The power of word-of-mouth marketing is strong

Published 10:04 pm Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Even in an age of modern and high-tech communication, the most powerful and effective means of generating new business is word-of-mouth. People turn to trusted friends or colleagues for recommendations regarding product or service providers.
And because WOM referrals are free, you can’t beat the return on investment that a positive referral can generate.
While a successful WOM marketing chain can sometimes start on its own, don’t assume that the phone will start ringing off the hook. Any successful marketing tool — WOM included — requires a proactive, patient approach to ensure that the right message gets to the right people.
A good way to get started is to create a simple marketing message that is easy for people to pass along. If it’s not simple, it won’t pass the test. But make it specific to a real benefit or need, not something vague or general. If you can, include success stories or testimonials from real customers. These can have a tremendous pass-along impact.  Examples of simple marketing messages include:
• Repair shop:  “Right the first time.”
• Ford:  “Quality is job one.”
• Coke:  “It’s the real thing.”
Some interesting statistics from the Word of Mouth Marketing Association include the following:
• Every day, 3.3 billion brands are mentioned in 2.4 billion conversations in America.
• 66 percent of all brand-related word-of-mouth conversations are “mostly positive” while only 8 percent of brand-related WOM conversations are “mostly negative.”
• 59 percent of Americans believe that face-to-face WOM conversations are “highly credible.”
• While nine in 10 WOM conversations occur offline, social media is leveraging these conversations and is highlighting the importance of WOM marketing.
To stimulate WOM for your business, you might also consider asking customers for referrals and recommendations. Get to know people in your community or industry and they will think of you when they need your product or service. Join local business organizations, and attend conferences. Donating your products or services to local charities can generate goodwill and get your name around.
Above all, recognize that people will happily spread the word about your business if you treat them well. Tales of negative experiences or poor performance can be difficult to correct once they are passed on. That’s another important reason why it’s crucial to continually provide superior service, address problems quickly, and anticipate your customers’ needs. Those are the things they’ll remember — and talk about.
SCORE is a national, nonprofit organization that offers confidential and free counseling to small businesses. In the greater Washington area, contact SCORE by leaving a phone message at 252-974-1848, by visiting the website at www.EastCarolina.åå or visiting the office on Tuesday and Thursday mornings in the JobLink building, 1385 John Small Ave., Washington.