Word of Mouth Marketing

3 Free Ways to Boost Your Word-of-Mouth Marketing

The availability and speed of at-home internet connection has caused more people to create a side hustle, which in turn has increased competition. This increase in competition is in turn driving down margins while simultaneously driving up the advertising clutter as more and more people clamor for their customer’s attention.

Smaller margins translate to tighter budgets, which explains why word-of-mouth marketing is the principle marketing strategy most of my clients utilize before they walk into my office. After all, word-of-mouth marketing is essentially free.

When I ask my clients to elaborate on how their word-of-mouth strategy plays out, most simply suggest that if we make a good product or deliver a good service, their clients will tell their friends how great we are, which will in turn lead to a greater number of sales.

Suffice it to say, this is a rather passive tactic where you lose the ability to control the message delivered to potential clients. There are much better ways to use word-of-mouth to promote your product or service that are also essentially free, but allow you better control of the word-of-mouth message.

Most people think word-of-mount must be from your client’s mouth to your potential client’s ears. However, your word-of-mouth strategy should also include video, audio, and text you had a hand in creating. Next time you think about your word-of-mouth promotion strategy, you should include internet enabled word-of-mouth tools such as YouTube, podcasts, or blogs.

When you consider promoting your business in this day and age, don’t think about ads or commercials, which are essentially “interruption marketing” and are based on conditions that really no longer exists in much of the market place.

People hate T.V. and radio commercials as well as newspaper ads and have tools to filter out the promotional content. In fact, this idea came to me as I was watching T.V. on my Hopper by Dish Network whose value proposition is that they allow you to watch a delayed T.V. show where the company (Dish Network) effectively removes (or hops over) all the T.V. commercials for you, hence the name “Hopper”.

So today when you think “promotion,” you should think about developing content that establishes you as the expert. You no longer should focus on directly selling your product or service, because in the new age of the internet, you want other sites to link to your content to thereby spread the word about you and your company. When consumers of internet content see you as the expert, they will seek you out to buy your product or service when they become viable.

For example, when you are in the market for a new car, you’ll likely consult the internet. If you’re like 99% of shoppers, you won’t be searching for online ads produced by auto manufacturers to make your car buying decision. Instead, you’ll likely search for reviews and opinions on various makes and models provided by “experts.” If you are one of these experts and provide that valuable content, perhaps gained because you are an online auto broker, the consumer will seek you out when they are ready to buy because they perceive you as the expert and feel they can trust you.

The first step in harnessing internet word-of-mouth is to imagine that you are your customer and consider what they really need to know, then address that need using one or all three common and cheap internet enabled word-of-mouth strategies.

1. First, let’s consider YouTube. Next to Google, YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine and is where most people go to learn about a particular topic. Best of all, it is free to post your video content message on YouTube.

Let’s say you produce a stain-glass cutting system. You might provide a few YouTube videos showing how to cut stain-glass or how to make various projects, and “oh by the way” your demonstration uses your cutting system. If the viewer likes your content and needs a cutting system, many will see how easy the tool was for you to use and seek you out to buy one just like the one you used in your demonstration. Note: You never asked for the sale, but you should provide a way for the consumer to buy from you.

Make sure you concentrate on content or the viewer will consider it an interruption marketing message and filter your message out. Furthermore, if you simply produce an infomercial to showcase your product, other retail sites won’t link to your video, thereby eliminating the true value of internet word-of-mouth. All you need to produce a YouTube video is a simple webcam.

2. Then there are podcasts, which are essentially audio programs (mini radio broadcasts) downloaded or streamed as an mp3 file over the internet rather than over the airwaves. You can post podcasts directly on your website or upload them to show sites like iTunes or Stitcher for your potential client to download and listen to on their computer or mp3 devices such as the ubiquitous iPod or most smart phones.

Perhaps you are a lawyer who specializes in estate law. You could conduct a mock interview where you answer questions about estate law in your podcast. In the end, you establish yourself as the expert deserving of the customer’s business who will seek you out to help draft their estate documents when the need arises.

All you need to produce a podcast is a recording device such as your webcam or digital recorder. If you want to record a phone interview as part of your podcast, the “Smart” Phone Recorder Control from RadioShack only costs $20. Also, you will need some free computer audio editing software such as Audacity or a similar tool to both record input from an offline recording device like a digital recorder and edit it down to produce your own podcast that you can then share with the world on platforms like iTunes and Stitcher.

3. Finally, you can create your own blog where you can not only establish yourself as the expert that you are, but you can also create content with the express purpose of encouraging your clients to carry on a dialog with you.

For example, if you are a cleaning company, you could share how you might get a red-wine stain out of carpet and encourage others to share their tricks or encourage them to share their worst cleaning problem, which you can then address. Creating a blog is relatively simple with free content management tools like WordPress.

Using any or all of the above internet enabled word-of-mouth tactics allows you to control the dissemination of the information posted to the internet. Additionally, you can develop content that other sites will want to link to, thereby allowing you to take on a much more active role in implementing your word-of-mouth strategy.

How do you control word-of-mouth marketing?

Note: this article first appeared at www.SteveBizBlog.com

Business Goals

Establish Your Life Goals Before Your Business Goals

Through my consulting practice and teaching, I talk to a lot of individuals who have ambitious goals, either for the start of a new venture or expansion of an existing business. My favorite was the founder of a start-up software company who told me her objective was to be “bigger than Google”.  That was five years ago and she still has only two people on the team. 

While she is not likely to be bigger than Google, why does this entrepreneur, and many others, have an objective that is so outlandish?  Better yet, how does such a goal, even if miraculously attained, make their life more enjoyable, interesting or fulfilling?  The answer is; it often doesn’t.

One of my former clients often complained about how hard he was working in his small business and the negative impact it was having on his family and health. Yet he had left a comfortable corporate job where the pay was better and the time demands were much less. Even worse, he insisted on controlling every factor of his business and instead of delegating, he was mired in the minutia of day-to-day operations.

In each of these scenarios, and many more, the problem is misalignment of personal and business goals. My advice is that before you solidify the objectives for your business (or career) you always start with a blank sheet of paper and ask yourself questions like:

1.       If money, time and the potential for failure were not obstacles, how would I like to spend my work time?

2.       What do I really love to do, and hate to do?

3.       How do I want to spend my workday in terms of what I am doing, who I am doing it with, and how much I am doing?

4.       How hard do I want to work and how hard am I willing to work, to achieve success?

5.       How much time am I willing to invest in the short-term, in order to reach my goals in the mid- to long-term?

6.       How will my family and friends be impacted by my business venture and am I willing to make this tradeoff.

7.       What sacrifices am I willing to make to achieve greater levels of success?

In business school, students are taught start-up strategies of companies like Apple, Facebook and Microsoft – not about the successful restaurant grew from one to a dozen locations, or the consulting practice that grew from start-up to 25 employees. Students naturally set their sight on achieving the massive success they are taught, despite the fact that such levels of success are rare and in some cases, not even desirable.    

I’ve witnessed more than a few business owners (also corporate workers) who achieved their financial goals but lost their families in the process. Some don’t mind the tradeoff but I think most regret making such lopsided work-life balance choices. The point is that you can be successful and quite happy by hitting a single, double or triple in business. The home run may cost you more than you ever wanted to pay!

This issue recalls a personal moment of truth earlier in my career while I was a director of marketing at a large software firm. I received an offer from a prestigious technology company to be an “evangelist” which meant that I would be on the road doing speeches and meeting with partners about 90 percent of the time. When I shared this news with a COO friend who I respected, he said something to the effect of, “I was on the road so much when my kids were little, they might as well have called me “uncle” instead of daddy. I got the point and turned down the prestige and money.  I chose my family over career and have never regretted the decision.   

Of course I want you to prosper, and to achieve as much success in business as possible, but only in a way that aligns with your important lifestyle objectives. Better to ask the right questions early than face the regrets later.