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Friday, May 13, 2011

How Durable is Word of Mouth Marketing?

What is the holy grail in marketing?  Having customers sell your products and services for you...  Word of Mouth marketing or Conversational Marketing or Influencer Marketing...

Everyday you go to work, everyday you think about work, everyday you are in business you need to give your customers a reason to evangelize your prouducts. A friend of mine June was previously using a Realtor that was a tad on the pushy side. The agent did all those things that really cheese potential home buyers off, like suggesting homes way out of their families budget. The agent basically tried to force her into buying a home out of her price range so that she could receive a higher commission.

Instead of helping my friend, the agent was most interested in helping herself.  Finally June got fed up and asked around to find someone that would be a better Realtor for her and her family.   She was able to find a new real estate agent named Scott, who came highly recommended.   She found a real estate agent named Scott, who was quite possibly the most laid-back person you could ever met. He did everything he could to make June feel comfortable, and went out of his way to help her. Because of his helpfulness and care, Scott eventually sold June a home that she loved.

Instead of using the previous agent’s tactics, Scott instead made her feel at ease. He didn’t try to upsell her, but only worked within the parameters that she had previously set. Because, when you buy something as freakin’ expensive as a house, you definitely want to be at ease with your decision. (There’s nothing worse than a few hundred thousand dollars worth of buyers remorse.)  But here’s the real kicker: June has since sworn that she’d refer anyone to Scott.  Now that's real word of mouth marketing, as it is defined in your marketing 101 textbook.

But everyone has to realize that word of mouth marketing is nothing new.  We’re so caught up with social media these days. You have to have a Twitter profile. You have to have a Facebook fan page. LinkedIn, You Tube, and on, and on, and on. Follower counts are pivotal. Retweets are currency, et. al. Sure, these platforms can help you reach new potential customers, but focusing on the platform instead of the people is a sure way to fail.

Twitter, Facebook… it’s all word of mouth marketing: People talking about your product or service and referring it to friends.  On paper, my friend Scott has a stark disadvantage against other, more established agents. They have lots of marketing dollars, with their fake smiles flashed across billboards. Scott doesn’t really advertise, has zero “social media presence”, and only relies on friends and previous clients to spread his brand.  Yet at the end of the day, he’s making the sales. Oh, and at night he sleeps soundly knowing that he’s helping people, not looking out for himself.

One thing that is really important to think about - word of mouth is not really social media. With all the focus on social media these days, it feels like people are forgetting what makes the champions of these technologies so great. Companies like Zappos have successfully used social media to sell more of their product. But if you look deeper, it’s not because of social media, it’s because they intensely care about their customers.

Story after story has surfaced about how Zappos has gone the extra mile 20 miles and made sure their customers were happy. Sure, social media has helped, but that’s because it’s an extension of how they care, another way to reach out to customers. And it keeps people talking about their product.

So stop worrying about Twitter followers. Start thinking about how many people you can help, and how you’re going to do it. Use Twitter and Facebook to help everyone, not to flash authority.

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