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June 2010
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Word of Mouth can be a Dirty Word

Word of Mouth advertising is the passing of information about your business from person to person.  It can be wonderful or the worst thing for your business.  As an advertiser and marketer, I know how beneficial telling a strong story can be to the growth of a business and I go out of my way to share my opinions.  I love to tell everyone about great experiences with people, stores, restaurants or businesses.  The question is whether word of mouth advertising is enough to count on to grow your business and are you plugged in to the word on the street to know enough about what is being said about you?

Back in the 80’s, many business and marketing experts were often heard talking about the retail store Nordstom’s.  We heard unbelievable stories of fantastic levels in customer service resulting in folklore that was meant to motivate us to think differently about what excellence could really be.  Excellence does lead to solid word of mouth advertising performance but everyone does hold a difference in opinions.  If we look at restaurants, I may absolutely love a certain restaurant because of the food, service, ambiance, variety and speed of service.  All of those items are subjective.  If another person is unimpressed for whatever reason my glowing review is tarnished by their opinion.

Some companies say that they only advertise by word of mouth – Sorry to hear that, maybe the next company to fill your location will look at marketing more wisely.  The problem is that you don’t control the message.  If the public is saying great things about you, that is a good start but what they are saying is just as important.  When one person loves a restaurant because they are so fast, another may see that as being rushed.

Advertising allows you to get your message out to the public that focuses on exactly what you want to say.  Advertising allows you to support any positive public opinion and build upon it further.  How many times have you seen a company advertise that they are under new management, or the menu has changed, or that they are newly renovated?  Turns out that the word of mouth advertising wasn’t as positive as it needed to be and instead they had to make changes or risk closing forever.

Word of mouth advertising is great, but even the best of companies have a tough time pleasing everyone all of the time.  We’ve all heard that unhappy customers tell more people than the happy ones do and that negative opinions carry more weight than postive opinions.  So, just relying on word of mouth can be a very dangerous game.  We’ve all driven past the same empty parking lot of a restaurant that we’ve heard isn’t very good from at least a few people – so why should we stop for lunch.  Alternatively, while in New York, every day I saw a line of at least 50 people waiting for food from a street vendor known as ’53rd and 6th Chicken and Rice’.  The line up was there from 7:00PM when they opened until the very early hours of the morning and many of the people got in line just because they had to try what seemed so popular – it must be good.   Just 75 feet away is another vendor with what looks like the same food except they have no line.  The frenzy can be created but will the frenzy create lines of customers or no customers at all?

Don’t leave your marketing up to all of the public opinions, support them with your own messages and build upon the positive.  Advertising doesn’t have to be expensive to work.  Just put your advertising in as many places as you can, reaching as many people as you can, who are likely to be looking for a business like yours, as many times as you can, for as little money as you can. Oh, and next time you are in New York, go try Chicken and Rice at the corner of 53rd and 6th – and hit it hard with the red sauce.          [email protected]          250-412-3500

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