Nancy Myrland All Posts, Marketing Strategy, Social Media 11 Comments

If Your Business Relies On Word of Mouth: Take Control Of Your MessageOver the years, even starting when I was in sales right out of college, I’ve heard many versions of the following comment from potential clients:

My business relies completely on word of mouth.  I don’t need marketing.

It’s hard to believe anyone still says that today, but, alas, they do.  I’ve heard it with my own two ears.  You say your business relies on word of mouth?  Well, GREAT!

I have some advice for you based on the song, which Anne Murray first recorded in 1986, but which Bonnie Raitt made famous:

If your business relies on word of mouth, make sure you give them something to talk about.

Relying solely on word of mouth and referrals is an interesting approach to doing business.  Not being active in the process can be a risky business practice.  Let’s take a look:

When you rely solely on the comments and referrals of others to drive revenue, you are leaving yourself vulnerable to misinformation, lack of information, communication of a brand that might not really match yours, others’ perspectives about your ability to take on more work, etc.

On the other hand, you might get lucky, and have a reputation so strong, positive and impenetrable that people are singing your praises, talking about you exactly how you’d like them to, resulting in you bringing in all the business you need.  I haven’t heard that comment so much these days.

So, what should you be doing to affect this thing called word of mouth?

Let’s give ’em something to talk about.

But, you might be thinking, how do we do that?  Easy, just remember that everything you do publicly gives  them something to talk about.  Let’s look a little closer:

Public Speaking:  You speak before your national association’s membership at their annual meeting.  You have the opportunity to send the message that you are an expert in the topic you are discussing, that you are passionate about it, and maybe that you are approachable and prepared when answering questions.  You also have the ability to give them something to talk about if you are boring, defensive when asked a question, are unable to look your audience members in the eyes, or that you lack preparation and organization when reading copious amounts of information from each slide you have over-prepared.

What are you giving them to talk about?

Social Media:  You’re feeling pretty good because you are on LinkedIn and Facebook, right?  Are you one of those who has discovered that conversing, sharing, informing and enjoying your interaction with others seems to be working for you?  Or are you broadcasting messages about you and your business without answering comments, thanking those who have shared you with their network, or post so infrequently that it appears as though you lack commitment, the ability to converse and any interest in the network you began to build here months ago?

What are you giving them to talk about?

Your eNewsletter:  Are you using this valuable real estate to find out what your readers would like to learn  more about, or to help educate them in a particular area, in order to show you are more focused on them than you?  Are you mentioning a recent project, matter or case you worked on, and what you did for that client, which helps them see exactly what it is you might be able to do for them?  Are you writing about your clients’ achievements, sending the message you are one of your clients’ greatest supporters?  Are you periodically mentioning the kind of work you are passionate about, and that you appreciate referrals to your business?

What are you giving them to talk about?

I could give you a dozen more ideas about media you are using, and messages you are conveying, but I think you get the picture.

Bottom Line: Yes, let’s build word of mouth to boost our business, but don’t rely solely on the memory and experiences of others.  These are invaluable, yes, but they aren’t always as complete as you’d like them to be.

It’s not their job to know everything about us, and to communicate that to their network.  It is our job to help them understand what we do, and what we stand for, so perhaps they will know what to talk about when the opportunity arises.

Let’s give ’em something to talk about!

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Comments 11

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Does Your Business Rely On Word of Mouth? What Are You Giving Them To Talk About? -- Topsy.com

  2. Nancy- Great post! I couldn’t agree more! I’m working on a piece entitled, “The Power of Personal PR.” I’d like to reference an item or two of yours (w/ a hyperlink), with your permission.

    Keith – a.k.a. “The Spindoctor Sayeth…”

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  4. Thanks for the thoughts; this was a read twice for me (that’s a good thing). Wow – how many time have I heard, “We market by word of mouth.” Anyway… We were working on the e newsletter today and your thoughts gave me pause, are we utilizing this valuable resource to it’s fullest? As usual you got me to thinkin’ (hoosierism)

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  6. Love your thoughts on this, as I feel many don’t understand the reasoning behind a good PR discipline – maintaining control of the company’s brand message. Seems like making customers advocates of a brand would be the hopeful end-result of a great marketing / social media campaign that accompanies a great service or product.

    I always think how much MORE loyalty a company could acquire by developing and employing a good marketing strategy to assist their word-of-mouth-only referrals. Thanks again for the great article.

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    Thank you for your great thoughts Josh. I also think part of the challenge, although certainly not all of it, is that people are accustomed to being humble (pardon the pun), and not tooting their own horn. We live in a very competitive time, with lots of economic challenge, so this is not the time to hold back on the information that will help our clients, potential clients and referral sources talk about us when the occasion arises. Thanks for stopping by, and for sharing your wisdom with all of us.

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