Monday, June 21, 2010

Proactive word-of-mouth - is it possible?

Yes, it's true - just as some people are natural athletes, some businesses seem to generate lots of positive attention because of their product or market. But in reality, these people and businesses are very few and far between. For the most part, like great athletes, great businesses WORK REALLY HARD to get positive word-of-mouth. (Think the hype surrounding every new Apple product release is accidental? Nope! That's a well-oiled PR machine working it's bum off.)

Great businesses don't sit around waiting for people to start talking about them. They ask their customers for referrals, request online reviews, keep top-of-mind with customers through interesting and relevant ticklers, and above all, they do everything in their power to provide every customer with the best experience possible.

Sounds too much like hard work? Of course it's easier to provide mediocre service, never bother keeping in touch with customers, and sit around blaming the state of the economy for the lack in enquiries - much easier! But that's not the road to a successful business that's buzzing. It does take a bit of effort and thought - but it's also worth it's weight in gold. Why? Because...
  1. People don't believe your advertising anymore
    That's right, we've become a cynical bunch and we all know how marketing works. We won't take anything at face value anymore. Advertising is still great for building awareness but it's really tricky to build trust, preference or a real connection with advertising alone.

  2. Word-of-mouth is now permanent, searchable and pervasive
    While we might not chat to our neighbours as much as in times gone by, the internet actually makes word-of-mouth much more powerful because the comments, reviews and mentions that your business gets today, can be found by people searching next week, but also next year. They can also be seen by people nearby, and people anywhere in the world looking for a business in your location (which is great for web businesses or those that service people that travel). Most importantly, thanks to the magic of search, your feedback is seen mostly by people that are actually looking for a service just like yours. People that value good quality and good service, and in some cases, will pay extra for it.

  3. You might need to call on your positive reputation one day
    No matter how good a business you run, one day you'll get some negative feedback online. Warranted or not, someone will put a ridiculously bad comment up on Facebook, Twitter, their blog, or some other online forum. If that's the only feedback about your business on the web, it's going to look really bad - whenever someone searches for your business, that's all they'll find. But if you've already built up a great bank of positive feedback, one negative comment is almost irrelevant (of course, you should still address it, but on it's own it's unlikely to do any real damage).
Some business owners are hesitant to ask customers for reviews or mentions online, but ironically, most people actually think more highly of businesses that ask for feedback and feel flattered to be singled out. If they're happy with the service they've experienced and feel that you've gone out of your way for them, most are more than happy to return the favour. In fact, they'll probably be a happier customer, just because of the fact that you've asked them for honest feedback (seems weird but you'll see for yourself).

Word-of-mouth is the most powerful form of marketing there is and if you're passionate about creating buzz for your business, you need to get this working. So don't be shy and don't be lazy, hand your customers a MEGAPHONE and start building up your online reputation!