Relying on word-of-mouth is a sure way to get left behind in a cutthroat marketplace
Look, I’m not trying to make this new bold claim that word-of-mouth marketing is dead in 2019. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Now more than any time in history, people have access to word-of-mouth testimonials, reviews, and referrals than ever before.
Google, Facebook, & Yelp reviews can have a tremendous impact on a business, for good or worse. There are very alarming statistics about online word-of-mouth every business owner must be aware of, ‘Over 94% of customers read online reviews before buying a product or service,’ or, ‘The average consumer spends as much as 11 hours of research online before buying a new product or service.’
The reality is that word-of-mouth is now word-on-the-web and it can be very profitable to have a favorable online reputation. That’s why our company offers packages that help collect reviews from customers.
Very often my company runs into business owners or employees of businesses that swear-to-God that their company survives solely off of word-of-mouth. And sure this is true to a degree, but the question naturally arises, ‘Where are the new customers finding your phone number in the first place?’
It’s not like your old customers are standing on a street corner holding a giant sign with your company’s phone number across it… Your company’s number has to be found somewhere.
Even if your company is being referred by someone else, the new prospect needs to get your number. And if the new prospect doesn’t get your number from the old customer, then he has to go somewhere and find it.
That place is most likely Google…
So was the new prospect referred by the old customer and found you through Google, or did Google refer the new prospect and he find you through the old customer?
That’s a good question.
And if you search most businesses on Google, you’re going to see a Google My Business listing with the phone number, hours, website info, and most importantly, REVIEWS.
So I am not claiming that word-of-mouth is dead, but that it’s evolved and that there are huge opportunities for growth beyond traditional word-of-mouth referrals.
1. Word-of-mouth is inherently subjective
True, some business targets may place high value on recommendations they receive from colleagues and referral sources. But many companies, especially in the B2B environment, regard these recommendations as subjective and not fully reliable, especially when not accompanied by more-formal and more-objective measures of quality.
The B2B sales cycle is long, and positive word-of-mouth merely gets you in the door. After that, empirical measures of quality, case studies, and demonstrations of success are far more important.
2. Word-of-mouth is uncontrollable
By definition, it isn’t possible to control what others have to say about your services in a word-of-mouth context. Well-intentioned recommendations may still get your message entirely wrong or characterize you so narrowly that a potential client won’t consider you for an enterprise-wide solution.
3. Word-of-mouth is limited in reach
Particularly in a business-to-business context, referrals and word-of-mouth work only with people who know you, and the people who know them. Once you are more than two degrees removed from the source (i.e., people who know the people who know you) word-of-mouth and referrals rapidly fade as significant factors.
4. Word-of-mouth is easy to subvert
In the B2B environment, it is common for competitors, either at the corporate level or at the level of the individual salesperson, to spread negative word-of-mouth about a company’s management, finances, ethics, service model, or commitment to quality. This is especially destructive where there are no formal marketing communications vehicles in place to counteract these negative messages.
5. Word-of-mouth is limited, by definition
Word-of-mouth success is usually based on an appreciation of a company’s current competencies. It is very difficult to spread a message about new strategic initiatives and new competencies through word-of-mouth, especially when current customers know you only in the context of what you do for them now.
6. Word-of-mouth is non-replicable
There are no efficiencies of scale in word-of-mouth, referral, or relationship marketing, because everything takes place on a one-on-one basis. You will never reach vast swaths of players in corporate America who are not even aware of your existence.