Word-of-mouth marketing has always been the trump card of the smaller business operator. Cheap, effective and usually controllable, this age-old marketing phenomenon can be responsible for a very large percentage of new business.
The number of small business operators who claim that their biggest source of new business is from word-of-mouth illustrate just how powerful this mainstay of marketing can be.
But what may not be evident in allocating credit to this invaluable form of promotion is just how the word of mouth was delivered.
We’ve known for years now that the internet has provided powerful new rocket boosters to word-of-mouth marketing.
What once crept out only as fast as customers could get to networking events and barbecues was fundamentally altered, more than once.
The word-of-mouth revolution
The first development was with the advent of email. Email and its ‘broadcast’ and viral capabilities soon meant that either a good or a bad experience could get out to dozens or more people simultaneously.
Now it wasn’t just word-of-mouth but word-of-mouse too.
The second was with the advent of ‘Web 2.0’ website capabilities, where customers could either vent their spleen or wax lyrical about a business on either their own website or a third party review site.
The third development was social media. Now you could share your experiences with hundreds or even thousands of your besties at once. No amount of once-almighty mass media advertising can undo a well-shared bad review.
But there’s a fourth influential development that is even more powerful again.
Social media ‘Groups’ allow you to broadcast your satisfaction or otherwise to what can amount to hundreds of thousands of people, or even more, simultaneously.
Better still—or worse, depending on your perspective—calls for supplier recommendations also provide the stimulus for people to comment on your capabilities and even point straight to your website or social media page.
But wait, there’s even more.
The most recent stimulant of multiplying customer reviews and comments is the one you may well have in your hand right now.
Mobile and immediate
Smartphones have meant that nowadays you can be pretty much anywhere and spread word-of-mouth like never before.
In the past you at least had to wait till you were in front of a computer before you could unload your torrent of constructive or destructive criticism.
Now you could do it right on the spot, just like a live cross to a television or radio reporter. If you really wanted to, you could literally live stream your review to your network!
For the business operator, these developments can be simultaneously wonderful and crushing.
The unfortunate reality is that bad news spreads much faster than good.
A grapevine on steroids
If a customer is unhappy, no amount of online apologising and attempts to make good will necessarily make them delete the comment.
Worse still, even if they do, trying to get that message out to the number of those that have already seen it is nigh on impossible.
What this means is that while it’s always been critical for a business to delight their customer, the advent of so many powerful means of review and comment mean that this goal is now far more important than ever before—particularly if your business is one that relies heavily on good customer reviews.
Power in consumer hands
In many ways this is a wonderful service to consumers. Now, if a business provides bad service it’s far easier to find out about it.
And that means the shoddier or poorer performing businesses just won’t be able to survive.
What do these developments mean for your business? Are you doing enough to ensure that your customers receive a great experience?
And are you doing enough to encourage them to spread the word if they do?
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team, which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.