Do People Talk About You?Janette Toral
[April 18, 2003] There’s a common notion among us that a serious industry player is the one that knows how to use media in all forms by letting everyone know the existence of one’s product or service. However, for SMEs, this is something beyond our reach. Our common option, for those of us who are Internet-enabled, is to use mailing lists, direct e-mail marketing, postal mail, fax, and referral from friends. Hardly have we ever looked into the power of word-of-mouth marketing.
Yet, a lot of us really relied on word-of-mouth recommendation especially from friends, experts, or communities we trust. For example, whenever I meet peers in the industry and hear problems of “political” stress in their business lives, I usually end up telling them to read three books: 48 Laws of Power, Queen Elizabeth I: CEO, and Love is the Killer App. Sooner or later, that person will end buying 1 or all 3 books and tell their friends about it too.
In the area of e-commerce, it is also the same. I’ve met people who had read threads in the DigitalFilipino discussion group about the great service of E2Door.com and had tried it themselves. However, very rare do we really get pushed to tell people about good service or products unless someone asked. In the case of E2Door.com, I only got that feedback when I asked a discussion group member if being part of the community was any useful. More often than not, we only speak up when we’re so pissed off against a service provider that has rendered really bad service and even volunteer in sharing those stories.
As entrepreneurs, the challenge is to find out how word-of-mouth marketing can work in our favor and stimulate it. A good book that I highly recommend on this subject is George Silverman’s The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing.
Do you have a great product or service where you worked hard in building it, advertise it extensively, among others but still did not get the expected response? According to Silverman, one must understand the customer’s decision cycle. Depending on the customer’s character, some will decide faster and others won’t act until tried and tested. Unless a person is an innovator and can comfortably decide on a product independently, people will end up talking to peers to get their opinions first before making a purchase decision. If there’s not enough word-of-mouth about your product from authoritative and reliable sources, your customer will most likely hold its purchasing decision.
Word-of-mouth can be harnessed in a lot of ways and here are some:
1. Use experts in bouncing off product or service ideas. They have a need to know what’s new in the market and must be in a position to recommend products or services to clients.
2. Use seminars, workshops, and speeches as a medium to get feedback and even stimulate word-of-mouth. Give your users a venue to talk about their experience with your product.
3. “Canned” word-of-mouth. Use every good feedback you got as testimonial word-of-mouth.
4. Referral selling. Encourage satisfied customers to refer you and reward those who successfully brought a client.
5. “New” media. Maximize the use of modern communication to stimulate word-of-mouth.
6. Using traditional media for word-of-mouth. Use customer and expert testimonies to promote your product or service.
7. Internal word-of-mouth. Your employees should be spreading word-of-mouth information about your products or services even if they are not paid to do so.
Word-of-mouth is a powerful tool. It can also have a negative effect. When you’re too popular and believers talk about how great your products or services are, some would just give a blank reaction. Silverman thinks that most people don’t have the guts to do the things that will make them stand out. That some of us are afraid to stand out above other people in pursuit of excellence, for we all know that if such is achieved, many people won’t like us as well.
Using word-of-mouth successfully can dramatically change and improve your business. Just be prepared for all the grief that happiness brings you. For those who’ve been through such, know what this mean.
Silverman’s book is absolutely great. How I wish I read it as soon as it was launched. But nothing is really too late. (..wink)
The book, The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing, is published by McGraw-Hill and available at your local bookstores. Should you have a hard time finding this book, email Jherlie Cheng for assistance.