One of the most exciting marketing strategies of all is word-of-mouth advertising. It is powerful, brings very high conversion rates, and best of all is FREE… or is it?
It is powerful because it features your clients speaking in positive terms about your company, and encouraging others to buy from you. Nothing you could ever say about you, no matter how well you say it, can have as much impact and credibility as something someone else says about you – especially an enthusiastic customer or client. There are some things you simply can’t say graciously about yourself that others can say.
But you can’t buy word-of-mouth advertising. It has to be created, stimulated and nurtured with truly creative techniques.
Most businesses take whatever word-of-mouth advertising they get but have no specific strategy to encourage it. However, there are ways to exert a considerable degree of control over this type of advertising and marketing.
One way to create “fake” word-of-mouth advertising is to do it on TV with ‘Slice of Life’ commercials. It shows a scene with one ordinary person telling a friend or associate how good a product is. Laundry soap, personal computers, and hundreds of other products and services are still sold this way.
Real word-of-mouth advertising is far better, and there is a single, basic secret to stimulating a high rate of word-of-mouth advertising. You need to find ways to do what you do so well and so uniquely that your customers cannot resist telling lots of other people about you. Any business can find ways to stimulate referrals. Stimulating word-of-mouth advertising often can be done by doing things that should be done anyway. Even if it is what may seem to be mundane tasks that you do every day. Do them so well that they stand out.
In our company, we do a couple of small things very well. First, we answer the phones with live people during normal business hours. Not a computer. We not only answer the phones, but we also make sure the person answering it is always jovial with a smile on their face that comes through the phone line. We teach everyone that might answer the phone that no matter how bad their day may be going, they need to take a breath, think about something positive, and answer the phone with a smile – every time!
We also try to return all our phone calls or messages as the first thing after the reason we could not answer is resolved, usually in less than 30 minutes, but the rule is to do it in 60 minutes or less.
Disney has mastered this principle with the most basic of strategies. They make sure their parks are so clean that it gets noticed. They actually have underground trash removal systems so that the trash cans get emptied from the bottom – underground. They move the trash through underground tunnels so that no one ever sees a garbage bin full of stinky trash being pushed around the park. They also scrape up every piece of gum. It is so clean that people go home and brag to their friends about how clean it was. They willingly pay the crazy high prices and love it. Disney has done surveys and the #1 thing that comes out every time is the cleanliness of their parks. Not the cool rides. Not Micky Mouse. Cleanliness.
Because they understand this, the Disney people think of park cleanliness as marketing, not just maintenance. It is emphasized constantly to their entire staff. They use this to stimulate referrals.
So think about what you can do in your business to create such a positive experience that it causes people to talk about it. It has to be more than just delivering a good product or service. You need to figure out how to go the extra mile on basic stuff that may seem mundane, but will make you stand out. Things like handwritten thank you notes, thank you gifts, suggestions on a way to save money with your products. One thing Panera Bread does very well is the way they handle their loyalty program. They not only give you points for buying from them, but every time you go to place an order, they look up your loyalty account, and if there are enough points to get something free, they suggest it. Those little things can make a huge difference in how good your customers feel about their experience with you. And good feelings lead to good word-of-mouth advertising.