Word Of Mouth Is For Life, Not Just For Christmas

Xmas is a time for giving gifts. Word of mouth is all year around if you value your reputation – or even want to harness it to grow your business.

And one of those ways is getting more unexpected recommendations from your clients.

But word of mouth can also be about giving gifts. More on that in a moment, because it’s an important point.

That headline was shamelessly adapted from a memorable advertising campaign for the Dog’s Trust, a UK Based charity.

The campaign was centred around “Dogs Are For Life, Not Just For Christmas”. It was a compelling campaign.

Us Brits love our pet dogs. Which is why I believe that message crossed the barrier from marketing into everyday language.

And this article is about having your clients cross a barrier – so they are more inclined to recommend you.

Client stories sit at the centre of your word of mouth. But it’s not the only way of triggering recommendations.

The Word-Of-Mouth Geek’s Insight: Triggering Recommendations  Spontaneously

Now that may seem like a contradiction – triggering spontaneity. And this is where if you were a geek like me, you’d read academic studies on word of mouth. I don’t recommend it by the way unless you’re really keen.

Luckily for you, I’ve distilled those studies down to save you the trouble.

Much of what we do for clients is about triggering word of mouth. But what about the referrals you get unexpectedly? When a client has gone out of their way to recommend you?

I have two classifications for these:

Situational or Spontaneous

You would think that both of them mostly happen outside of your control. But that’s only partly true.

Situational recommendations or referrals, are those that were inspired, as the name suggests, by a trigger.

It could be a friend casually mentioning their desire for a change of scene – they haven’t had a Thai restaurant meal in a while.

There’s the spark – you mention the great meal you had at “Bangkok Delight” last month and recommend it.

Of course if it was okay, but nothing special, you may not mention it.

So that’s situational. Inspired if you like by the restaurant delivering great quality food and a pleasant evening.

But you may not like Thai food. To demonstrate Spontaneous, let’s switch cuisines to Greek.

You had a wonderfully raucous night out with a bunch of friends. The next day, your side’s hurt from all the laughter.

Why? Because your delicious Greek restaurant experience also featured the owners putting on a Greek dance and plate-smashing bonanza of a night.

It stood out for you. So on Monday at work, you told everyone. The following week, that restaurant was even busier than the Friday before as a number of your colleagues decided to try it out.

Can you see the difference? The Thai restaurant did a great job. So much so that you recommended it when the situation triggered that memory.

The Greek restaurant experience went further. You’ll almost certainly mention it again when you get a trigger.

But the experience had something special about it. It resulted in you going out of your way to specifically and perhaps enthusiastically mention it without a trigger.

…But There Is A Trigger – It’s About How You Structure Your Business To Inspire Recommendations

At it’s core, you get situational recommendations when you do a good job. We should all aspire to doing that as a minimum.

Now you don’t need to dance or smash plates to inspire the spontaneous recommendations. You just need to add a few touches here and there.

What you have to do is exceed expectations. In a memorable way preferably. The more it stands out the more people will share it without you asking, or waiting for those situational triggers.

Did you know for example, that if waiters give the client a mint with their bill, tips increase by 7%? But if the waiter, walks away, pauses, then returns to give each person an extra mint with a comment like “just for you two“, it increases to 24%?

The degree to which you exceed expectations influences the spontaneity potential.  And it needn’t be a huge song and dance display – a couple of mints which cost very little make that much impact.

Gifts And Surprising Extras

Think of something you can do – it needn’t cost the earth – and do it unexpectedly. When you consider that a couple of mints can almost quadruple a waiter’s tip, don’t dismiss this too readily.

Relate it to what you do. A lawyer who does the legals for a house sale for example. On completion, give your client a gift-wrapped energy-saving lightbulb.

It’s one of those things we often forget when moving house – especially when the previous owners took them when they left! Include a card with a small message:

Thanks for choosing us. We all need light. Just in case the previous owners take the bulbs, please accept this small token of appreciation of your custom with our compliments. Referrals are the lifeblood of our business. Please remember us with anyone you meet who may need our help.

An important aside: Send a small gift when people recommend you. Be careful not to make it too valuable. In some countries and professions, there’s legislation about that, but small token gifts can have the same affect. They can “inspire” spontaneity, or make sure you jump the queue next time a situational opportunity arises.

“Gifts” You Have Forgotten

This happens time and again in most businesses – understandably. You take for granted everything you do, because that’s all you do every day.

But it’s not taken for granted by a new client who hasn’t a clue about the breadth of your service or product. What am I talking about?

This will be different for everybody – but hidden in your proposals – probably near the bottom or in a far-flung corner of your website, are a number of hidden gems.

You may for example offer free 30 days telephone support. Or the option to return the product if dissatisfied for any reason.

And virtually nobody takes that option. So you often forget to even mention it.

But when you do, if you’re smart, you’ll appreciate the chance to make sure a client doesn’t quietly grumble about something, never use you again, or worse spread negative word of mouth.

Service like this is not really a cost. It’s an investment in preventing client loss, or worse, damaging your reputation.

Instead of hiding it, bring it to the fore AFTER the purchase. Make a point of “giving” it to them afresh.

In other words, go away and find all those hidden things you do – perhaps that don’t even register on your own radar any more, and re-introduce them.

The equivalent of the second mint and flattering comment after the meal.

Need more ideas? Are you tracking what your competitors offer? Or finding out what others in your line of work in other parts of the world are doing that’s special? – take a look at this article to expand your portfolio of unexpected extras:

Become Better Than Your Rivals Instantly: The Answer Lies In The Mirror

Open An Account With A Specialist Business Gift Provider

Following on from the lightbulb example – i.e. gifts integrated into the client experience, consider opening an account with a gift provider.

Apart from integrating them into the experience, you also then have them on hand to very quickly send token gifts to people who do recommend you.

One example is Providore (and if you’re in New Zealand, consider them).

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