Many people associate the phrase “word of mouth” with the word “marketing.” There is a Word of Mouth Marketing Association and “word of mouth” is often mentioned as a marketing alternative to advertising. If you search Twitter or the Web, you find “word of mouth” linked to “marketing” almost all of the time. The Linkedin Word of Mouth Group discusses marketing strategies rather than business operations strategies.
However, I see “word of mouth” as much more than a marketing strategy — “word of mouth” is also a way of operating your business so that your reputation works for you over the long term. This philosophy of operations is so important, because if you don’t run your business to support your word of mouth, you’ll find that your reputation cycles randomly between positive and negative. That kind of reputation won’t help you market and grow your business!
Lots of marketing gurus talk about businesses being exceptional to earn word of mouth mentions and build word of mouth marketing. They also talk about surprising and delighting customers, but they rarely give hints about how to do that. When they do discuss ways to earn word of mouth, the gurus never tell you how to do it on a consistent basis. They don’t talk about embedding reputation-worthy processes in your business because most of them are pure marketers, and they only have vague ideas about process improvement. However customer-driven process improvement is key to developing your business reputation.
Here’s an example. A local auto repair shop does generally good work at a fair price. Last year, the shop worked on my wife’s car for several hours to track down an electrical fault and when they didn’t find anything wrong, they only charged her for an hour of work. However, there have also been several problems recently. The shop replaced an air conditioning compressor and forgot to charge the system with refrigerant. A mechanic left a large crescent wrench under the hood and closed the hood on the wrench — we discovered the wrench a week later when I noticed that the hood looked a little warped. The shop also tells you they’ll call you when your car is ready, but they rarely do. All of these problems could be prevented with the implementation of simple quality assurance steps in the shop’s repair and operations processes, but the shop doesn’t make those changes. I’ll continue to bring my car back for service, but I’m not motivated to leave an online recommendation for the shop. If someone asks me to recommend an auto repair shop, I’ll talk about the pluses and minuses of this one.
If that shop owner wants to build Web word of mouth, he needs to add a quality assurance check after every repair, and he needs to add a “call the owner” process step to the process of finishing the repair paperwork. There would be some staff training involved in implementing these changes, but no other costs. With the changes made, the shop’s repair service would maintain a higher standard, and customers would be much more likely to recommend the business.
To keep building your business reputation, you have to be a superb performer over the long term. To be consistently good, you have to understand your business processes, and you have to be dedicated to continually improving them based on the market and based on feedback from customers, employees, and the community. The quality of your business processes forms a performance baseline for your business. With high-quality business process, your performance will be consistently exceptional and your word of mouth will be exceptional too!
- Word of Mouth: Still Dominating Marketing (likeable.com)
- Building a buzz (word of mouth marketing and libraries – book review) (alisonwallbutton.wordpress.com)
- Online Word of Mouth – An Austin TX Example (business-ratings-reviews.com)
- Is “Word of Mouth Marketing” overhyped (wheresthesausage.typepad.com)
- “Word of Mouth Marketing… (shoyit.wordpress.com)
- What Not to Do When You’re Launching a New Brand (forbes.com)