Revealing the Truth About Word of Mouth


Word of Mouth is the best marketing a company can do. DUH! Even a caveman knows that! But what the caveman (and some businesses) may not know or get, is that you can say and encourage word of mouth all you want—it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen or happen the way that you want it to! A company needs to give customers a reason to talk about them. And there are only two reasons that a customer talks about a company, a product, or a service.

  1. They did something different or unexpected—in a good way, or

  2. They really screwed up!

Providing run-of-the-mill expected service will leave your clients happy and they will talk about you when the topic comes up. This is a solid and consistent goal to achieve with marketing that a company should strive for. Providing run-of-the-mill expected service and calling it extraordinary is downright lame and proves that you really don’t understand the power of word of mouth—or you don’t choose to. So what is something unexpected or exceptional and how do you create it?

1-Take the time to research what your competition does. Make sure you really get to know how they do it similarly and differently from you. What are the steps involved?

Think of this as “customers shopping around.” Most customers do some research before making a decision about which company they will buy from. In that research, they look for what the various companies will give them, how they will deliver, when they will deliver, and for what price. When you know those answers about your competition you are then able to compare and assess what the customer is expecting and will receive.

2-Try changing the order and see if you get a different response.

When a company is looking to hire those new employees, there is a process that they follow. For most companies the process is very similar: post that you are hiring, review the submitted resumes, phone interview, in-person interview, check references, and then make the offer. When Dustin Walling works with his clients on hiring the right employee, he does the phone screen first, and then contacts their references before proceeding with the rest of the interviewing process. By waiting until the end to check the references, the company has already made up its mind causing it to hear only what it wants to hear.

3-Instead of trying to do everything exceptionally, aim for just one . . . and make it a good one.

Southwest Airlines used to be known for how they delivered the required safety presentation prior to takeoff. Prior to 9/11, every airline did the same thing. They gave an overly serious presentation treating all of the customers as if it was their first flight. Southwest on the other hand, knew that the majority of their customers were frequent fliers and knew the deal, but since it is required by law that airlines give this presentation, they decided to have fun with it and present it in a way that was funny and mocked the other airlines.

4-Introduce one thing new. This new thing most likely will not be something that you are known for but instead, something that complements your business or the service you are providing.

Construction can be a hard industry to over-deliver in. With high costs and the time required to complete a job, customers expect the result will be perfect in every way. I worked with a remodeling company that every time they completed a kitchen remodel they would give the homeowner a certificate to have a chef come in and prepare the food for a celebration of up to 10 people to show off the completed project.

5-Pray that you mess up. But make sure that you have a plan!! This will allow you to recover EXCEPTIONALLY and this is when people talk the most, and recommend the most. Let’s call it the “Nordstrom effect.”

It doesn’t even have to be a major screw-up or a major recovery, just out of the ordinary. On a shopping trip to Costco, a customer requested $10 cash back on their ATM card. It was a large order and somehow the cash back was forgotten, and the customer didn’t notice. A few days later, Costco called letting the customer know that they had made a mistake and had not given them their $10. The next time the customer came into Costco, they were handed a $10 bill and an apology!  

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