Sunday, October 25, 2009

The magic of word-of-mouth marketing

People are funny. No matter how smart or logical we consider ourselves we still prefer to buy products and services from those we feel we know and trust. This is true even if we “know” them by association only. This desire to do business with people we feel a connection to is the foundation of word-of-mouth marketing. A referral or recommendation is a powerful thing. When someone recommends a business to us we assume they have already vetted the business and it passed the test.

Once you understand how important word-of-mouth marketing can be you must beware of what I call the “angry customer rule”.  It turns out that customers who feel cheated or feel they received low quality goods or services are far more eager to talk about their experiences than satisfied customers. Call it human nature, but we just don’t seem to be able to resist sharing our bad business war stories with anyone and everyone who will listen. Getting happy customers to talk up your business is a bit more difficult, and we all know it. This is the reason a recommendation carries so much weight.  So what can you do to encourage customers to share their delight in your business?

  • Ask your customers to refer people to you—thank them EVERY time they provide you with a lead
  • Follow up on leads in a timely manner—don’t make people wait for your call for days and days
  • Be responsive to your customers’ comments and concerns—show willingness for constant improvement
  • Provide referrals to others freely—word-of-mouth marketing is based on relationships and you need to do your share

Whether you call it generating buzz or turning customers into fans, word-of-mouth marketing is an essential part of your marketing mix. Recommendations are golden. 

About the author: “Karen Southall Watts has been training and coaching entrepreneurs for over a decade. She teaches business courses for Bellingham Technical College.”

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