Updated: Mar 22
Word of Mouth is the Original Advertising
Every small businessman or woman I’ve ever met agrees that word of mouth is their best (and least expensive) form of advertising. Many small businesses rely exclusively on word-of-mouth advertising to the exclusion of traditional advertising.
The last 100 years in advertising may have been a historical anomaly. The so-called Age of Advertising was dominated by big businesses and big budgets that sold their products to mass markets - think consumer packaged products that everybody needs, such as dry goods.
But, word of mouth advertising for small business has returned to the marketplace with a vengeance - in the form of social media. Social media allows small business to 'niche down' to small or narrow markets that only a (relatively) few people live in.
According to Social Media Today:
Consumers trust their friends.
This is why word of mouth marketing is the most valuable source of marketing. According to a Nielsen study, 92% of consumers believe suggestions from friends and family more than they do advertising - this stat alone solidified the word of mouth use case.
For many years, marketers used the ‘Marketing Funnel’ to understand how people decide to buy things.
We’ve discussed the Traditional Marketing Funnel on this blog previously.
But, Google says the new customer journey is totally re-shaping marketers concepts of how people purchase things. And, this new customer journey is highly dependent on word-of-mouth forces conveyed over social media.
“No Business Has a Word of Mouth Advertising Strategy”
...says author Jay Baer whose new book 'Talk Triggers' describes how small businesses can 'operationalize' the 'surprise and delight' they give to customers.
Here is Jay’s interview on Michael Stelzners' Social Media Examiner.
Customers are your Business Evangelists
Customers need surprise and delight to become evangelists of your business.
Back in the day, customers would spread good word of mouth about your business face-to-face with their friends, family and neighbors. Nowadays, customers can broadcast your business on social media. Even better, you can control the message from your BEST customers - if you give them the tools!
Here are some of the Talk Triggers Jay taks about in his podcast interview that turn customers into Evangelists and make businesses interesting and noteworthy enought to talk about on their social media apps:
“A strategic operational choice that compels word of mouth.”
A Zappos Customer Service Agent, on her own initiative, sent a care package to a US soldier serving in Afghanistan, after he called to exchange a pair of shoes. Her act raised the morale of his entire troop and, soon, even more Zappos Agents were sending care packages to US soldiers. You can read the entire story on Zappos’ blog here.
Skip’s Kitchen, Sacremento, California
This restaurant offers each customer a chance for a free meal - by drawing a joker from a deck of cards! Now, that’s remarkable! At this counter-service restaurant, named the 29th best hamburger restaurant in America by USA Today, an average of three people per day win the free meal. Excited winners post Skip’s Restaurant to their social media feeds all day long!
Doubletree Hotels has, for many years, given guests a warm, chocolate chip cookie upon check-in. Doubletree has their own baking ovens for making the cookies. Doubletree’s goal is to own the 10-minutes from check-in to when you enter your hotel room - they strive to create a welcoming feeling.
The evidence they have succeeded is the many Tweets, available when you search ‘Doubletree + Cookie’ on Twitter, of guests spontaneously posting their surprise and delight.
Talk triggers are distinct from gimmicks and sales promotions - talk triggers are operational in nature, that is, they are something you DO, not just something you SAY.
Here are Jay Baer’s 4 Key Requirements of a Talk Trigger:
Must be Remarkable - a price discount is not remarkable. A free, warm cookie is remarkable.
Must be Relevant - a free lunch at Skip’s Kitchen is relevant. If Skip entered people who pulled the Joker into a contest to win a free iPad (a much higher value at a later time) people would not be impressed or excited enough to immediately post Skip’s restaurant to their social media feeds.
Must be Reasonable - similarly, a free lunch is reasonable. If Skip promised a free trip to Cancun, Mexico three time a day, people would doubt the reasonableness of Skip’s promise (and of Skip’s business sense!)
Must be Repeatable - EVERYBODY who walks through your front door must be eligible to be WOW-ed by your talk trigger.
The New Age of (word of mouth) Advertising
“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.”
The famous quote by John Wannamaker, probably uttered just as the Age of Advertising was getting started, is no longer true today.
Small businesses can now accurately measure their Return on Investment (ROI) in their word of mouth advertising.
To do so, use this Tracking Spreadsheet available from the WOW Promoter blog to track your social media investments and new customers:
How Will You WOW?
What can you do to make your business remarkable?
Follow Jay’s 4 ‘R’s’ to get truly remarkable word of mouth advertising.
Can you ask you current customers to talk about it to NEW customers?
Will they share it? Will they post it to their social media so you can get free advertising?