Word of mouth marketing is so important there is even an association for it. You certainly want people talking about you and your business – but only if it is positive. Yet many online businesses struggle with getting people to mention them in the first place. If you don’t get people talking about your Internet business, you are going to find it very difficult to survive.
Oscar Wilde said: “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” However, Benjamin Disraeli piped up with: “The more you are talked about the less powerful you are.” These seemingly disparate quotations show us the real problem businesses have with being talked about.
If no-one mentions you when they chat with others – or Tweet or blog – then you may as well be invisible. However, if all they say is that your products and services are garbage – then perhaps you would have preferred to be invisible in the first place..! Oscar Wilde was right – you need people to talk about you. But Disraeli was also right – if they start saying negative things, you lose your power and position.
So, what can you do to ensure that your online business or your web site gets more people blogging about it, Tweeting about it and mentioning it down the pub? Research actually tells us you should concentrate on the negative side. Rather than trying to increase the positive chatter about your business, you will actually improve your situation more by decreasing the negative talk.
This was shown by research from the London School of Economics a few years ago. In a study of the impact of word of mouth on big businesses they were able to show that, on average, increasing the positive word of mouth chatter about a company by just 1% led to an increase in turnover of around £8m. But, by reducing the negative word of mouth by 1%, there was an average increase in turnover of £24m. In other words, you get a three-fold better deal if you focus on reducing the negatives, rather than trying to increase the positives.
Of course that doesn’t mean you should avoid also trying to increase positive word of mouth conversations about your business – the study did show that positive chat about a company had several benefits. It’s worthwhile having people saying nice things about you and your web site.
So, what works best to both increase those positive mentions of your company – and to reduce the negatives? Several studies have shown a consistent finding – people say good things about your business if they feel part of it. Loyalty cards, reward schemes, memberships – they all make people feel as though they belong to your business. A recent study in the grocery sector found that reward programmes were the most important factor in generating positive word of mouth.
Luckily, online there are several ways you can make people feel part of your business – membership sites being one example, being able to contribute to your site is another. But step one in helping word of mouth boost your business should be to work out how you can make people feel more involved with your company. Whether you produce a loyalty card or a membership system doesn’t matter that much – what’s important is that you reduce the distance between you and your customers.
However, as the LSE study showed, you also need to reduce the negative chatter about your business. So how can you do that? Well, you need to know it’s going in; you need to find it. Again, this is another benefit of the Internet. How often do you monitor what other people are saying about your business in blogs, on Twitter? Do you use “Google Alerts” to monitor what people are writing about you online? Are you using Tweetbeep for finding Tweets about you on Twitter? There really is no excuse any more for not being able to monitor the web and the “blogosphere” to find out the chatter about your business. And once you have discovered what is being said, it gives you the opportunity to reduce the negatives.
Several pieces of research over the years have shown that when people say negative things about a business their attitude is changed if that company merely notices and tries to help. Reducing negative word of mouth is easy – just find it and take notice by actively engaging with the people who are upset with you.
Substantial business growth is possible if you have just a small decrease in negative word of mouth coupled with a tiny increase in positive mentions of your company. In an economic downturn this has to be the easiest and cheapest way you can increase your business.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+