The Internet has quickly transformed from the “Information Highway” to a “Referral Highway,” which has created a boom in Word of Mouth Marketing. This shift gives small business owners a great advantage, as it levels the marketing playing field. In fact, it may even swing the pendulum in favor of small businesses, as many large corporations are slow to incorporate new marketing methods.
Terms such as “Buzz,” “Viral,” and “Brand Ambassadors” all refer to Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM). This “Biz Buzz” develops from interaction between consumers of products or services begin sharing their experiences, good and bad, with their friends. This, of course, is nothing new. However, with the onset of the Internet, this personal referral process is instant and widespread.
The viral effects of Word of Mouth marketing amplifies the business owner’s marketing message, which is the good part. But, one poor experience can prompt a disgruntled customer to send a Tweet or post a Facebook update that can wreak havoc on a business’s reputation.
So, what are small business owners to do? Play the game with them. That’s right. Employ the old, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” trick. Learn how social media marketing works. Find out where your market’s audience hangs out online. See what they’re saying about the products and services in your market. See what they’re saying about YOU.
And then, join the conversation.
If you discover a negative comment about your company, your products and services, or even yourself, the best thing to do is to address it head-on. Don’t argue or threaten slander. Those days are done. Today, customers are in control, and the sooner business owners realize that fact, the sooner they can learn to use it to their advantage.
Respond to negative comments, posts, tweets, and reviews quickly and professionally. Ask what could have been done better. Request suggestions for improvement. And, give them a goodie in return for their ideas — a discount coupon, a free sample, useful information — something to thank them for their time. Many small business owners have turned a negative commenter into a brand ambassador using these tactics.
Responding to negativity is just one part of being proactive in Word of Mouth Marketing. Rewarding positivity is just as important. Treat your loyal customers as special, important. Those who “Like” and “Follow” you and who post on review sites will in turn spread the word about your generosity.
Information is one of the best gifts you can share. This not only doesn’t cost you money upfront, but it reinforces your position as an expert in your field. Create content (blog posts, videos, podcasts, Facebook & Twitter updates) that provide useful information that helps your audience solve their problems or reach their goals.
In other words, give them something to talk about, and you’ll greatly boost your company’s benefits from Word of Mouth Marketing.