to get word of mouth rolling in the right direction.

But how exactly does experiential marketing play into all of this? The answer to that question lies in a series of other questions and answers:

What is word of mouth marketing? If boiled down to its essence, it’s simply a story.

Why do people tell stories? Digging deep, we can say that the real motivation behind a story stems from the desire to share a memory.

Where do memories come from? In short, they come from past experiences.

Experiential marketing is the ground upon which memories can be formed, stories can be told, reviews written, and advice given. If executed properly, this will help your brand achieve its goals, whether those are increasing sales, generating buzz about a cause, or raising your brand awareness.

Word of mouth is many times seen as “free” advertising, but that’s only because people don’t consider all of the efforts that brands make toward generating the memories and connections that lead to those stories. But this is an investment opportunity that has great ROI.

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