#WestElmCaleb: a masterclass in word of mouth marketing

January 20, 2022
Mariam Zohouri

To the women of Gen Z: we salute you and your merciless roasts of two-timing bros. 

Case in point: “West Elm Caleb.” This 25-year-old, named after the furniture store he allegedly works for in NYC, linked up with dozens of women on Hinge—sending them a flurry of uber affectionate messages (and going on some dates), before ghosting every. single. one of them. 

We are not here for that noise. And, as it turns out, neither were the women of TikTok. 

After one of his dates shared her experience dating West Elm Caleb on TikTok, a flurry of other women reached out claiming to have gone through the exact same thing: sharing screencaps of the eerily similar messages and dates they shared with Caleb before he ghosted them. 

But this isn’t just a lesson on Gen Z’s zero-tolerance policy for f*ckboys: it’s a masterclass on the power of word of mouth marketing.

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Word of mouth has been [cringely] called the original social media platform. Yes, you did once have to actually call up your friends to know what they were up to, but being more personal isn’t the only—or most valuable—thing about word of mouth marketing.

The reason why word of mouth is so powerful is that it has your customers doing your work for you. By suggesting your product or service to family and friends, your customers are putting their reputation on the line by vouching for you. 

It’s no surprise then that Nielsen reported that nearly 90% of folks trust recommendations from people they know more than any other ad channel.

So how can you reap the rewards of this marketing magic? First, give your customers a great experience. Then, get smart about how you ask for a review. Here are some practical tips for getting great reviews:

1. Ask for reviews after you delight your customer

Look for opportunities in your funnel where you know your product or service just solved a problem for your customer, and they’re feeling particularly warm to the idea of raving about your business. Your review request needs to be timed when your customer is most motivated to give you props.

2. Make it really really easy

If you’re a consultant or freelancer, asking for a review from a client can create a new chore for them. Even if they loved working with you, trying to articulate that experience might feel like work. Your job becomes making this as easy as possible for your customer or client.

  • Offer prompt questions that’ll get them thinking about how to frame their review
  • Include examples of reviews previous clients have left for you. This will give them a template for how to write the kind of review you’re looking for.
  • Get specific with your ask. If you just need a 3 sentence review, tell them exactly what you’re looking for so they can get started quickly.

3. Reinforce the behavior

Once a customer or client has given you a review, make sure you thank them promptly. Whether this is a personalized and well written automated email, a thoughtful celebratory thank you screen, or a personal email— reinforcing the behavior of reviewing your company with a thoughtful thank you is key to getting future reviews.

Once you have this sweet, sweet social proof, don’t let it go to waste. Give positive reviews pride of place on your landing page and feature photos of happy customers using your product or service throughout your site. 

By opening yourself up to this kind of feedback, you’re not just validating your product or service to others: you’re showing your customers that you care, and making sure that if they do have a problem, you’ll be the first to know.

But neglect your customers and you risk them flooding the net with negative reviews to protect others from your shitty business (right now, #WestElmCaleb has 17.6M views on TikTok).

The choice is yours. 

Tap into the positive power of word of mouth. Our Founder Sarah Stockdale shares three things you can do ASAP to design an effective customer experience strategy.

(Because if you’re taking your customers on really bad dates, we’ll all find out.


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