In my experience, it’s very difficult for companies with a marketing/advertising tradition to invest in word of mouth because there’s no organizational home for it. The marketers are not comfortable with being held accountable for something as difficult to control as a customer experience. It’s much easier to plan and execute ad campaigns. If traditionally organized companies try to push past the marketing/advertising mindset, they find that other departments don’t have the media expertise to promote word of mouth.
When marketing-focused companies do try to launch word of mouth campaigns, they often frame them as traditional advertising using social media channels. They don’t try to engage with their customers through social media. The companies say that they don’t want to provide a forum for customers talking about their brands because they don’t want to lose control of their brand message. It hasn’t dawned on them that they’ve already lost complete control of the brand message anyway. Without customer engagement, these social media experiments fail to produce results and the marketing departments retreat back to advertising.
If companies ignore social media or if they use it as a channel for traditional intrusive advertising messages, they will remain ineffective at promoting word of mouth. Companies like Zappos, Intuit, Dell, and Amazon that embrace online engagement and social media can and do promote word of mouth and it works very well for them.
Dell was shocked into refocusing on its customer experience when Jeff Jarvis touched off the “Dell Sucks” storm. Today, Dell is a leader in engaging with customers through IdeaStorm.com and a team of bloggers. Other traditional marketing-focused companies may adopt word of mouth only if forced to do so by a similar social media kick in the pants.
I talk with many small business owners and it’s sad, but most of them try to emulate the larger marketing-based companies and ignore the value of spending on word of mouth. The companies that promote word of mouth through online customer engagement and social media are almost as rare in the small business sector as they are in the Fortune 1000.
If you would like to put word of mouth to work for your company, contact Rust Reviews today!