Word of Mouth: How to Make People Talk About Your Brand

Jun 6, 2018 | 5 comments

If you’re anything like me, you’re picturing word of mouth as:

– a matter of luck, or

– an awkward conversation with your client when you’re supposed to persuade them (or bribe them) to recommend you to their friends.

And if you’re anything like me, it’ll be a relief to hear that:

– you can actively generate word of mouth instead of relying on luck, and

– it doesn’t have to include awkward conversations and bribing.


When you’re a B2C, asking for a referral in exchange for a financial (or another) reward isn’t a good idea, anyway. I mean, selling is uncomfortable enough even for people who do it every day, let alone for someone who has never done it.

If you’re bribing your clients to pitch your service to their friends, you’re putting them into an uncomfortable situation. And the reward doesn’t change anything about the way they feel.

What you can do instead is to come up with creative ways to make people want to talk about your brand with their friends — and feel awesome when they do it. Below are three B2C-friendly ideas for your inspiration (that also work for B2Bs).  

Disclaimer: I’m not saying that asking for referrals is evil and that it all should happen organically. In fact, I believe that the ask should be a part of your client off-boarding process. My point is that you can make everyone involved (including yourself) feel good about it by reframing “asking for a referral” as helping your client share your vision by providing something they’ll be happy to share.

Here are three ideas.



1. Make people talk about themselves, not about you

True story: After my friend took Trisha Traughber’s writing course, she printed out the stories she had written during the course and snail-mailed them to me across the ocean in a big white envelope, with a note: “I didn’t know I can write like this.”

You can bet I wanted to know more about the course. My friend didn’t pitch anything to me; I was the one who asked. She didn’t share her writing with me in exchange for a financial reward or because she was asked to do so.

She did it because she had created something that she was so excited about that she wanted to share it with her friends. 

That’s word of mouth in action. No awkward sales conversations needed. 

Now, imagine that instead, she would have written an email that would go like, “I’ve taken this writing course, and I think you’d enjoy it, too. If you join, I’ll get a percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. Here’s my link.” I don’t think I’d be that excited to join.


★ Question for you: How can you help your clients showcase the results and wins you help them achieve? 



2. Give them something they can give away

Seth Godin has designed his book What to do when it’s your turn (and it’s always your turn) to be shared — and talked about: When you buy one paperback, you get two; when you buy two, you get four, and so on — so you can give the extra copies to your friends.

The fancy word for this is horizontal marketing. The point is that when you get a book from a friend, you’re much more likely to read, implement, and talk about it than, let’s say, when you find it through a random Google search or an ad.

Not everyone can afford a project like this, but everyone can come up with their own, low- or zero-cost version. Think a free “bring your friend” coaching session or two paperback copies of your book as a thank-you gift for your long-term coaching clients so they can give one away.

Whatever it is, it should be (1) free, (2) easy to share, and (3) no strings attached. A discount code or a free trial wouldn’t have the same effect. Remember, Seth Godin’s goal wasn’t to sell the book, but to start a conversation.

Once people start talking about you, the sales will follow.


Once people start talking about your brand, the sales will follow.Click To Tweet


★ Question for you: What can you give to your clients that they would be happy to share with their friends? 



3. Start a movement

Your first follower transforms you from a lone nut into a leader, says Derek Sivers in his TED talk How to start a movement. The thing is, people aren’t following you, but each other. 

That’s why word of mouth works better than copywriting, sales funnels, and ads (unless you make them work together with WOM). When it’s just you who talks about your brand, no hacks will help you. Your brand is only alive when people talk about it with each other.

In other words, word of mouth doesn’t happen only when your past or existing client recommends the thing you sell to their friends. Word of mouth happens anytime anyone talks about your brand. And who this “anyone” is and what they say is not as important as you may think.

It works even if it’s a complete stranger, even if what they say isn’t a recommendation, and surprisingly, even if it’s not positive.

Strong brands have strong opinions; they don’t try to please everyone. They say things everyone feels but no one talks about and spark conversations that go beyond recommendations. And these conversations count towards word of mouth, too.


★ Question for you: What’s the thing — that little piece of status quo that’s itching for a change — that no one else but you can put into words? 


“Whatever the status quo is, changing it gives you the opportunity to be remarkable.”


Seth Godin, Tribes



How to make your peeps look and feel great while spreading the word 

When your goal is to make a difference in the world (no matter how small), you can’t do it yourself. You need your first follower who will bring the next one, and so on, until you have a community of people who work towards the same goal.

It can be a tiny community; there’s no ideal number of people who can make a difference in the world. 

But as a leader, you are responsible for how your followers look and feel while they’re spreading the word. It’s your peeps who give your brand its voice.

They’re the ones who post on their social media channels for their followers, friends and families to see.

They’re the ones who start the conversation, write the review, craft the email, or gift-wrap the book.

They’re the ones who step into the arena, take the risk, and undergo the discomfort of being seen.

And it’s your job to make them look great and feel confident when they do it . How? By giving them the best possible branding and design experience. 

Because branding and design are not about making yourself — or your business — look good. It’s about caring about how your followers look and feel.

Let’s work together on crafting an outstanding experience for your them. Check out my branding and design packages to see how we can team up.


If the ideas have inspired you, please share your thoughts in the comments below!

If you liked the article, would you please share it on your favorite social media? Thank you!


  1. Trisha Traughber

    Hi Veronika, thanks for the mention–I’m really touched by that. And I hadn’t thought of that example as WOM at all: just a great way for one writer to share her work. I really like the horizontal marketing as well–but am not yet sure how it could work for my own brand. I recently got word of a novelist with a very cool writing community from someone I know. When you join up, she asks who referred you so that she can send them a free book. I just loved that. As for free classes for referrals, I do that here in my local business. I don’t feel like I’m bribing people…most of my clients are already talking about me anyway, so I view it as a “thank you.” In the end, I’m pretty sure that if someone is not genuinely happy with the work they did with you, they’re unlikely to recommend you to others–even if they get a discount on their next class or program. And when someone new comes to me, I ask where they heard of me–it only makes sense…

    • Veronika

      Hey Trisha, I know! I’ve never thought about these things as examples of WOM, either, but the more I learn about it, the more connections I can see. And yes, asking where people heard of you and rewarding the people who refer to you is super important.
      But you can (and should) also actively help your clients recommend you in a way that feels good. In his book Unstoppable Referrals, Steve Gordon talks about creating a “referral kit” — something you can give to your clients after they work with you (when they’re happy, of course). It may be a useful resource that they can share with their friends or colleagues, like a “freebie” you use to get email subscribers, but this time, you only give it to your clients to share with their friends. I really liked this idea — again, horizontal marketing.

  2. Tania

    Thank you for the post! The insights are remarkable, and sometime truly surprising. Those “Question for you” make my brain buzz with excitement about what I can DO to implement your recommendations.

    • Veronika

      Thank you for the comment!


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