Product Managers Need To Know How To Make Word Of Mouth Work For Their Product

As product managers, it is our job to make sure that our products meet the needs of our customers. As part of our product development definition we spend a lot of time trying to find ways to get the message about our product out to our customers: we run ads, we attend tradeshows, and we create a great deal of collateral. However, it turns out that the most powerful form of communicating about our products is out of our hands: it’s word of mouth.

Why Is Word Of Mouth So Powerful?

Television commercials, magazine ads, direct mail, trade shows – there always seems to be a countless number of ways that product managers can use to reach their customers. However, there is nothing more powerful than that word of mouth communication. The studies have shown over and over again that a happy customer will tell three of their friends about their experience with your product. However, an unhappy customer will tell 10 of their friends about their experience with your product.

The reason that word of mouth communication is so powerful is because of who it is coming from. All of those other forms of communication with your customer are coming from you – and your customer doesn’t know you. What their friends and associates tell them is much more valuable. In fact, studies have shown that what your customers hear via word of mouth may cause them to discard anything else that they hear about your product from other channels.
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The power of word of mouth communication is nothing new for product managers. We’ve know about this for quite some time. That’s why you’ll see things like testimonials and letters from customers splashed throughout our advertising material. We are desperately trying to overcome any sort of trust barrier that exists between us and our customers. This is the kind of skill that you’ll see documented on every product manager resume.

The Role Of Social Networks In Word Of Mouth Communication

Recently, the world of word of mouth communication has been turned upside down. The arrival of online social media tools has caused your customers to experience an explosion of word of mouth inputs. Customers can now post stories about their experiences with your products on web sites, on blogs, in Facebook and via Twitter. What this means for you product manager is that more and more people are going to have a chance to read about the experiences of your existing customers.

Product managers need to realize that the arrival of social networking means that our customer’s voices are going to be amplified. It has become so easy to jump online after using a product and immediately share your thoughts that our customers are doing exactly that.

Product managers need to get ahead of this wave of word of mouth discussion about our products and do our best to try to shape the way that the discussion is going. There are three effective ways to go about doing this: