The 7 Principles of Word of Mouth

let me tell you a secret
THE BIG IDEA: Seven psychological factors that drive your customers to spread the word about your products and services.


How do you get your customers talking about your products and services?

You work hard to create amazing experiences for your customers—experiences worth talking about.

Here are seven principles to help you better understand what drives your customers to share the good word:

1 – The Principle of Integrity:
They know that you know that they know.

People know you have an intention and that you know that they know you have an intention. This means they know you are trying to sell them a product. And they know that you know that they know you’re trying to persuade them.

Unless you are very adept at meeting their needs, you’re going to encounter an impenetrable barrier. Don’t think you can deceive them into believing they’re not being coerced into buying a product. People are much better at detecting deception than they are at being the deceiver.

2 – The Principle of Status:
People share what makes them look good.

Both negative and positive information reflect positively on the person conveying the information, as both are useful to decision-making.

Negative information is perhaps more useful because it is perceived as being highly diagnostic. Supplying accurate information benefits the conveyer, as it confers status upon the conveyor. Supplying inaccurate information quickly erodes the reputation of the conveyer.

3 – The Principle of Cool:
Ride in front of the “Cool Wave” or wipe out.

If you see something cool today, you can almost bet it’s on its way out and something else will be cool very soon.

Soon, however, that won’t be cool either. Pogs—the milkcap game that originated in the 1920s—reemerged and was all the rage in the early ‘90s, but has now all but disappeared.

Technological advances in communication shorten the cycles of “cool.” Listen to your customer. In order to be on top, you must know what’s cool before it becomes cool. Just like a wave, if you jump too late, you’re not going to catch it.

4 – The Principle of Groups:
Small groups—the critical few—dictate the large.

Customers can be broken down into two subgroups: the trivial many and the critical few. Avoid focusing on the trivial many and find out who comprises your brand’s critical few. They are the ones who truly influence their subcultures.

The same principle that applies to individuals applies to groups—you need the influence of many small groups to create a movement.

5 – The Principle of Influence:
Everyone is influential—especially on the Internet.

Connectivity changed the landscape of influence. Everyone is able to influence people in some way, on some subject. No one can affect people’s decisions in every category. Those who provide more useful input gain more status, and are more likely to be listened to.

Knowledge is power, especially on the Internet, where normal social cues like body expressions and facial reactions are not in place. As a result, anyone can say what he or she is thinking. Comments are judged by their accuracy and value rather than the person’s background.

6 – The Principle of Meaning:
People talk about what’s meaningful to them.

Listen carefully to the critical few to find out what they care about, and give them something to talk about. If you can find ways to amuse them, surprise them, or give them information that will give them esteem among their peers, they will talk. Everyone else will follow.

7 – The Principle of Surprise:
People love to share what surprised them.

Never underestimate the power of surprise. Let the consumer discover the best thing about you instead of hearing you shout it from the rooftops.

Okay, now go get your customers talking!


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