As a marketing agency executive, I’m a huge advocate of marketing with a variety of mediums. So for the record, let me preface this entry by saying marketing is critical for each and every brand on the market. However, marketing is influential in the early stages of the buying process – when the customer is building awareness of needs and available products. There is one tactic – one medium if you will – that is extremely powerful in final stages of the buying process. In fact, this one medium can be the information source for a customer’s final purchase decision. What is it? Word of mouth.
For years we’ve heard about the power of word of mouth advertising. Countless articles and books have been written on the power of customer referrals. And these days, the impact of what one customer, vendor or business associate says about your brand has never been so significant. I can personally attest to this fact. I started my agency in the worst of economic times. Some folks called me down right crazy – to my face. Who knows what they said when I wasn’t around. However, because I was blessed with industry contacts, past clients, editors and media personnel that offered me positive referrals and testimonials, my business has thrived. I’m blessed. I’m thankful. And I’m bound and determined to live up to those testimonials.
On the flip side, word of mouth can be detrimental to a company. Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to speak to several contractors and I’ve asked them about the buying process and how they decide on a product. Overwhelmingly, the answer is always the same. “I talked to some contractor friends and asked around at my dealer’s repair shops to see what units they always have in to fix. Those are the units I avoid.” Imagine if your company is the one people are talking about here – word of mouth can be just as powerful in hurting a business.
So are you taking the time to find out what customers are saying about your brand, your products and your people? Do you have the proper alerts in place to see what’s being said about you in the electronic realm? Granted, you can’t control what people are saying. But you can control your response. Just ask United Airlines how crucial it is to respond to customers. Better yet, check out the video below and see how an unhappy customer decided to speak up and be heard. No, your customers may not be likely to create this type of video, but they are out there commenting and complaining if they have issues. And most of the time, all they want is for you to listen and take care of the problem. Are you doing that?
Finally, take a good hard look at your organization and ask yourself: Are the people representing our brand – top to bottom – behaving in a way that will inspire word of mouth referrals? If not, take the necessary steps to make it happen.
How does your company promote word of mouth referrals? How do you monitor what is being said about your brand – both negatively and positively – and proactively respond to it?