How To Make Word-of-Mouth
Advertising Work For You

by Tom Egelhoff

When was the last time you told a friend about a good movie? You may not have realized it at the time, but you were providing the best possible advertising for the movie studio..."Word-Of-Mouth" advertising.

No other type of advertising is more powerful than word of mouth. Your friend may have dismissed all the typical Hollywood hype but they know you as a friend and respect your judgment.

If you say it's a good movie they will probably go see it. The other consideration with this analogy is you must have a good product or service for word-of-mouth to work in a positive way.

If it's a bad movie the negative word will spread even faster than the positive. For every three people willing to spread the positive word there are thirty-three who will spread the negative.

You probably won't see "word-of-mouth" as one of the common types of advertising listed in any business or marketing plan because most people don't know exactly how to do it or explain it.

Setting Word-Of-Mouth Goals In A Small Town Or Small Market

In your marketing plan, you will want to set certain goals for your advertising to accomplish. Perhaps you are introducing a new product, or a new service or increasing traffic flow at your business.

To attain these goals, you may use newspapers, radio, TV, direct mail or some combination of each. What's missing? Word-of-mouth. Let's look at how to add word-of-mouth to the advertising mix.

First, list the objectives you want your word-of-mouth advertising to accomplish. You might say, "I want everyone talking positively about my business." That's great, but it's too vague.

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Marketing Goals And Objectives Must Always Be Specific

They should have time limits and detailed methods for accomplishment.

For example, "I want to cut our returns by 50% in the first quarter to improve customer perception of our products and customer service." "I will accomplish this goal by having each employee go over every purchase, in detail, with the customer before the product leaves the store."

"I will follow-up with every customer within seven days of purchase." "Each month I will record and analyze the reasons for returns."

If I do these things two things should happen. First, my return rate should go down. Second, the number of satisfied customers should go up.

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The Number One Word-of-Mouth Problem...
Handling Customer Complaints

We all hate confrontations. We know, if we are unhappy with a product or service, we are going to have to "go to guns" to get satisfaction.

We are going to have to prove our case to a store clerk, manager or owner to get satisfaction. If we don't get satisfaction, we will make it our lifes' work to destroy the reputation of that store.

There is a much overused word to describe the complaint handling process and that word is...ATTITUDE. Keeping your cool under pressure.

We've all heard the familiar phrase from customers, "Hey! Why don't you lose the attitude!"

More business is lost due to simple misunderstandings and rigid company policies than any other single reason.

So, what's the best way to handle customer complaints? Welcome them. Make it as easy as possible for customers to complain to you.

Follow-up with satisfaction cards or phone calls. Stop customer problems before they get out of hand.

Train your employees to follow the rules, but they should never argue or defend a policy to a customer unless they have the power to override that policy.

If they don't have that authority they should immediately put the customer in front of someone who does.

Each time the customer has to explain themselves to another link in the management food chain their anger increases and the problem escalates.

This should never happen but it does...every day. Successful word-of-mouth means satisfied customers telling your story to others. If they are treated fairly and courteously, they will.

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Word-Of-Mouth And Employees

Every time I'm in a hurry to make at purchase and leave a store I seem to get the employee who just started working there. They aren't exactly sure how to work the cash register, or the credit card machine.

They aren't quite up to speed on all the store policies and procedures. They usually have to find someone to help them complete the transaction.

Many employers believe this is the best type of training. Learn under fire.

Learn from your mistakes. It may be effective training but how many customers are driven to the competition because of a poor first impression of your business.

Please make sure employees are properly trained before letting them represent your business to a customer. We don't compare one carpet store to another when it comes to customer service.

We are human beings, we don't work that way. We compare the service we get at the carpet store with the service we get at a restaurant. It makes no sense but it's how humans operate.

When it comes to customer service, you are competing against every other type of business.

Customer service is a "feeling" the customer experiences, not a thing they can see, touch or smell. They know it when they feel it.

Customers respond to confidence, fear, a genuine smile, gestures, voice inflection, body language, eye contact, and or course, attitude.

If you expect customers to spread the word about your business, everything that happens to them in your business must be a positive experience.

The products, the service, the personnel and the follow-up must all be first rate.

Nothing can kill a small town business more quickly than negative word-of-mouth. How does your word-of-mouth stack up?

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