There’s a myth in the small business world that all you need is word of mouth marketing and you’ll have more clients than you can deal with. The problem is that most business owners refer to a word of mouth marketing where customers just pop out of the bushes without any effort. Very few businesses have successfully built a sustainable, growing, source of new customers this way. And there’s a core reason why – its passive. At its essence is wishful thinking.
But let me be clear about one thing before you read on, Word of Mouth Marketing works and can be an important strategy in your marketing plan. But it’s a strategy that needs to be worked and implemented in today’s world in a new way – you could call this new strategy Word of Mouth Marketing 2.0.
Word Of Mouth Marketing As Your Only (Non)Strategy
Occasionally when I’ve been talking to businesses owners about their marketing and I ask how they get most of their customers they say with awe and reverence that most of their business comes through (queue the glowing words) ‘Word of Mouth’. The way they say it, and upon further digging, I learn that what they mean by Word of Mouth Marketing has nothing to do with marketing or communication or sales. It has to do with wishing upon a star. It’s similar to the movie ‘Field of Dreams’ where the guy is told that ‘if you build it they will come’. You might as well start writing your businesses eulogy if this is your strategy (or lack of a strategy).
The world has changed and continues to change at an incredible pace, and if you have relied on Passive Word Of Mouth Referrals until now you need to ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I getting more referrals and sales than I did last year, and the year before that?
- What happens when someone receives a referral for my business? Do they Google you? Do they look at reviews? Do they read about you on your website?
- Are your competitors outpacing you in annual growth? Are they showing up higher on Google searches? Do they have a better online reputation?
The Buyers Journey Has Changed and Continues to Evolve
Consider your own buying journey when considering finding an auto mechanic in your area. Here’s a common scenario:
- You may ask people you know for recommendations, you may even ask for recommendations on Facebook groups or other social networks.
- Whether you receive a referral or not, the next place you’ll search is Google. You’ll type in something like ‘mechanic Orlando’ or you’ll just type in ‘mechanic’ and Google knows where you are.
- Then you’ll review the top search results including the map listings.
- You’ll definitely be more interested in those mechanics with great and many online reviews and stay away from those with bad reviews.
- You’ll visit their website to see the quality of their business, if they’re professional, if they have the service you need, if they work on your particular make of vehicle, if they have the right vibe that resonates with you.
- Then you’ll probably call them to set-up an appointment.
This scenario is true regardless of whether your referrals come from a friend or family member, or if they come from your network of business associates. It’s also true in the world of B2B (Business to Business) as it is in B2C (Business to Consumer).
The scenario I outlined here can take as little as 1-2 minutes if you’re skimming and make quick decisions. In fact, recent statistics show that when a consumer performs a search like this, that they are 79% more likely to make a buying decision within the hour. That’s huge.
Now consider the other scenario if you’re business doesn’t have a strong website that resonates with the customer, no reviews (or worse, bad reviews), doesn’t show up on Google organic results (the most clicked on results), or Google Maps results. In essence, you don’t exist, or you don’t look appealing to the buyer.
Doing Nothing Isn’t A Strategy
If we’re being honest with ourselves, the business owners that say Word of Mouth Marketing is their best source of business, what they are probably saying is that they do nothing. They offer a great product or service, they serve their customers well, they’re friendly, they may even ask their customers to tell others about them (probably not though), and they anticipate every satisfied customer to tell the world of their experience.
In the online world where we can measure things really well there’s a statistic that shows how misplaced this hope is:
- 93% of consumers check online reviews
- 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a referral from a family or friend.
- 80% of consumers have reversed a buying decision due to negative online reviews.
- Yet only 6% leave reviews of businesses they’re satisfied with. What did he just say 6%!!!! (insert expletives here.)
So that’s not good if you’re a business isn’t investing in your online presence. More than likely your lack of effort and investment in marketing is likely killing your business.
A proactive approach for Word of Mouth Marketing.
Word of Mouth Marketing 2.0
It’s a new world, a new market, and your competitors may not just be local, they could be global. Either way, isn’t it time you started to look at your options for growing your business and crushing your competition.
As mentioned above the customers’ journey has changed and you need a new strategy that has evolved.
This new strategy is Word of Mouth Marketing 2.0, and it includes the following:
- Website – you need an amazing website that not only gets you found on the first page of Google but moves visitors to buy from you quickly.
- Reviews – you need to start generating great online reviews, turning satisfied customers into social proof that you’re fantastic to work with. This is a state of being now, you need to keep generating reviews over the long term (not just a quick burst).
- GoogleMyBusiness – this is a must-have, you must have an optimized GoogleMyBusiness listing that is constantly updated to stay fresh.
- Online Directories – there are thousands of online directories that you can get listed on and have them point to your website. This helps you get found, and Google values these listings.
- SEO – Search Engine Optimization is something you must focus on if you want to get on page 1 of Google and stay there.
These are the essential elements required for Word of Mouth Marketing 2.0. In the next article, we’ll cover how to take these elements and turn them into a proactive Word of Mouth Marketing Strategy.