Tag Archives: Word-of-Mouth

STOP thinking SEO is the best way to get found…a better option

Happy Business People - smallerGoogle change the ad process…again. Now the loser is organic search…everyone is trying to get more out of the paid ads that generate massive revenues for Google. The battlefield of search just keeps getting tougher and tougher for companies…unless you pay for it…and unless you are willing to accept low returns. There’s another answer…

What if your name (personal or company) was what people typed into the search bar…do you care how high you rank on the page? You shouldn’t…because Google will list you at the top when someone types in your name. This is 100% accurate and gives you the top billing on the page. So the goal should not be to try and trick the SEO geniuses at Google all the time, it should be to get people typing in your name all the time. If this happened, you wouldn’t need SEO or all kinds of magic to try and get to the top of the coveted Google search page…you would always be there.

What if you could get your network of friends, colleagues, and yes, customers, to do the talking for you and avoid this entire SEO search mess altogether? Why allow someone else to manipulate what they can see and how they can get to you…someone you don’t know or trust? Why put the control of your visibility in other people’s hands? You don’t have to if you approach it from a different angle…it’s still in your control!!

As with anything, the only time you lose control is when you allow someone else to be in control. When you rely on search, you are putting it in the hands of Google and an SEO expert to figure this out for you and hopefully get the results you want. Once in a while it works…but not without a great deal of time, effort, and of course, money. And the majority of time it leads to frustration and less than desired results. There is another answer…it’s called Brand Recognition and Word-of-Mouth.

It starts with you…control starts with you…it’s yours to manage…if you want. And contrary to all the blogs and articles, you do have a choice as to how you want people to find you. We have just been duped into thinking this is the best (and possibly only) way to go about it…it isn’t. You don’t have to give your control away to get the results you want. You just need to change the way you think about it.

Think about your customers. Who are they, what do they want? Do you even know? If you don’t, find out. And we’re not talking about the products and services they want to buy from you…we are talking about the EXPERIENCE they want to have when they interact with you. We are talking about how you make them “feel” when they interact and buy from you. This is ALWAYS IN YOUR CONTROL.

People search for products and services for one reason…they view them as a commodity. They are looking for a list of choices and then will decide which one(s) they will investigate. And when it comes to what they investigate, typically they are looking for the best price, delivery, terms, options, and anything else associated with the product or service. They typically don’t go to Google to shop for the best “experience” they can get. This isn’t what Google offers…they offer selection of features, functions, and possibly benefits…but rarely experience.

This is what your personal network is for…what your customers are looking for from their personal/professional networks. When someone wants to know how others “feel” when they interact with your organization, they don’t think search engines will give them this answer. They think their “trusted network” of friends and colleagues are the best resource. Why? Because they have experienced it and can speak from authority…they have experienced the experience.

This is what Google and all other search engines hate and don’t want. They don’t want you to go to your network and bypass their search engine…this doesn’t make the a dime…this means you won’t click on the ads they have posted everywhere that someone is paying for. This means they become irrelevant in this particular area. And, unfortunately for them, this is the one area most people are wanting to know more about…more and more every day. It’s easy to find the best deal on the internet…not so easy to find the best experience…unless you go to those who have had one and are trusted.

The job of your trusted network is to tell others how awesome you are (assuming you’re awesome) to deal with…the experience you give to your customers. This is what they share…this is what delivers trust…this is what delivers the best results for you and your organization. This is where your customers tell your future customers, “They are awesome to deal with and the experience is incredible…this is where you should buy.” When they say this to others, YOU ARE IN CONTROL! And you don’t need anything from Google (or any search engine) except to help them find your website. You don’t need ads, you don’t need rankings, you don’t need to spend lots of money on low results. You win…you are top of mind and you are now trusted.

And what makes this even more important is that people know people like themselves. So if you are targeting a specific persona and type of customer and giving them an awesome experience, they know other potential customers…just like them. So it’s like fishing for salmon…if you use salmon bait you have a much better chance of catching more salmon than a host of other fish you don’t want. Just buy lots of salmon bait and stick to fishing for salmon…delivering an incredibly awesome experience to the customer segment you “want” not the world. And they will tell other ideal customers about you. Stay the course and keep fishing for salmon…throw the rest back.

So the next time someone says we need to spend lots of resources and money on improving your search rankings, tell them you are going to spend these resources and funds on getting your most trusted network (customers) to tell more people about you and drive them to your site…with trust. Now you are in control of your results. Now you are in control of what matters…being found by the “right people” for the “right reasons.”

Sorry…but my Burger doesn’t look like that

Woman comparing good burger and bad burger to demonstrate promises made and keptYou saw the ad, the pictures on the internet, even the quick annoying video popup on the YouTube video you were watching…the deluxe, everything you always wanted, hamburger sold by your local fast food restaurant. Or maybe it was this loaded sandwich on a fresh hoagie roll that looked like you couldn’t wait to get one for yourself.

Then you got the “real hamburger or sandwich” and it looked nothing like the ones you have been seeing all over the pages and the internet. What happened? How could this be…they showed me one product and delivered one that only vaguely resembles the one I wanted to purchase. Anyone out there ever have this experience? We all have…unless you have been on a deserted island or in a cave for the past 30 years.

Sadly…it’s become the norm…to expect that you won’t get what you see. You know they are lying to you. You know this is deceptive advertising. You know you won’t get what you see and so you have conditioned yourself to be “OK” with it because everyone does it this way.

WHAT??? Why is this acceptable? Why are we willing to put up with this type of marketing and advertising…and customer experience? WHY???

Just because they all do it doesn’t make it right…its unethical. They have “made a promise” to you in the advertising but they aren’t willing to “keep their promise” in real life. And this is OK with us as a buyer, a consumer, a customer? I don’t think so…I don’t think this is the way we, as customers, should be treated or have to accept their product.

And here’s the best part…what if you say something. I’m sure you already realize I say something all the time when I am checking these things out. I ask, “Why is what you just gave me completely different, and not in a good way, from what is all over your images, website, advertising and everywhere you promote yourself? Don’t I deserve to get what it is you are promising me in the pictures?” Their response, “I’m sorry, that’s just the way we have been instructed to prepare it and I agree with you it doesn’t look like the pictures we have out there.” And this is OK with us to hear this and still purchase the product? It’s our fault as customers to put up with this and continue to spend money on a broken promise.

By the way, if you tell the manager you want the product they show in the pictures, they will simply give you your money back and say they don’t have that product. They have the broken promise product for you. Try it…it’s an interesting exchange.

But here’s the real point of this story for you, the leader. What promises are you making to your customers and what promises are you delivering to them. Are they getting the product/service (burger) that doesn’t resemble the one you are promising or are they getting a product/service that looks the same as your promise…or even better? This says a ton about your own organization and how you feel/treat your customers…and how they feel about you as a business.

WHAT IF you were the one that actually delivered what was promised. WHAT IF you delivered something better than what you promised? AND…WHAT IF you delivered this better product/service with such an incredible experience where they said, “WOW, you are amazing and I not only get more than you promised but I feel super special whenever I deal with you.”

Do you think you would stand out from the competition? Do you think you would be viewed as being completely different as anyone else in your industry? Do you think you would get talked about more than your competitors…in a good way? Do you think you might steal a few customers away from your competitors…without any additional cost to market to them?

This is what happens to companies that keep their promises of what they are going to deliver to their customers and do it with an incredible experience. I believe this is what your customers deserve and what the best ones expect. When I get asked in speeches and strategy sessions, “How do we get the best customers and steal them away from our competitors,” this is always the answer I give them…KEEP YOUR PROMISES AND DELIVER AN EXPERIENCE THEY CAN’T WAIT TO TELL OTHERS ABOUT.

If the burger and sandwich shop (and a host of other businesses) actually did this, we would all go there. There are some out there…and when we find them, we switch and tell others. In a crowded, commoditized world (which is the one we live it today) this is the true differentiator that sets companies apart. What does your “burger” look like?

Why ROBOTS will never take over

different-person_Mkf5oIuuIf execution were the magic answer, we wouldn’t worry about “differentiation.” We wouldn’t strive to be different…we would just strive to be more efficient. Our primary goal would be to employ and hire the best robots that were just a bit more efficient than the other company’s robots. We could eek out just a bit more margin than the next company with better robots.

As for customers, they wouldn’t care about how they interacted with your company…they would just be looking for the best product at the lowest price that could be delivered sooner than the competition. Your robots could serve this function. They certainly wouldn’t want to call your robots and talk to them because they would just give them the same information you could find online or on your website. No need to talk to the robots…just look online!

But this really only works when robots sell/market/provide products/services to other robots. Robots want efficient, cost effective products and services. They don’t understand an “experience” and don’t need to because they are simply looking for the facts, the data, the price, and the terms. If they can get the best of these from you…they buy.

Unfortunately, the last time I checked we are a planet of people…not robots (at least not yet). They want MORE than the robots can provide. They want an EXPERIENCE…they want to see PASSION and COMMITMENT from the people inside the company. People buy on “emotion and feelings” more than technical attributes. This is about the passion (or lack thereof) in your Customers and Employees. Passion is contagious. It’s what we all want to see with people we buy from, work with, interact with, and invest time and resources (money) with. We want PASSION!

PEOPLE FLOCK TO BUY FROM PASSIONATE PEOPLE THAT GIVE THEM AN EXPERIENCE THEY CAN REMEMBER…AND TELL OTHERS ABOUT IT! They ask their friends…they tell their friends about the people they meet that are passionate about serving them. They want every chance they can get it. And when it isn’t offered anywhere, then they settle for the robots and buy on price and terms. This is the world we live in today.

Think about your daily life…

  • The internet is flooded with personal stories of people getting an awesome experience
  • The most viewed stories are the ones that elicit your feelings and emotions…not more facts
  • Today more than ever, we buy on emotion and justify it with the facts
  • Why do you shop more (spend more) at the places that make you feel special and important
  • Why do you “tear up” on certain ads that play on your emotions when you know they are an ad

Now, sit back and ask yourself what your company looks like today. Do you elicit these types of emotional reactions from your customers…regardless of what you sell or your audience? Do your customers talk about their “experiences” and how they “feel” when they buy from you? Do they gush to others about how special you make them feel…how important they feel after every interaction they have with your company and your employees?

OR…do you have an army of “robots” called employees today? Are they efficient at delivering your product/services at the best price, terms, and delivery schedule? Do they focus on simply getting product out the door as efficiently as possible? Do they deliver the services required efficiently and timely…but without passion? Tough questions…but easy to answer…just ask your customers.

OR…do you have a team of people that wake up every day with the passion to give your customers such an incredible experience they won’t forget it and can’t wait to tell others. Is what you deliver memorable or forgettable? If you asked one question to your customers, “was our experience memorable or efficient?”…what would they say? It would be a home run if they answered BOTH!

Robots won’t ever take over in the foreseeable future…because we have these pesky things called “human customers” who DEMAND PASSION AND AN EXPERIENCE. While they might want it efficiently and at a “reasonable” price, your passion and the experience you provide them trumps efficiency. And it always will until the Robots sell to other Robots. I’ll take my chances this isn’t going to happen anytime soon. Passion and Experience creates additional “margin” or return on your goods and services. There has been countless research that says the same thing…people would be willing to pay more for an incredible experience…not a great one, an incredible one.

This is what separates “commodity” companies from “customer centered experiential companies” today. Commodity companies have robots that believe they are selling to robots…but your customers want passionate humans to sell to them. There are lots of great examples of companies who get this and are doing it daily…and are creating memorable experiences…who are differentiated in their industry…who are making additional margins (Zappos, SW Airlines, Disney, JetBlue, etc.)…but unfortunately the majority of companies still believe we, their customers, are robots.

As a leader, ask yourself and your fellow leaders…are you all about the passion and experience your customers want or organized with robots trying to sell to passionate humans? Even if you have some blend of robots and human, your customer wants you to be “all in” when it comes to passion and the experience.

So ask yourself where you are today as an organization…it will tell you a lot about your current strategy and give you an incredible window into what your customers are most likely saying about you in the market…which is what really matters today. Today, they don’t just tell their 20 friends…they tell their thousands of friends, followers, connections, and others they are interacting with on social media. The world got HUGE…and so did your customers ability to spread massive word-of-mouth. What are they going to say…

Stop PRETENDING…Your Customers Know

IMG_3310Everyone I talk to about helping their business be more “Customer Centric” says the same thing, “We really care about our customers.” It’s a standard knee-jerk response. It’s embarrassing to answer any other way. No one says, “We really don’t like our customers so why would we be customer centric?” No one.

You probably say the same thing, or some version of it…maybe you even say you “love” your customers. But do they really believe it…do they love you back? Do they talk about you frequently and tell all their friends about how awesome they are treated by you? Do they truly feel special or do you love them because they buy your products or services? This is the true benchmark of whether your customer “feels the love” you say you are giving them…if they love you back by investing their time and energy to talk about you.

Talk is cheap…we have all heard this phrase before. But to a customer, action is what speaks their language. When they hear this from a company, it is literally “blah blah blah.” They hear it but they don’t see it. They constantly hear how much they matter, but they don’t really feel it when they interact. It’s like the other old phrase, “Actions speak louder than words,” and they are monitoring your actions towards them as the customer. They stop listening…which means they stop talking.

What makes them stand up and take notice is WHEN SOMETHING DIFFERENT HAPPENS in how they are treated and how you make them feel. You have to actually do something that wakes them up…causing them to stop and say, “WOW, something is going on here, things are different, they are acting different and treating me really awesome.” Unless this happens, all your rhetoric about “how much you love your customers” falls on deaf ears.

It is meaningless…like speaking in a different language. And if you don’t believe me, simply ask yourself! That’s right, ask yourself the same question…because YOU ARE A CUSTOMER as well. You buy things and interact with companies and give them money. You are on the other side of the exchange.

Ask yourself…if you go in somewhere or talk to someone or shop online and nothing is really WOW or incredible or remarkable, do you pay attention? NO. You go through the motions of buying but you aren’t thrilled or excited about the interaction…just like your customers. You are simply buying a commodity (probably at the lowest price you found) and you move on.

Here’s the real problem with this happening today…more than any other time in our history. What do you think the odds are that you, or your customer, can’t wait to leave that interaction with you and go tell someone…in person or on social media. NONE. Absolutely no chance of this happening. Why would anyone take their time (which we are all short of these days) to tell someone else about how you gave them a mediocre experience. They don’t…

When people ask me how to get word-of-mouth going for their company…I have a simple answer, “STOP PRETENDING.” Thinking you have an awesome, can’t wait to tell someone else experience when in reality it is average or slightly above (or below) average isn’t going to make this happen. Sorry, we, as customers, simply don’t have the time nor the motivation to tell anyone else about you.

But you can get them talking…that’s the beauty of all this…and it’s COMPLETELY IN YOUR CONTROL. You get to make the decision of whether or not your customer will tell others about you. You have the power to create massive word of mouth for your company. You have the final say as to how your customers are treated…every day, every interaction. We blame our customers but in reality, ALL this is in our control. But…

You have to DO SOMETHING…create an EXPERIENCE for your customers that is remarkable, incredible, jaw-dropping…they have to feel you are OBSESSED with them and the experience they are having with your company. When you make them feel this way, amazing things happen! When the customer actually sees you are “all in” with wanting them to have an awesome experience they will act different…guaranteed. And they can’t wait to tell others about you. They know you aren’t PRETENDING any longer!

An Unexpected (and awesome) “Customer Experience”

Image courtesy of Upworthy
Image courtesy of Upworthy

The term “customer experience” is thrown around more today than ever before. But has the customer experience really changed or is it just the current buzz word that makes an organization feel better?

Organizations that create truly memorable and remarkable customer experiences don’t need to talk about it…they deliver it! And when they do deliver it, others talk about the experience and their organization. They spread word-of-mouth about it…a lot! Here’s an example of an organization that delivers such an experience…

I love this story! It’s unexpected and it’s an awesome example of reinventing an experience that is memorable and remarkable.

There’s a diner…or I should say a Community Kitchen to be exact, located in Kansas City that has not only created a truly incredible experience but they did it in a place you wouldn’t expect to deliver an awesome customer experience. They are a “soup kitchen”…yes, a soup kitchen.

You know soup kitchens…the places where community groups feed the homeless and those in need of a meal. They are everywhere…in every city, in every state. You’re probably thinking of one you know right now and probably have helped serve a meal from one sometime in your life (I hope). We visualize them as less than desirable places where there is a cafeteria line and people are standing in it waiting to get some food on their plate. Then they go sit down, nameless and maybe feeling a bit embarrassed that they are there and eat. Then they leave. It happens all over America.

But not this time…not inside the Kansas City Community Kitchen! When you walk into this community kitchen, you would think you are in a normal restaurant. There are cooks, waiters and waitresses, bus staff, and nice looking tables and décor. But there is no cashier…it’s free. This is how they choose to serve those in need of a meal…with respect…with dignity…with the experience they would get if they had the money to pay for a meal. Oh, and one final note…the food is awesome! It’s not some crappy food you would not want to eat, it’s really good looking and tasting food.

For those who can’t afford a meal, they have created an experience to show them how much they care and are treating them with dignity and respect. They are treating them like customers. They are smiling and feeling like somebody cares, if only for the time they are there enjoying their meal. And while the kitchen showcases their great food they serve, what they are really serving is an experience to a group of people who normally don’t expect nor get this type of experience.

It is unexpected…and it is memorable. This is what gets talked about.

ANY ORGANIZATION can create a total awesome, memorable, and remarkable experience. It’s just a matter of whether you want to invest in your customers, or something else.

I ALWAYS vote for the customer.

AUTHENTICITY…the Foundation for What we all Want

Old street at night

Acting in an Authentic way and treating people authentically is an “action” you choose to take…it isn’t a result.

The “result” of continuous Authenticity is Trust.

Everyone wants the result…people to trust them…but not everyone is willing to commit to the day in and day out actions of authenticity required to get there.

But is Authenticity a “core personal value” or a “learned value”? This is a subject of much debate. Some say being authentic is who you are rather than something you just do. Others say you don’t have to be an authentic person to appear to be authentic, such as posting authentic content. It’s a discussion that I expect will continue for some time…

The real question is how your audience views what you are doing and is this capable of building their trust based on your actions? If they believe you are being authentic, truthful, up front, and honest with them about your interactions, content, and dialog, you will move towards achieving the end result of trust.

However, if at the end of the day they believe these are just actions and not really who you are (or your organization) then you won’t get to the desired result of trust.

From my personal experience, this is becoming easier and easier to spot with the increase in both interactions and content being flooded into the market. If someone isn’t truly authentic, at some point their conversations, promises, content, and actions will bring this to light and it will stand out like a bright light on a dark street. But for those who are authentic in their interactions, their content, views, dialog, and stand strong in everything they do, write, and talk about, they too stand out continually, like the lighthouse on the cliff…easy to spot and a welcomed site.

I believe this is the decision for the leaders in the organization. If they are themselves authentic and want to represent this to their audience, then it should be a core value and something that is non-negotiable. If this is their stance, the employees will follow. And if the employees can’t follow, they will be gone. This is the only way to build a culture of authenticity. And when you have a culture of authenticity, you get authentic dialog, regardless of the medium or channel used.

This would be a great question to ask your leadership team…“Do we want to be authentic in everything we do and communicate or not?” It’s OK if you decide not to be, just don’t confuse your audience by trying to get them think you are…they always figure it out. And if you want to be, then shout it out and make everyone aware of it internally and externally…celebrate it and acknowledge it. There is no grey line in this area…you’re on one side or the other. You just have to decide which side you are on and then act accordingly.

This is the point you realize the true result of authenticity…TRUST. And when you are trusted, you get talked about…a lot! People want to tell others about people they trust today because it is so noisy and takes too much time to figure it out. We are all turning to our “TRUSTED NETWORKS” of people we know for guidance. If this is where you and your organization want to be today and into the future, Authenticity as a non-negotiable item is a pretty good place to start!

TRUST and WORD-of-MOUTH…they’re Inseparable

Photo of successful businessmen handshaking after striking deal with partners near by

The Desired Result…

Everyone on the planet doing any kind of business wants more Word-of-Mouth…that’s a given. I have never met anyone who ever told me they have enough and don’t want any more.

The Problem…

Most are not willing to invest the time and commitment to building the foundation that delivers the result…the foundation of Trust.

True Word-of-Mouth…the kind that really works and causes people to take action always starts with a foundation of Trust. Put yourself in the customers role and you see exactly how it works. For example…

Someone comes up to you and asks you for your opinion on who to do business with (product or service) or where to go for a certain experience (food, lodging, etc.). Three possibilities are available…

  1. You don’t know where to send them or who to tell them to go see…you simply don’t have a good answer to their question.
  2. You know of someone, maybe someone you bought from, but it was just a “transaction” and not an incredible experience…so you might give them a name. BUT, and this is a big BUT, you “qualify” it and tell them that while you bought from them, you can’t say that you trust them or highly recommend them…it was just a transaction that went OK.
  3. You know of someone and it was an incredible experience and highly recommend they buy from this person/company…because they took really good care of you and you TRUST them. Your trust in them is because they gave you and experience and something to talk about that was awesome. You immediately tell them “they should buy from them” without question.

Determine where you and your company are on this list of 3 options when it comes to your customers. Anything other than #3 above won’t give you the desired result of passionate, excited, committed, and TRUSTED WORD-OF-MOUTH.

True Word-of-Mouth comes about because you trust someone or the company…explicitly…completely…so you have no problem passionately telling someone they should buy from them.

Getting your company to deliver this level of an experience and create this level of trust is not easy…but it is so, so, so worth it to the success and differentiation of your business. At the end of the day, this is what separates those that get talked about (a lot) and those that don’t. Customers keep telling us this in so many ways…it’s just a matter of whether or not we decide to listen to them.

Blogging “Reincarnated”

Blogging concept
Blogging concept

Blogging is dead…a phrase that has been going around for as long as I can remember since I started my business over 8 years ago…and it’s still going around.

Lots of reasons people think blogging is dead…here are just a few…

  • Takes too much time to read
  • Little value in some of the “pimping” blogs (those selling products disguised as being helpful)
  • Self-centered ranting with little value
  • Extreme views trying to gain attention but again, no value
  • Things move too fast to spend reading blogs
  • Lots of other social channels to get information quickly

You might have some of your own or have heard others from your colleagues. And I don’t disagree with most of these items on the list above…

But three key questions keep coming back to haunt us…

  1. Where does our audience go to get “the story” in more than 140 characters or short bursts?
  2. How does our audience “get to know us” and what we are passionate about?
  3. Where can our audience get our deepest insights and knowledge that can truly “help” them?

Content Marketing…the new phrase for today that is designed to help answer these three questions. It is hot and it is coming at us like a Tsunami from every direction. Why? Because all the other crap being thrown at us by companies on all the social channels isn’t working…it isn’t getting our attention…it isn’t causing us to take action…it isn’t helping and it isn’t working.

In reality…content marketing is “blogging reincarnated”…blogging with a different name associated with it…a new name on the same solution. The same problem exists today that has been around from the beginning time when it comes to marketing…companies trying to connect with their audience to sell them stuff. We thought social media would be the holy grail…it isn’t and won’t be for the way most companies use it. But it works famously well for those using it the way it was designed. What’s missing?

VALUABLE, HELPFUL, INSIGHTFUL, THOUGHT PROVOKING CONTENT…the stuff those who are connected to their audiences write in their blogs.

You don’t have to call it Blogging…you can call it Content Marketing if you feel better about it. But in the end, it is blogging reincarnated with a different name and different package attempting to do the same thing blogging was originally designed to do…HELP YOU DO BETTER AT WHAT YOU DO BEST!

How Often Should you Communicate with your Customers?

Send Mail Button Shows Online Communication And Mailing

I get asked this question regularly…I believe this is the wrong question.

The question that really needs to be answered is, “How valuable are you to your customers?

If you aren’t that valuable, it doesn’t matter how often or frequent you communicate, they really don’t want to hear from you. Even e-mailing them even once a month with your newsletter can be annoying and a waste of their time.

If you have tremendous value you could e-mail them multiple times per week and not be annoying because they value your communications. They find them helpful to what it is they are interested in and it becomes something they rely on…on a frequent and regular basis.

To find out, the answer will come from your customers actions. They will either ask you to send them more information more frequently or they will tell you to stop bombarding them with your communications…which translates to you aren’t very valuable.

Which are you?

Start by asking your customers what they enjoy about what you send them. This isn’t a survey…it’s listening to them in person and on your social channels.

If you get a blank stare, you have your answer. Time to spend more time better understanding your customers. Invest the time you would spend sending them useless stuff and find out what would change their business and/or their life. Then write about that…share things about that…interact with them about that.

If they give you specifics, you are on the right track. Dig deeper…get details and more secret information that can help you write even more specifically to them. Find out what would really light them up if they were to be able to learn more or get more insights into these areas.

Now you have the answer to the “RIGHT QUESTION”…what is most valuable to them and will help them the most. Now frequency isn’t an issue…they can’t wait to get it. And when they can’t wait to get it, they can’t wait to share it either. This is “trusted word-of-mouth”…the most valuable asset you own!

When Word-of-Mouth Isn’t a Good Thing

Woman Stressed Listening To A Loud Complaint

If you know me at all you know how passionate I am about helping organizations build a strategy that creates massive word-of-mouth and literally allows their customers to do the majority of marketing for them…it’s something I am incredibly passionate about…and it works unbelievably well when built correctly. While word-of-mouth is incredibly powerful, there are times when it can be very “dangerous and risky” to an organization.

The issue is created when the focus on SALES/REVENUES clouds the perspective of the leadership team. Quite often companies start at the wrong place…revenue. Revenue is a “result”…not a “strategy”. Starting with the concept that anyone buying something from your company and has “money in their pocket” is a good customer is where it all begins. At some point in time you will lose…sooner than ever before in our new economy.

Not all customers are the same and not all revenue is the same. And to make the problem even larger, not all customers should be spreading word-of-mouth about you! This may sound a bit contrarian but here’s the problem with this strategy.

Just because a customer spends money doesn’t make them GOOD CUSTOMERS…in many companies, there are a large number of the WRONG CUSTOMER. Just because someone has money and is willing to spend it with you doesn’t make them right or good for the company. Money should not be the determinant of whether someone is a good or bad customer.

In companies that have a Customer-Centric/Obsessed strategy, one of the most important, and first steps, is to identify the Personas and characteristics of your ideal customers. Once you clearly understand these personas, then you can determine how to build the CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE that will support these groups and give them an experience that is remarkable and memorable. They will end up spending their money with you (which is great) but more importantly, they will spread word-of-mouth about you to others who are JUST LIKE THEM. Personas know other people with the same persona characteristics.

This is the most critical aspect to driving massive word-of-mouth and to allow your customers to do the marketing for your company. When this happens revenue goes up. The end result will be larger revenues/sales…which is what the company wanted in the beginning.

So what happens if you take the money from the wrong personas? No big deal, right? Wrong. Two bad things can happen…

  1. The wrong personas won’t be happy with their experience because you have carefully designed your customer experience for a different persona. Because they are different, they won’t be happy. And when they aren’t happy, they tell others…spreading word-of-mouth about a bad experience. All this is caused because they aren’t your right persona for your business.
  2. The wrong personas are ecstatic with the experience they get from your business. In fact, they really liked the way they were treated and so they decide to go out of their way and tell all the other wrong personas about you. When this happens, number 1 above will happen more often than you want. Most likely they are the wrong persona to help you meet your revenue objectives on pricing and ultimately your margins. So you end up selling more, at a lower margin, to the wrong people.

Money isn’t money. Money from the right personas is very valuable and you should do everything possible to help deliver an incredible experience to these people. Money from the wrong personas leads to a quick short term boost on the revenue side but ends up costing the company a lot more because they have to sustain and support these wrong personas.

The end result is eventually displacing your right personas with more of your wrong personas. You start to gradually cater to them and change your experience so they won’t say bad things about you. Before you know it, you have changed your strategy and are marketing/selling to the wrong personas (usually at lower revenue and higher costs). And in the process, you have started to lose more of your right personas (the higher margin customers that your experience was designed to support).

Recognize this early…stay the course and keep your focus on your right personas…do whatever you can to eliminate the wrong personas from your marketing/sales…enhance the experience to the audience you want and revenues will take care of themselves. This allows you to stay on course for growth, stability, lower risk, and…oh yes, higher revenues.