The Best Marketing Strategy…and It's FREE!
The success of any business is based largely, if not exclusively, on the ability to accomplish the following two things:
1.) Recruit new customers2.) Retain current customers
What is the most effective way to accomplish these two goals? Word of mouth or “referrals.” All good marketing strategies require a plan, and as you develop that plan, don’t forget about the importance of word of mouth.
It is FREE, but more importantly, it is the most effective. Its value comes in all shapes and sizes. There’s instant credibility, you often have a captured audience, it is interactive, it can be digital, it often goes viral, and the list goes on. Your goal is to guarantee referrals and word of mouth can get you to that goal.
These days, most buying decisions are researched ad nauseam before you ever meet the customer. Consumers know details about the product, performance specifications and how much it SHOULD cost before they even know where they are going to buy it. Major purchase decisions like an automobile are researched longer than the customer will ever spend in the showroom or on a test drive. Because of that, customer satisfaction has NEVER been more important…and it is the KEY to guaranteed referrals!
There are two reasons customer satisfaction more important than it was 20 years ago:
1.) There are more choices and more competition.
There are more restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, soft drinks, gyms, etc., than ever before. We also have more choices on where to buy these products, especially when you combine physical store locations with on-line options. If you don’t make your prospective customers happy the first time, there won’t be a second! They will go somewhere else.
2.) There is more information available to the consumer prior to purchase.
The internet is overflowing with information, specifically from consumer review websites such as Angie’s List, Yelp, TripAdvisor, OpenTable, and Epinions. These sites can take one upset customer or an ecstatic one and multiple them by thousands, and sometimes even by millions. Prior to booking a hotel for my trip to Cancun this spring, I consulted TripAdvisor. The hotel I ultimately selected ranked 20th out of 170 on the site with 3,335 reviews and an 85% overall satisfaction rating. Of the reviews, 2,064 were “Excellent” and 86 were “Terrible” (and my wife read all 86 of the “terrible” ones). WOW, now that’s some word of mouth. I may have heard about this hotel from their advertising, but once I found their online reviews, all that mattered to me was the word of mouth and digital referrals. If their customer satisfaction wasn’t good, their reviews would have been worse and I wouldn’t have even considered staying at this hotel.
It is likely that your business has to deal with at least one consumer review site, if not many, or something similar such as Facebook or other social media outlets that provide easy access to opinions about your company.
So does word of mouth have to be part of a successful marketing plan? You bet. To this day, word of mouth remains the most effective form of advertising, good or bad. It is actually more important than ever. You still have the verbal word of mouth, but now you have the digital component, which unfortunately lives much longer on-line.
Give you current and prospective customers great service and they WILL refer your business to potential new customers. Make sure your advertising sets reasonable expectations so that the first experience with potential customers turns out to be a great one. Above all, remember that your first interaction leaves a lasting impression, and your job is to make it a positive one.
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