I found about 103,000,000 results on Google within .21 seconds for the search term word of mouth.
That's a lot of writing about word of mouth. This post will increase that number by one to 103,000,001...about.
I'm not an expert. Or maybe I should say I'm as much an expert as everyone else who ...uses word of mouth either to help their friends and neighbors with a recommendation or a warning. That's everybody, really. Everybody on the entire planet...since the first words were spoken. According to the Bible it was a rave, 'Hey, great place, yeah?' followed by a warning: Don't eat that apple. And the rest is history, so to speak.
Anyway, back to those search results. With so much written about word of mouth for businesses, why and how and when...it can be confusing to a business decision-maker. hey will read volumes of data that document the power, the cost-effective power, the cash-flow positive power of word of mouth marketing. That will incite, aggravate, annoy, titillate, inspire them to move forward. Quickly. Then they will read all sorts of tips and tactics on how to create it. But, too often, the result is confusion. What media? What about social media? Do I need a cartoon? Do I need an agency? Why don't our customers talk about us? What sorta trinkets do we need to give out? To new customers or existing customers....
To cut through some of the written chafe on this topic, having cut through it in the past as a CEO of a small business, I offer three questions you need to answer in order to generate a self-sustaining, cash-flow positive, word of mouth marketing machine:
- What do our customers want?
- What do they need?
- What problems do they need us to solve?
- What challenges remain unsolved for their business?
- What do we do better than anybody else?
That requires a lot of silence, humility and listening. Very tough. That in itself, asking and listening to your customers, will set you as a leader in your marketplace. Trust me. I did it. It did.
- Who do we need to deliver those solutions?
- Who has those skills that meet our customers' needs?
- Who can lead us?
- Who wants to lead us?
- Who wants to work here, in a company obsessed about customer service? Silly question. But a lot of people prefer their 9-5 coma to waking up and being engaged and challenge, sometimes frustrated, delivering a living breathing solution for their customers.
Look. Your people are your company. You can have the clearest understanding of your customers' needs but if the others in your company aren't as clear or as willing...then you have a clear understanding, not a sustainable business model. You have to find the people who share or can share the same passion for your customers' needs as your customers have for their own needs. See above: It requires a lot of silence, humility and listening.
And yes, you may need an outside agency to help accelerate the spread of your solutions. But if you don't have a solution, then an agency can only put pretty colors - lipstick on a pig if you will - on your failing product.
- How do we create, deliver, constantly tweak what we offer our customers?
- How do we create a culture where we can constantly learn and grow with our customers?
Gary Harpst talks about creating a culture of learning. Those who learn are those who lead.
Customers' needs change as they learn and grow. And only those companies who can change, learn and grow, with them can survive.
And if you can learn and grow with them...customers will talk about you because that is so rare. So few companies are able or willing to do that. Doing it will make you stand out. Standing out is key to generating word of mouth. What customer wants to bore their friends and colleagues with tales of boredom from a has-been company? None. On the other hand, they all want to tag along with a company that's going somewhere and with whom they feel a partnership, a kinship.
That's enough. Word of mouth comes naturally to all of us. As a business, you just have to give your customers, and your employees, something good and amazing to talk about. They'll do the rest.
Here's three questions you need to answer in order to do that.