Direct Marketing Article
Watch Your Word-of-Mouth
"Word-of-mouth marketing is always working; It just may not be working in
By Ivan Misner
You may be thinking: Since I'm not asking anybody to refer me, word-of-mouth
marketing isn't something I need to concern myself with. If I provide good
products or services and my customer service is up to par, I'll naturally
get more customers by word-of-mouth. Why bother with plans and strategies?
Why spend all that extra effort on getting referrals? I'm getting
word-of-mouth every day, and it's not costing me any time or effort.
Yes, you're getting word-of-mouth every day. It just may not be the good
kind. The message you're sending may be unclear or too vague. It may even be
"Negative?" you may be asking. "But I have plenty of satisfied customers."
While you have lots of satisfied customers, they're not the ones doing the
most talking. You may have 100 satisfied customers for every one customer
who leaves your shop less than happy, but guess who talks loudest and
longest? It's that demanding, unreasonable customer who thinks you're a
lousy tailor because you wouldn't take care of her snarling, yapping cairn
terrier while she went next door to the bakery ("Don't go to that tailor; he
was so rude to me."). Or the customer who came in on the one day of the
entire year you had to close early for an emergency ("That store? Why, it's
Negative word-of-mouth has legs. A study conducted in Texas revealed that
the average dissatisfied customer gripes to 11 people about his experience,
and these 11 in turn each tell five others. That's 66 or more horror stories
about one unhappy trip to your store. Ask yourself if your average happy
customer makes sure 66 people hear about your great service. Of course not.
Would business be easier if they did? Of course, but they don't.
Also, passing on the gripe from a single dissatisfied customer to the next
55 takes some time, which means that the negative word-of-mouth feedback is
"out there" a lot longer.
What's the lesson here? Good customer service is important because it
reduces negative word-of-mouth. But by itself, good customer service won't
generate enough positive word-of-mouth to build your business. So it's up to
you as the business owner to ensure the positive counters the negative.
Even if you discount the occasional disgruntled ex-customer, your
word-of-mouth may be so vague as to be useless: "Good tailor, eh? What does
he do besides alterations? Does he do reweaving? You don't know?" Or it may
be misleading: "Well, he has a full lineup of men's clothing, but I don't
know whether he does custom tailoring or alterations. It may all be
Positive word-of-mouth that's inaccurate or aimed at the wrong target market
may hurt your business as much as negative word-of-mouth. Suppose somebody
gets the idea that you're in the trucking business when you're actually
selling trucks. The aggravation of straightening out an honest
misunderstanding may leave enough of a sour taste in the prospect's mouth to
cost you future business and referrals.
The same is true if your business focus is on high quality but your source
promotes you as a low-cost provider. It's important that your marketing
message be conveyed accurately and realistically.
How do you keep up with the demands of running your business and making sure
the word gets out about how wonderful your business is? Start small with
your family and friends. It's amazing what a good word by a spouse or
relative can do for your business in the right place and time. Branch out to
your friends or members of organizations to which you belong. With family
and friends, the key is ensuring they have up-to-date information and a
thorough understanding of your company. Don't forget the vendors who provide
products or services to your business. Remember that the IT consultant who
helps with your server every other week will visit (and talk with) many
clients in between.
Word-of-mouth is always working; it just may be working against you. If you
don't have a strategic plan, then you're not in control of what's being said
about you. And if you don't have a way to measure the results of your
word-of-mouth marketing, then you have no idea if it's really working.
About the Author:
Called the "Father of Modern Networking" by CNN and the "Networking Guru" by
Entrepreneur magazine, Dr. Misner is considered one of the world's leading
experts on business networking and has been a keynote speaker for major
corporations and associations throughout the world. He has been featured in
the L.A. Times, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times, as well as numerous
TV and radio shows including CNN, CNBC, and the BBC in London.