There really is a “secret” to achieving success in your small business marketing. I guess I thought this “secret” was fairly obvious, but recent experiences have illustrated for me that in the case of small business owners and entrepreneurs, word of mouth marketing can make or break your business. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that customer satisfaction is truly the secret to success when it comes to small business marketing.
I know – the statement above sounds trite and obvious, but I’ve recently come to believe that it’s Word of Mouth Marketing that makes small business marketing dramatically different than marketing a larger business.
WORD OF MOUTH MARKETING IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS IN SMALL BUSINESS MARKETING!
I know, I know – I can hear it now. This is a “Duh! Tell me something I don’t know” type of a statement – but hear me out. There is dramatic difference between small business marketing and bigger business marketing and it has nothing to do with size of the marketing budget or the ability to hire a dedicated marketing staff. As a matter of fact, it has NOTHING to do with what we usually think of as “advertising” and everything to do with Word of Mouth Marketing.
Here’s my recent “revelation” – while Word of Mouth Marketing can help or hurt ANY size business, you have to be a SMALL business owner for Word of Mouth Marketing to have the power to DESTROY your business. On the other hand, Word of Mouth Marketing alone is a LOUSY marketing strategy to BUILD your business upon.
Think about it – how much “bad press” does the retail giant Wal-Mart get each day – yet their sales continue to climb. They insult and abuse their customer who strug off the abuse and continue spending money there. Sure, a few customers have fled the giant retailer, but Wal-Mart continues to chug along and will continue to do so for quite some time. It will take a long time for poor customer service and bad word of mouth marketing to sink Wal-Mart.
On the other hand, take the case of a physician I knew when I lived in Indiana. This doctor had launched his practice in a small community and was thrilled with the rapid growth of his practice. He was warm, affable and seemed to be a competent physician. Then, he performed a colonoscopy on a women and during the procedure, he pierced her intestine.
Now, it is NOT unheard of for this to happen during this procedure- however, when the woman called his office complaining of severe pain, this doctor’s nurse dismissed the patient’s cry for help for an attempt to get more pain medication. The nurse informed the woman that pain following the procedure was normal and to take over the counter pain relievers. The patient died as a result of the lack of attention and it wasn’t long before that doctor was experiencing first hand the dark side to word of mouth marketing. Conversations were happening and there was no way for him to control what was being said. Word of mouth marketing was going horribly awry.
My mentor, Joan Elias, taught me that a satisfied customer will tell 3 other people. A dissatisfied customer will tell 12. Recent studies place the latter figure closer to 15 – and that’s assuming that the dissatisfied customer doesn’t have a popular blog to use as a soapbox to broadcast his/her customer complaint!
So if you’re counting on your customers to spread the word about your products and services, know that your customers are going to work harder spreading BAD news than they will good news.
It’s just human nature.
In the example above, the doctor’s practice, which had been thriving and growing, died almost instantly. He fired the nurse, but the damage to his reputation was complete. He left the state for greener pastures – somewhere where the tale of how “he” killed the woman who called and asked for help hadn’t been told.
Meanwhile, Wal-Mart’s truck drivers have been responsible for multiple deaths while the stores themselves have been accused of locking employees in stores overnight, denying them overtime pay and hiring illegal workers- yet those tragic stories didn’t kill Wal-Mart’s business.
If you’re a small business owner, you HAVE to have a different view of customer service issues. Wal-Mart is big enough to absorb the impacts of bad customer service. If you’re employing fewer than 100 employees – chances are you’re not big enough to withstand the same impacts to your reputation.
The secret to success in small business marketing is to do business to generate the GOOD king of word of mouth marketing that happens from doing things right. Great products and services combined with exceptional customer service is the only way to “generate” good word of mouth marketing.
Unfortunately, keep in mind that your business will generate a lot more “buzz” when you or your employees screw up. It’s times like those you’ll want to have in place a marketing campaign over which you have complete and total control – i.e. a PAID multi-media advertising campaign.
If you don’t know where to begin in creating an effective advertising campaign, pick up a copy of my book, Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results