When I work with business owners I always ask them where their customers come from. The number one response to my question is:
“Most of our business comes from word of mouth.”
Yeah. Right. Call me a skeptic but I don’t believe it. Here’s why.
Over 90% of the people I work with tell me this. It’s consistent across all types of businesses and all stages of businesses. It doesn’t matter whether they’re a new business or an old business. They could be hugely profitable or clearly struggling.
They almost all say the same thing.
This leads me to believe that some people are living in fantasyland when it comes to their marketing. And this can be a dangerous place to live when you’re trying to build a successful business.
I think the reason I hear this so much is because it’s what people want to believe. We all want to think our service or reputation or product is so great that people will line up at our door. It’s the old “if you build it they will come” idea.
But it’s not true. In most businesses, no matter how great you “build it” they will not come. At least they won’t come to you until they know about you.
That’s where effective marketing comes in.
Sure, word of mouth is a desirable way to get new customers. But too many business owners forget that word of mouth doesn’t just appear out of thin air. You have to create it. And there are just two ways to create it.
1. You use marketing tools to tell people who you are and what you do.
2. You deliver a “wow” experience for your customers so they tell others.
A good marketing campaign will create word of mouth. In fact, most word of mouth is created or amplified by effective marketing. (When I say “marketing” I mean anything you do to get the word out. It could be advertising, public relations, special events, salespeople, direct mail, etc.)
Some companies are so good they deliver “wow” experiences to their customers. This produces great word of mouth marketing for them. And they deserve it because “wow” does not happen very often.
And, it certainly does not happen in 90% of the businesses. If that many businesses gave us a “wow” experience, we wouldn’t consider it a “wow” anymore so there’d be little to talk to our friends about.
A big mistake people make is to separate their marketing tools and treat them like they’re completely independent. They think word of mouth marketing happens independent of other marketing.
But it’s not like that.
The most effective marketing uses a combination of tools to deliver a message. It’s the combination and variety that gives the message greater impact.
So as you think about how to get new customers, don’t kid yourself that most of them come from word of mouth. They probably don’t.
Instead, think about your marketing this way:
1. Decide whom you want to reach.
2. Create a message they will respond to.
3. Find multiple, complimentary ways to deliver your message to them.
4. Plan to deliver the message multiple times to the same people. Repetition has power.
5. Budget for the long-term for best results.
Do your marketing well and you can create effective word of mouth marketing for your business. Then “wow” those new customers and you’ll create even more.