Wash out your Word-of-Mouth
Thursday, November 6th, 2008
Recently a friend asked, “Have you been to ‘Word of Mouth’?” Before I could reply, she said, “Well, don’t go there. It’s horrible.” Turns out, she was referring to a local business by that name. The irony…
Last week, MarketingProfs’ Get to the Po!nt e-newsletter discussed “A Skeptical Look at Word-of-Mouth,” based on an article by Michael Antman. He makes the point that some businesses rely too heavily on word-of-mouth strategies as their sole form of business development. MarketingProfs sums up a few of the reasons why that approach is shortsighted:
• Recommendations [via word-of-mouth] are subjective and uncontrollable.
• Word-of-mouth is limited in reach and easily subverted.
• There’s no substitute for case studies, sophisticated sales-support tools and mass communications vehicles such as advertising, public relations and print and electronic collateral.
• “[R]elying on organic word-of-mouth is practically a guaranteed way for a small or medium-sized business to stay small or medium-sized.”
Relying solely on word-of-mouth can limit your reach and quality of your message. If this is your main way to gain business (and the way you want it), here are a few tactics to correct misinformation or negative sentiments spread about your business:
Find the source. Examine why the information about your company is incorrect or negative in the first place. Can you identify a specific incident or unhappy customer? Or you may need to look closer to home at whatever marketing materials you do have, your sales team, and possibly yourself.
Respond professionally and politely. If the source is a person or other business, respond and try to resolve the issue. The response may need to be public and/or in person. If you need to clean up your word-of-mouth on the Web, research and review the web sites, blogs and other press that have mentioned your business. Respond to them in a prudent, yet timely way, with correction information.
Be your own critic. Examine your marketing materials, even something as simple as your business card. Does it clearly communicate the goal of your business or how you want to be perceived? You may find out that it is you or your sales team that aren’t communicating effectively. Decide if you do indeed need other marketing, public relations or advertising tools to clearly communicate your business’s purpose.
Own up. Be open and honest about your efforts to change or fine-tune the incorrect perception about your company. Ask trusted colleagues, friends, and even customers to help you.
Be generous. Develop customer appreciation incentives for referrals that lead to new, paying business. Give away something for free. Make a charitable donation. Generosity is quickly recognized and admired.
Enforce consistency. Develop messaging or talking points about your business that are consistent across all communications vehicles (web, print, speaking engagements, interviews). Inconsistent messaging may be the root of your word-of-mouth issues.
Turn down new business. Word-of-mouth efforts may bring prospects to your door. Evaluate the quality of those prospects. Are they the right customers for you? If not, say no. You might find the perception they have of your business is not what you want it to be.
If you don’t care what people perceive and communicate about your business via word-of-mouth, ask yourself, how much is this costing my business in the long term if I don’t fix the problem?