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MARKETING MINUTE: Word of mouth is great – until it’s not

Posted on Monday, December 4, 2017 at 9:45 am

Word of mouth is a great tool for businesses to market themselves.

It’s fairly basic – businesses strive to offer a quality product, good service and keep customers pleased and, in turn, they hope those customers spread the word about their products and services in hopes of gaining more business.

One of the best parts of “word of mouth” marketing? It’s free – it just requires some genuine effort with your customers.

By Josh Peterson, publisher

However, relying solely on word of mouth marketing is a dangerous plan. Why, you ask? “I’ll never have upset customers” you think.

Well to be blunt, that’s naïve and unrealistic. Word of mouth marketing relies on 100% customer satisfaction. And if you think you have 100% customer satisfaction, you are simply wrong. The rollout of the original iPhone was widely considered a great success by most everyone in the tech industry and across the nation. You would think customer satisfaction with this rollout would be fairly high. It was 74%.

Sure, that’s still really good to think that 3 of 4 customers are satisfied. But as a business owner, it’s best to remember that 1 person who is not satisfied can do damage through – you guessed it – word of mouth (word of mouth includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, Yelp, message boards, etc.) Word travels fast these days, and those words reach millions of people.

Remember the infamous United Airlines incident, where the man was drug off the airplane bloody and screaming? What a PR disaster. United spent millions on top of millions to offset the negative PR with a marketing/advertising campaign. Did you know the Southwest Airlines had a similar incident back in September of this year? You may have known, but I bet you didn’t.

It wasn’t exactly the same – but was still an embarrassing incident for the airline. Yet the Southwest incident received nowhere near the customer uprising and attention as United did. Why? Experts believe that is because Southwest is far more liked that United. Southwest already had a marketing plan in place before this incident happened with positive PR messaging the focus of the advertisements. Sure, this costs money, but nowhere near the millions that cleaning up a PR mess costs.

The moral of the story? Be sure your business is proactive on the front end and has a marketing plan in place before any potential irate customers start to damage your brand. That type of damage is easily minimized and offset with a marketing / advertising campaign in place to offset that bad publicity. The great thing about paid advertising is the business can control the message, reminding customers and future customers of all the good your business is and stands for. Word of mouth can’t be controlled.

Word of mouth is great. But word of mouth can be poisonous. So be sure to be proactive in getting your message out to your client base and your future customers.

-Josh Peterson is the publisher of the Manchester Times. To learn about the many marketing services he offers, set up a free marketing consultation for your business by contact him at 931-728-7577 or email jpeterson@manchestertimes.com