MARKETING: Branding: Word-of-Mouth Rocks
Column by Vickie Thomas
Today's brand has a potential multitude of credible, unpaid spokespeople who are willing to work on its behalf. It's a new world, a new way of doing business and new way of branding. In this Internet and social media era, what you say about your product or service matters almost nothing at all, and what the consumer says, matters entirely.
That insight is an eye opener. It is also a good reason to look at one of the major components of a successful business brand ... word of mouth.
People will readily choose and pay more for the experience and peace of mind that a healthy brand promises. They look to their own circle of influence first and foremost when seeking information on products and services they consider purchasing. That is why the influence of advertisers is diminishing rapidly in lieu of unofficial consumer endorsement via the internet. People want to share their brand experience.
What is a brand experience? It is an intended interaction between your business and customers. Well thought out interactions influence the participation of prospects and customers. This type of experience can create positive memories in the minds of consumers. Branded experiences are one of the strongest drivers of preferences measured, because they are about action versus words.
Following is an example of a brand experience: A client who owns a recognition business created several beautiful awards for a customer to present at a luncheon. One of the recipients dropped the amazing crystal award and broke it. The recognition company quickly replaced the award at no cost to the customer citing appreciation for their long-standing business relationship. The customer expressed their gratitude through word of mouth by complimenting the recognition company on Facebook. What result did this experience create? Through their actions, the recognition company received great visibility and several referrals.
You have heard the term many times before: "Actions speak louder than words." Today's brand is all about action -- your customer's interaction with and reaction to you and your business. The most effective words are not the ones you choose but the words chosen by your customers when they describe the experience they have with you. They will tell others about their experience with your business, positive or negative. Therefore, the responsibility is on business owners to ensure that the brand experience they create for customers is reliable, pleasant and memorable.
Life or Death
Brands can live or die based on the actual customer experience. If your company does one thing and delivers something else, people will be unhappy. Consumer happiness determines whether a business lives or dies.
For example, why do people go to Starbucks and McDonald's versus non-chain outlets? Because of the promise of consistency that their past experience has indicated they can expect. There are no surprises. Comfort and happiness are found in the known. This is called a brand promise. Consumers have an idea ahead of time of what they are going to get. A brand promise is fulfilled when the consumer gets what they expect.
When people have a positive experience and they clearly understand what you are about, you get referrals. You also get positive word of mouth.
Word-of-mouth is king. Today's brand experience is tomorrow's unsolicited word-of-mouth endorsement and costs far less than yesterday's conventional high-cost advertising. As an example, an outstanding review on Yelp carries more weight than a commercial ... whether it is network television, cable or radio. An unsolicited endorsement is very influential, especially within our own community circles.
A client recently reported that approximately 85 percent of her new clients come from former and existing clients, strategic partners and associates. That's a significant amount of "advertising" that's being done on her behalf, at no expense to her. When asked about the brand impact on her business with word of mouth, she answered with two words, "It Rocks!"
To incorporate word-of-mouth into your brand strategy, simply do the following: 1) Do what you say you are going to do. 2) Repeat this over and over again. By doing so you will not only consistently fulfill your brand promise, you will also be promoting trust, credibility and positive word of mouth.
The experience that people have with your brand, your business, with you, will get broadcast faster today than any time in history. Your brand promise and the experience that people have interacting with your business should be based on trust and personal connection. Give people the very best experience and they will reward you. This action alone will have a significant and direct impact on your bottom line ... in a word it will rock.