The Power Behind ‘Word of Mouth’

I was with a group of my peers yesterday when the conversation turned to our summer travel experiences. One woman in the group had a fabulous experience with a travel agent and was raving about her skills. We were all engaged in the details of her trip and how this agent made her experience successful. She proceeded to recommend this person’s service and offered to send out her contact information to the group of us.

Whether we realize it or not, these discussions happen all the time.  Whether you are looking for a local dry cleaner, thoughts on a school teacher or a recommendation on the latest books to read, we rely upon our trusted relationships to vet out new experiences. This got me thinking.  There is incredible marketing power behind the daily buzz in a community.  This particular community happened to be my hometown, but a community can be defined by industry, marketplace or environment, among other options.  The power of word of mouth marketing is real and very much alive.

‘Word-of-mouth’ marketing can take on a life of its’ own and there are no limits to how far-reaching it can be. This holds true for both positive and negative word-of-mouth and so care must be taken in every interaction your business has with the community it serves. Anyone associated with your organization must routinely be aware of their words and actions and hold themselves to the highest of standards if they are to generate positive word-of-mouth.

Word-of-mouth referrals offer an authenticity unlike any other– candid, personal opinions. Studies show that a satisfied customer will tell an average of three people about a service s/he likes, and eleven people about a service with which s/he had a negative experience. It confirms that marketing is the responsibility of everyone involved in the business. Following are some points to keep in mind while developing a word-of-mouth campaign.

  • First impressions are vital. When someone interacts with your business, you want make sure each individual has a consistent and pleasant experience. Phone manner should be enthusiastic, friendly and helpful. Follow-up on all requests and make sure calls are returned within 24 hours. Go out of your way to offer assistance.
  • When talking to potential customers, ask them about their current providers. Listen to their responses, watch their body language and ask them if they have heard of your business. Look the individual in the eye and be enthusiastic about their experiences.
  • Be responsive to both good and bad experiences. If someone makes a positive comment, confirm the experience with your own. If someone makes a negative comment, pleasantly gather the information, inform them how to report negative experiences and do what you can to make amends.
  • Close conversations positively. At the end of an interaction about your business, make a positive statement regarding the conversation and open up an opportunity to follow-up with that person.
  • Make sure to plant positive seeds to the “opinion leaders”. These are the people who are entrenched in their industries or who are viewed highly in a community. These people can serve as sources of information and influence to others in the community. Others tend to listen to this type of person because of their desire to be in the company of influential people.

Word of mouth can really boost the reputation of your business.  Taking advantage of the power behind community conversations is important.  Being honest and up front on a routine basis will build a consistent reputation.  Always thank people for speaking highly of your business or referring you to others.  Acting quickly upon negative experiences can help to stem any damage from the word of mouth machine. Routinely providing positive experiences will always translate to positive word of mouth.