* You call it a campaign.
The company's word-of-mouth campaign....We're excited about it. It starts, the campaign, it kicks off...tomorrow.
That's the first sign. That this is a one-time thing. It is so one-time that you have itemized its costs separately. You know, in order to track this campaign and its ROI.
First off, you do know that customers, employees, all of your stakeholders talk about you now. Right?
- Yes. Then your campaign goes around them, over their heads, don't know? Because a campaign sounds...separate from their conversations. Much more expensive, too, than just joining their conversation. It sounds a little manipulative, controlling, too.
- No. Then you're in for a surprise.
Either way, your campaign has a start and end date. Word-of-mouth goes on regardless of your deadlines. Does that matter to you?
And, at the end what will you do? Wait? Study? How long?
Meanwhile, the word-of-mouth your company generates every day in every way you interact with all of your stakeholders continues. Did you track this ROI?
* You are not sure how your prospects are generated.
You have your reports. Who doesn't, right?
But you're not sure how your prospects reach your doors. Your reports have not reached that level of granularity. (I love business buzzwords, too!)
You have a website. You can generate a report that shows lots of clicks to your website, too. Clicks are important, right?
But after that...well, who cares, really? Certainly, no one in your company. They reach your door, your phone, your email, your ecommerce. Whatever. After that, who cares?
* Do we have referrals?
Of course you do! Your sales staff ask for referrals, right?
If you do not generate referrals...um...you may want to find out why.
If you do generate referrals...um...why not continue?
Referrals are the result of positive, enthusiastic, reputation-risking and cash-risking, word-of-mouth testimonials. It would be much less expensive than...a campaign.
* Customer Churn is Customer Chum
Chum. It's bits and pieces of dead fish. Who cares about dead fish? That's that stuff they throw in the water to attract sharks.
Customers stay; customers go. Those that go are just bits and pieces to you.
Those that go...they're like chum for your competitors. Your competitors will come right up to your company and dine regularly, freely, too. All they have to do is hang around. You'll feed them.
Why do your customers leave? Why are repeat buyers so few? Why are so many free offers cancelled before the first charge?
Do you know? Hey, customers stay; customers go. You care about those that stay...
* Yours is a culture of silent efficiency.
Your office, your company's, culture, is ruled by silence. Silence is golden. Silence means people are focused. Silence means people are productive. Silence means problem-free days; operational efficiency is maximized.
You have asked neither your employees nor your customers what they say, if they say anything, about your company. Why do their opinions matter? You have your reports. You have work to do.
* You're big on add-on fees.
Yes. Fees add big profit margins. Ask the airlines.
They also generate lots of word-of-mouth. None of it is positive, though. Ask the airlines, too.
Add-on fees generate what Fred Reicheld termed bad profits. Mr. Reicheld is the author of The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth.
- True growth is sustainable growth.
- True growth is cash-flow positive growth.
- True growth comes from a company dedicated to serving the needs of all of its stakeholders.
Since silence is golden then you have not heard from your employees the complaints from customers about your add-on fees.
However, their friends and neighbors have heard. That word-of-mouth is why you have so few referrals you couldn't find them if you tracked them.
* 2-year contracts
My favorite corporate sucker punch.
You like it, too. It adds some fat profit margins, don't it? Yeah. And doncha love presenting those fat margins in your power-point presentation? Oh, and claiming credit for their simply elegant solution to your challenges of profits and retaining customers, too.
You used the standard ploy to lock your customers into these contracts: FEAR. You put the fear of rising prices in your industry. And you put your arm around your customers. It included a chain to your company, but they didn't notice. They were too afraid. Good job.
Smart move, today. But, soon those prices will drop, not rise. And your customers will then complain, er share their story via word-of-mouth, to their friends and colleagues. They will then use social media to accelerate the spread of that story.
Oh. And at the end of their contract, just for fun, track how many customers renew their relationship with you.
Your campaign will collide with that reality, too. Won't be pretty.
* Your employee turnover and hiring costs are above average for your industry.
I know there is a ratio between employee turnover and customer churn numbers. Both reflect a glaring, chronic, systemic effort to alienate those who drive your business.
But before they leave they create poor performance, dissension, unhappy customers, poor quality, hiring recruiting and training costs, higher levels of stress among their former colleagues.
And all of that contributes to negative word-of-mouth for your company.
But you'll find out about that when your campaign's rubber meets their roads of departure. I'm seeing lots of road-rash...on your company.
* Google Alerts?
Ruh? You Scooby-Do this one. Your marketing manager mentions google alerts. You tilt your head. Then you say to yourself ...ruh?
Outwardly, you lead with strength and say:
Google alerts, schmoogle alerts. People are buying aren't they? " That's all that I want to hear. When they stop buying...let me know.
Google alerts tell you what people, anyone even your customers and employees, say about your business. Right now. They tell you why they buy and why they don't. They tell you what they say that either creates referrals or don't.
If you don't know what they are saying now, I guarantee you will be surprised by what you hear with your word-of-mouth campaign.
* You need an agency.
There are very few absolutes in life. Here are a few:
* Death & taxes.
* The Clippers will never win a NBA Championship.
* If an investment bank cannot tell you what is in an investment...it's a bad investment.
* If consumers want small, hybrid, cars and you build big trucks....you will go bankrupt.
* An agency cannot generate word-of-mouth for you if you cannot generate it yourself.
If you cannot generate word-of-mouth from your investment in your company, your team members/colleagues/collaborators, serving your customers....I guarantee an agency cannot do it. Why? Well, your WOM budget equals your overall SG&A + COGS combined. That is what you invest to create word-of-mouth.Their budget will be a bit smaller.
For intellectual honesty, let's say you a benefactor has left you an amount equal to your SG&A and COGS amounts, combined. They have stipulated you invest that in an agency to accomplish what eludes you: create word-of-mouth for your company. In an universe of infinite possibilities and with God's grace, sure, it can happen.
Here is what will happen: They'll generate word-of-mouth about their campaign. That's the ad/video/website they created for you. The agency...will get tons of referrals from it, too. You? Not so many.
* The intern is your social media manager.
They know Facebook and YouTube, right? That Twitter thing...you just don't get it. And blogs, you just don't have time for either, right?
Word-of-mouth is not about social media. So, you're safe. Right? Wrong.
Social media is a word-of-mouth accelerant. Social media takes the words of people's mouths and send them around the globe before you finish reading that report or finding your referrals. And when the words come from the mouths of your employees or customers...then you want to be part of their adult conversation.
Except your intern....wants to be part of an intern's conversation. Ask Nestle's.
Here's the trick. Everything you do creates word-of-mouth. Every decision, policy, feature, price, mistake, failure, innovation...everything. It all contributes to what people say. They say it now. They use social media to share it quickly with their friends and colleagues. Those would be your prospects.
And you're going to send your intern into that conversation?
Ok, I had a little fun with this post. I hope you had fun reading it.
Word-of-mouth is not something you slap on like makeup at Halloween. (I've heard people do that...)
Without a remarkable product, that approach would make you like Lady Gaga with her costumes but without her musical talents. Her musical talents give her the right to push the envelope with her costumes and shows and callouts to her audience members.
Now. Next week, I will write this post backwards. Ok, not really. I will take these same points and turn them around. I'll show you 11 signs you can can and will create positive word-of-mouth for your company. And why that makes your business sustainable.