A lot of people talk about how great “Word Of Mouth Marketing” works and how satisfied language school students are the easiest way to get constantly new business to you. While “Word Of Mouth Marketing” actually DOES work, there is also a lot of wrong information and myths around.
A lot of businesses – not just language schools – fail miserably with getting constantly qualified personal referrals. Valuable leads get lost and not followed up and on the other hand, a lot of useless expensive marketing is done that is just a waste of time, efforts, and money.
Let’s take a look why that is and how to avoid the traps.

Myth 1: Word of Mouth Marketing is automatic

Here is how this myth goes: “Happy customers are so satisfied that they will just automatically recommend you to their friends, family and their complete network, including business contacts.”
This is a half-truth. While it is true that people that are satisfied they sometimes plan to tell friends, family, and their network if you think that this “happens automatically” you are actually quite mistaken and will be disappointed.
Word of Mouth Marketing needs to be cultivated and strategically orchestrated in order to be successful. People with the best intentions simply “forget” to tell others about your business over time. People might want to share their experiences with others but often don’t. It is human nature: we are lazy and life just happens.
If you do not offer clear tools and options how to recommend your language school most of your satisfied students will not communicate and share in a meaningful way that would help your business grow. If you leave this process of recommending you to “good luck” and “let people recommend us on their own terms” it is just that: random and nothing you could actually influence strategically.

Myth 2: Word of Mouth Marketing with incentives is dishonest

Here is how this myth goes: “Why would you need to pay someone or give other incentives if they are happy customers in the first place and would do it for free?” – isn’t that dishonest and manipulative?
The fact is this: people who actually take the effort, for example, to write a positive review about you on social media or review websites such as Tripadvisor are still doing this for a reason, namely for recognition. They might be a fan of your language school and want to share their excitement, but they also would like to be recognized as someone online that has a valuable recommendation to share with others.
A lot of companies fail to acknowledge such recommendations online by not replying to such reviews and comments on social media.  Some companies think they only need to respond to negative reviews and ignore the fact that is CRUCIAL thanking a customer specifically for their positive reviews and the time and effort it took to do so. A lot of companies take it for granted if happy customers share their positive recommendations online.
Word of Mouth Marketing only works strategically if you acknowledge and VALUE your customers for doing that. It is not that you pay your customers for writing good stuff about you when they otherwise would have nothing to say. It is giving customers a REASON to write a positive review RIGHT AWAY and actually, in fact, sending a personal email to a friend or writing something specific to their own audience (friends, family, the network of contacts) TODAY.
The correct way to do this is to benefit both sides: your potential new customers as much as you already happy client that you want to express their satisfaction towards others. The worst you can do is offering something like “If you refer us another language student to our school, we like to give you this €20 coupon for additional free online/Skype classes.”
The new students would feel like “Oh, so if they refer me, they get paid money or additional language lessons. Why don’t I get anything myself?” – so the correct and win-win way to do this is to offer a €20 coupon for both the referrer and the new customer alike so both sides would be happy and excited about this incentive.
The key with the strategic cultivation of “Word of Mouth Marketing” is to get people to take action right now, as long as the experience with your school is still fresh and exciting.

Myth 3: Word of Mouth Marketing is free

Here is how this myth goes: “People will refer you other people without you doing anything, it will all happen automatically and effortless.”
This will go back to the first myth discussed that everything will just happen “on its own” without you needing to do anything. And this is totally wrong. Back to the case when a satisfied customer writes a review about your school on Facebook, Google, Tripadvisor or MyLanguageBreak.com – if you do not respond to their reviews you send a clear signal that you could care less what your customers write about you.
You need to take time to respond to reviews, this is the time that will cost you or your employees time and money. So cultivating “Word of Mouth” is never free. Never.
If you wonder why other companies are doing better and get more testimonials and people write more about those language schools on social media and elsewhere you will see often that it is because those companies encourage their students to share their excitement strategically.
So successful “Word Of Mouth Marketing” is way cheaper than paid advertising and much more powerful, it itself is not a free activity. It is a strategy that needs to be well orchestrated and even automated, so that for example if you pay a commission to students if they refer other new students to your school, that this whole experience won’t turn into a nightmare when customers write to you asking why they have not received their promised incentives.

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