On my flight to Cleveland recently for the Worldcom PR Group Americas Region meeting, the attendant turned a routine flight procedure into a memorable experience. How? He came to our aisle and said: “Ms. Rhoads, Ms. Sosnow, what would you like to drink this afternoon?” Seeing our surprise at his request, he said “service isn’t dead in the world, people have just forgotten that it’s part of their job description.” This flashed me immediately to a book I read recently by Fred Lee If Disney Ran Your Hospital; which spent a great deal of time talking about service and loyalty. (Here is a blog post by a colleague talking about building loyalty in the PR profession). I don’t know if our attendant made me a loyal American Airlines passenger, but the experience impressed me enough to share it with a friend at the conference, and with all of you.
Maybe there is something to this word of mouth (WOM) marketing.
The good news is, just like American Airlines, your B2B professional services business is taking part in WOM marketing whether you realize it or not. The better news: now that you are aware, you can enhance those conversations to your benefit.
According to an article in the McKinsey Quarterly in April of this year, “WOM is considered the most disruptive factor in marketing and the primary factor behind 20 to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions.”
At that Worldcom meeting, I listened to Ed Keller speak about the power of WOM marketing. He said, “ninety percent of WOM conversations are happening in the real world; only 7% are happening online (3% on email, 3% via text and 1% via social media).” I found that number hard to believe but Keller had statistics to back it up – many of which are in his notable book The Influentials. There are other myths Keller dispelled for me regarding WOM:
- People only remember the negative comments. According to Keller this old adage isn’t true. His research: 66% of brand references in WOM conversations are positive. People, for the most part, are looking for positive advice or recommendations. When you travel – you want to find the best hotels; same in business. If I want to hire a graphic artist, find somebody to help a client build a website, or launch a link acquisition strategy I don’t really care who is bad – I want to know who is great and why. Would I have shared my flight attendant experience if he had simply asked me what I wanted to drink or worse, skipped me – probably not – unless he pulled a Steven Slater! Keller might be onto something.
- It’s not happening in the B2B Sector. People love to talk…about work. Hang out in a bar around 6:00 on a work night and listen to the conversations happening around you. They are about work, vendors, bosses, deadlines, projects etc. Keller also found that those offline conversations are statistically more positive and more likely to lead to a purchase of a product or service than online ones.
So How Do You Take Advantage of WOM Marketing?
- Figure out what your story is. This has been the subject of blog posts by my colleague Elizabeth Sosnow and me. People want stories. Just this week I heard Amy Mitchell from the Pew Research Center talk about the future of journalism. They key to the future success of both the PR and journalism industry: teach the younger generation how to tell stories in several different and compelling ways.
- Choose wisely who will tell your story. Then arm them with the tools and training to do it successfully.
- Facilitate the conversation.
- Measure the impact. Does WOM lead to positive outcomes for your brand? What is working and what isn’t?
Have you had good luck with WOM marketing? If so, share your story.
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