Scale-ups need to grow their customer base with limited resources. Therefore, word-of-mouth is an important tool for them to attract new customers. What makes customers share your story? They should be truly delighted and they should be triggered to share it. 

Most scale-up CEOs believe in the power of virality: delighted customers spread the word, the story goes viral and helps to attract new customers. But delighting your customers is not enough: you need to create a clear story your customers can share. 

Make it short

Most scale-ups sell innovative products that are difficult to explain in a couple of sentences, and keep adding extra features to make the product more attractive to their customers. This makes their value proposition even more complicated. Social media users have very short attention span. Stories that are too long and complicated are usually ignored. How can the customers tell others about your product if your sales pitch is 15 pages long? Make sure your story is short and easy to understand.

Provide “social currency”

People share content to demonstrate their values and support the causes they believe in. This is part of impression management. For industry experts and social media influencers, talking about your company should produce “social currency”, i.e., support their image of social responsibility or innovativeness.

Be personal

Customers are much more likely to share your story if they connect to it on a personal level. One scale-up CEO created a story about four friends that started an adventure together because they believed in a better world. They built a tiny house that you can put on a truck, bring anywhere and then live a comfortable life: “This was a story of total independence, and it really struck a chord. We were picked up by a lot of media in the Netherlands. Fast Company wrote an article about us.”

Create word of mouth triggers

A word of mouth trigger is something that makes your business stand out, something that makes it surprising and irresistible for your customers: an experience, thought or feeling they can’t get anywhere else. Then they are triggered to talk about you. 

To trigger word of mouth, make your delighted customers visible: create opportunities to see your product in use or make small gifts to symbolize your relationships with customers (e.g., a key chain, an umbrella). By holding this object they hold your brand, and it creates a trigger for conversation. 

You can trigger word of mouth by engaging in conversation with your customers. Ask for their opinion on social media or make a poll about a new product feature you are developing. Give them the opportunity to comment and share their ideas. This is a way to get customers involved and encourage them to share your story.

Word of Mouth Statistics

  • 92% of customers believe suggestions from friends and colleagues more than advertising
  • 79% of people trust testimonials and online reviews as much as personal recommendations
  • 74% of customers identify word of mouth as a key influencer in their purchasing decisions
  • Only 33% of businesses are actively seeking out and collecting reviews

Source: Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising report

The scale-up way: Making your customers partners in crime

Scale-ups dream about going viral by delighting their customers. However, the reality is that they struggle to even deliver on their promise. Learn how you can turn your customers into accomplices in ScaleUpLab‘s full article on Delighting Customers.

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*Research on delighting customers in scale-ups is conducted by ScaleUpNation and supported by the Goldschmeding Foundation and Europees Fonds voor Regionale Ontwikkeling (EFRO).