It is, but it’s so much more than that.
In my one-on-one consultations over the years, my clients repeatedly fall into this trap.
“Customers raving to prospects” is thinking way too narrowly. It will cost you big bucks.
Looking at WOMM so narrowly will cause you to miss opportunities that could double your sales — or more.
Everybody understands that a delighted customer raving about your product to her friends is word of mouth. You can’t get enough of it.
But what about:
- a prospect who is trying to get his boss to approve his recommendation to buy your product
- a team member who has to convince the rest of the team to buy in
- a boss who needs the buy-in of his employees before he commits to your system
- a husband who won’t buy the car, vacation, house, camera, etc. until his wife and kids approve
- a kid who has to get his parents’ permission
- a reviewer who can’t afford to buy your product, but who loves it and wants to write about it
- an expert who won’t use your product because she needs a more sophisticated version, but is happy to recommend it to beginners and intermediates
- people who wouldn’t consider buying it, using it, borrowing it, but who send it via social media to everyone they know, just because it is so cool
- people who aren’t interested in your product category, but who will send your material to people they know who are interested in the area.
- a person who is seriously considering buying your product, but who wants to know what other non-users think of the product, or more importantly, what others will think of HIM if he buys such an unusual product. (Social validation)
None of the above fit the usual view of word of mouth.
None of them are happy customers telling their friends and colleagues.
Yet, I have doubled client’s sales by increasing the last bullet point above alone. This last one is probably at least as large as the “customers telling prospects” usual view of WOM.
The entire bullet list is non-customers telling people about your product, even though they haven’t bought it and/or haven’t adopted it themselves.
Most of these people have no idea how to describe your product properly because they have never used it. At best, they’ve tried it, which isn’t the same. They are often spreading unsubstantiated rumor, hearsay, nonsense, mythology, sloppy wording, half-truths, and just plain crap. They are not using your carefully crafted wording, created by the master copywriters at your agencies.
They have no idea how to convince their friends, colleagues, spouses, family, etc. Hell, your salespeople can barely do that. Neophytes certainly can’t.
And, they can’t use the ultimate argument, unlike your satisfied customers: They can’t say, “Say what you will, I hear your skepticism, but I was skeptical, too. But you can’t argue with the fact that it works spectacularly, in my hands, day after day, way better than expected, beyond my wildest dreams.” “It works, and you can’t argue with success.” No, the non-customers can’t recommend it on that basis. They can only say it sounds good, or felt good when they tried it. They don’t know anything about delivery, support, repair, training and ongoing relationships.
That’s why you are losing so many sales. Not because your customers aren’t raving about you enough, although you can certainly use more of that. You are losing sales primarily because your prospective customers have to — or want to — speak to other people, and they do it ineptly. The way they describe it can’t survive the skepticism, ridicule and cynicism of their friends, who consider it their role to play gadfly, punch holes in what the prospects are describing. Why else would they be describing it, their friends think, if not to invite “input,” which they see as cubing their friend’s enthusiasm, finding the holes in the argument, seeing what is missed, raising new questions. In fact, one of the reasons people discuss prospective purchases is to see if they missed anything. That’s why group selling is so powerful: when the whole group runs out of questions, it’s unlikely they’ve missed anything.
So, let’s broaden our view of word of mouth and double, triple, even quadruple our sales:
Word of mouth is communication about your product among any independent, non-financially-interested people, whether or not they are actual customers. NOT salespeople, paid advocates, employees, advertisements, planted stories (PR). INSTEAD: prospects, customers, reviewers, experts; Anybody who isn’t you, paid by you, representing you or has a vested interest in you. Anyone not, broadly speaking, you.
Next question: OK, how do you get these non-customers to engage in constructive, persuasive word of mouth, instead of the destructive garbage that is going to kill whatever enthusiasm the prospect had?
Stay tuned. To be continued in a subsequent post.
Hint: Construct what my friend and former partner Ron Richards calls a Word of Mouth Toolkit: Give them materials, a special web site to bring their friends that lets the friend demonstrate. Or, in other ways give them the wording, sequence, examples, experiences, the MEANS to communicate. It’s much too important to leave up to their feeble efforts. And, they welcome the help with relief and open arms.