Monday, April 02, 2007

Word of Mouth Marketing: Can you Convert the Cynics?

Today, while chatting with a really terrific potential client, the conversation turned to some feedback that had been gathered quite coincidentally in an online community that both he and I participated in. In it, the poster made some unflattering commentary about the client's business, and a few other folks in the community followed suit, citing similar businesses in the same location that they felt did a better job than them.

Mind you, there were plenty of folks that had positive things to say, but these few folks, who were making negative comments stuck out in the client's mind and visibly bothered him.

Then the question came: "How do we convince these people how great we really are? How do you deal with that kind of negativity?"

My answer? A couple of things.

1) Speak your truth. Be authentically Who You Are and communicate that on every level - from your website to your brochures to your in-store marketing to every single thing you do to market yourself. You know you're doing great things. Tell people. And don't be shy about it.

2) Be open to what they're saying. There's a lesson in every criticism - the fact that someone's even bothering to GIVE it is a sign that they're invested in your brand. Be open to what they say, thank them honestly for their feedback, and tell them what you're going to do about it. That doesn't mean that everything they tell you is something you can (or even should) put into action, but just the fact that their opinions are being considered is a positive thing in the eyes of the customer.

3) (and this is the most important piece) Don't focus on converting the critics - focus on treating the people who already love you well and getting them to spread the word. Let's face it - there will be catty, negative people no matter where you are. It's a fact of life. Your job as a business owner isn't to convert them. Your job is to find the people that love you already - the folks who call you time and again for work, the folks who come in every Wednesday at 6:30 on the dot and order the same thing. Treat THOSE people well - ask them what they love about you and what they'd love to see more of, and let them know how much you appreciate their business. Then, ask them to spread the word about you and bring others.

That's the true meaning of word-of-mouth. It's not about convincing people who just want to be catty and likely won't listen to you anyway. It's about creating a positive relationship with the folks who already know and love what you do, clearly identifying and conveying what it IS you do and why it matters, and about getting those folks who love you to spread the love to everyone they know.

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