Be on purpose
Everyone agrees that word-of-mouth advertising is the best advertising there is. It’s the most effective because it comes from someone other than your company. And as much as we like you and believe you, the business owner, you’re the one person we will believe least if you are telling us how good you are. Word of mouth is also free. It is not, however, something you directly control. And that’s a problem.
To make word of mouth work, I believe there are three steps that you can take to tame this potentially wonderful form of advertising.
You know you are good. You’re an excellent (insert your industry here). You pay your staff and suppliers on time, you never have call-backs on installs or repairs and you never ever kick the cat. But have you ever thought that your opinion of your goodness is totally irrelevant when it comes to word of mouth? So the issue really is, “Are you good by whatever definition your prospect or customer calls “good.” That can be a little bit more restrictive. Her definition of good might include some requirements that normally don’t enter the business owner’s mind–like “clean.”
Several years ago, I knew the franchise owner of an oil quick-change place. He told me that their research had determined that cleanliness (read spotless) was a huge factor when attracting new and repeat customers. He took me down into the “business basement” where all the oil, grease and gunk are hidden. You ought to try this at your local oil change place. I was blown away. Everything was incredibly neat and clean. They loved for people to go downstairs because every person that did was as impressed as I was.
So…your definition of good is irrelevant.
Ask your customers.
Let me prepare you that your customers’ definition of “good” might be something you have to work on. Like spotless trucks with well-maintained exteriors and interiors that look like Martha Stewart is waiting there to make sure everything is put back “just so,” crews that are uniformed, clean, no hats worn backwards, shirt tails tucked in, clean shaven or neatly bearded, non-smokers, punctual, look you in the eye when they talk, speak proper grammar, care about her needs, wouldn’t think of tracking mud in her garage, much less, her living room and leaps tall buildings in a single bound.
The point here is that you need to do the hard job of looking at your company, your baby, with the critical eye of your prospect. Then meet that view of “good.” That’s the minimum, but you’ve got to do it.
Be On Purpose
Now that you are generally good, I believe you must be specifically remarkable. I was first exposed to the importance of being remarkable by Seth Godin, who stated a simple and obvious truth: if you expect people to go out of their way to pass on a positive remark, you must do something that is worthy of that remark–to be remarkable. I propose to you that whatever that is, it needs to be baked into the interaction you have with every prospect or customer you come in contact with.
Seth illustrates remarkable this way: You are going down a country road and see a cow in a pasture. When you get to your destination, you probably will not mention that you saw a cow in the pasture. Now, let’s say that cow was purple. You get the idea. It has to be something way out of the ordinary for you to mention it. If the cow had been a little bit larger or smaller or browner or had a little bit different moo, no remark.
Most of us business owners live in “I’m-a-little-bit-better-than-they-are” land, and it is worthy of a very healthy yawn. So, what can you do? Stop aiming at Better and go for Different. I’ll admit, this is tough.
Shep Hyken has written a book called The Cult of the Customer. It deals with this important but very difficult task. Hyken advises us to create a mantra or a statement or slogan that is repeated frequently, known by every person in the company and fervently adhered to. Like “make every customer a good friend.” How, you say, can we do that?
- Correct problems immediately and, if possible, astonishingly.
- Break a rule or two, if it will astound a customer and won’t break the bank.
- Build custom services for your best customers.
- Go out of your way for something special. (If you do something the customer expects, it is required, but it doesn’t count at remarkable.)
- Call back quickly. Follow up quickly.
- Do something for your customers that the competition would call “over the top.”
Do the little things that simply make you above average. Chick-fil-A does a masterful job here. When you go to a Chick-fil-A restaurant, it’s usually clean, well-staffed, friendly and efficient. When the counter person hands you your meal, you might say, “Thank you.”
Now, if they were typical, the response would be a mumbled, “No problem” or “You’re welcome.” What should happen is a reflection of what is going on inside this grateful person’s heart–a customer has just paid part of my wages and given me a place to work. Their response should be more like, “No, No, NO! Thank YOU.” Well, they come pretty close with their reply, “It’s my pleasure.” A little thing, but huge because no one else does it, and sadly, few even have that attitude. Obviously, this is scripted from the corporate level, but it seems to have an impact on both the employee and the patron.
I encourage you to get the book, The Cult of the Customer. Hyken has worksheets that help you go through the process of becoming remarkable.
Lets get familiar with one of the rating and review websites that speak to your business: Google Business
They are the 800-pound gorilla in the search business and 20% of the searches on Google are looking for local information. That’s 600 million searches a day. If you’re interested in marketing your business, you simply cannot ignore these guys without serious repercussions.
Everything we will talk about when it comes to adding items to your to-do list particularly pertains to Google. Others may overtake them, but, for now, Google is the major player. Don’t disregard the others because they are some of your prospects’ and customers’ favorites. And, generally, it’s all free.
So, go to Places.Google.com and claim the free page for your company. You can load pictures and videos, add your logo and tell the world all about yourself. This is the hub of everything because this is where you’re going to send satisfied customers to leave a review and give you a five-star rating.
If you’re in the top seven of Google’s results, you get on the first page, and you have a Google-supplied pushpin on Google’s map. (below)
Here, potential customers have a choice of either clicking on your website or on the Places page you just set up. You’re hoping against your own web site in favor of Google’s Places page for your business. And for a good reason.
If they like you, perhaps they would click on “leave a review,” and the world would then see their glowing remarks.
Consider what has happened. You pleased a customer. That’s great, but it’s also mandatory (remember the mantra you created?). If you were only pretty good, they are not going to be motivated to stick their neck out and recommend you to someone else. But, you did your typical great job, and a customer is satisfied to the point of being willing to make a remark.
But who are they going to make their positive remark to? In the pre-Google days, that’s where the word-of-mouth powerhouse flopped.
If, after you’ve done everything up to here, you still need to do all you can to eliminate any friction or inertia from robbing you and future customers from reading this glowing review. Enter budurl or bit.ly and other URL shorteners.
URL shorteners take a long URL (website address) like this:
and turns it into this: “www.budurl.com/ceuwow”.
Both links end up in the same place: your Google Place page.
Just Two Steps to Being Found
First, print another business card. This one is completely different from your regular business card. Your regular business card points to you. The new business card points to your Places page. Mine asks the recipient to Rate and Review me and gives the shortened URL. On the back it says, I ask them, if they feel inclined, to use key words we are targeting in Google searches; like “sprinkler repair.” If their review includes words like “sprinkler system,” Google will detect this as relevant to someone searching for your irrigation company.
Next, every time you talk to someone that likes you or your company, simply pull out one of these special cards and ask them if they would be kind enough to leave you a review. This idea came from Jay Ehret of The Marketing Spot. We’ve just started doing this, and it’s having some immediate positive results.
So, be good. Meet and exceed your prospects’ expectations.
Be on purpose. Orchestrate specific responses and touch points with customers and prospects that elicit good feelings for your company.
Be found. Select satisfied customers, hand them the card and reduce any friction in getting their review posted.
You might also want to check out these review sites: www.yelp.com, www.hotfrog.com, www.citysearch.com, www.angieslist.com, www.local.yahoo.com, and www.manta.com
Doug Saylor is a small business owner in the Waco, Texas area. He operates two businesses in the irrigation and landscaping industry. You can email him at info<at>Rainstat.com