How Stories Drive Sharing: 3 Insights on Harnessing the Power of Word-of-Mouth


In today’s hyper-connected world, a brand has become less what it tells the consumer it is than what consumers tell each other it is. The beauty of word-of-mouth marketing is that it’s not only simple, it’s also free, and can work wonders for your business. According to marketing expert, author, and CEO of Zócalo Group, Paul M. Rand, more than 90% of people buy a product or a service because someone they know recommended it to them. In the age of social media, word-of-mouth marketing has become a great leveller for businesses, regardless of their age and their size.

Nonetheless, word-of-mouth marketing is sometimes underrated or has untapped potential. So how can a business harness the power of word-of-mouth marketing? Here are three useful tips from Paul M. Rand, as summarized in the video below from MSNBC.

1. Develop a purposeful story

Storytelling has intrigued the human psyche for millennia. There is something deeply personal about telling your story, and this includes the story of a brand. Rand believes that a brand should have a clear angle for its story, and one that customers find appealing to share. He recommends devoting 90% of communication to the topic of interest to both a brand and its consumers, and only 10% to a brand’s commercial messages.

2. Live your brand

Rand emphasizes that a brand’s message should not be restricted to marketing channels alone. Instead, it should be reinforced through all the functions of a business. The “live your brand” mantra can help to create a convincing and unified company ethos.

3. Encourage customers to share

Getting people to spread the word about your brand on a daily basis is vital to gaining a competitive edge. “If you have a good idea of how you want people to recommend your brand and you help them do it, they will very likely participate in that,” says Rand. He suggests developing a relationship with people who are already talking about your product: “If somebody is talking about your company, give them some things to share and make it easier for them to do so.” Rand points out that people thrive when they are given inside information, experiences and ideas that do not come through normal channels.

Search rankings and the case for word-of-mouth marketing

Rand sums up the crucial interconnections between developing a story, living your brand, and encouraging customers to share: “If you know how you want to be talked about, you build that into where you’re sharing information, and you’ll actually pop up higher in the search rankings as well.” This is because “seven of the eight leading things that drive search behaviour today are social conversations: how consumers are talking about brands”.