Word of Mouth Marketing: Understanding and Empowering Your Market

We’ve all heard the adage that if someone gets good service, they’ll tell one person, but if they get bad service, they’ll tell ten people.  Spreading information is a part of human nature, so why not harness it and use it to your advantage?

In an age where product reviews can be posted instantly and are easily accessible, the best thing a company can do is get positive ratings to increase sales of their product.  Realistically, not all reviews will be positive.  Sometimes a product will be made faulty, sometimes it is user error and sometimes people just are impossible to satisfy.  Either way, reviews are incredibly important and are more often than not instrumental to purchase decision making.

So what steps can a company take to improve public image of their products or services?

    1. Identify your market to understand your product or service demographics
    2. Be vigilant about the what-when-where-who-why-how is being said about your products and services (Google alerts is excellent for this)
    3. Pay attention to what is being said so you can determine whether something needs to be improved or if there is a misunderstanding about how to use the item; focus on continual improvement
    4. Educate your consumers about your products or services so they can intelligently spread information
    5. Enable your market to easily share information, i.e. through an online customer comment form or blog comments

By allowing your market to have a voice and give feedbck, you are empowering them and showing them that their input is valuable and adding continual improvement to your products or services.  The plus side is that if they have a negative experience for whatever reason, if they know you will acknowledge their feedback and work to make improvements, the positivity of that empowerment is much more powerful than the negative experience they had and they will be much more forgiving in most cases.

Have you ever had a really negative experience with a company?  Perhaps you purchased a faulty product and were unable to return it or received bad service with no remorse?  What did you do?  Did you locate a similar company to use instead?  Did you tell people how awful your experience was?  Did you go online to a site like yelp.com to broadcast your negative experience to the world wide web?

Those are all natural reactions to negative experiences and they are all reactions to can negatively impact your business.  If you get enough negative feedback online, you may see a significant drop in your sales and find your customers to be less forgiving of any error that may occur.

Any time a customer has a negative experience and brings it to your attention either in person, by email or by posting a negative review, you also have the opportunity to redeem yourself.  Even if the customer is in the wrong, it is important to acknowledge that happy customers are one of your biggest marketing assets.  If you take the time to listen to your customer and empathize with what they are saying, that same customer who had a bad experience and told ten people about it can now turn around and tell them how well you in turn handled the situation and even if they are not 100% satisfied, you have now turned a negative experience into a positive one.

If a customer posts a negative review about your company, product or service, it is completely acceptable to reply to their review and that shows that you care about your company’s image as well as your customer experience.  This can be a very tough thing to do, however, because online, people are anonymous and less forgiving than in person.  In situations where customers post negative feedback, a good way to handle it is to apologize for their negative experience and offer redemption.

For example, writing “I’m sorry you had a bad experience with our company.  We are looking into the issue to ensure this sort of situation does not happen again and we would like to hear more about your experience so we have all the information.  Please call me directly at ….. at your convenience.  We value your opinion and your business.”  This message not only appeals to the complainer, but it shows everyone else who reads the negative review that you care about what your customers think and have an interest in making their experience positive.

In the end, image is huge and if your consumers are spreading negative information about your product or services, your customer base will decrease.  Customer loyalty should be rewarded, if nothing else but in a positive experience in all transactions.  Customer experience speaks volumes about your product or service so if your customers can spread how amazing your company is and you can prove that you hold those standards, you will see continued success.  Listening to and valuing your customers’ feedback is one of the most valuable things you can do for your image.

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