The Word-of-Mouth Trap

The Word-of-Mouth Trap

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Do you like selling your services or products to unknown people? Or do you prefer having new customers calling you, because one of your clients told them about you?

Many people love the idea of ‘word of mouth marketing’. It makes life so easy because the new client has already been influenced in a positive way by their referring (and trusted) friend.

It sounds like the perfect strategy to avoid that unpleasant task called ‘sales’.

The danger of word of mouth

Businesses with great products and happy customers believe that their happy customers will tell others about their experience. Sometimes this really happens, nurturing the belief that word of mouth it the best way to get new clients. These companies stop investing money into marketing and reduce their sales activities.

But this is a very risky move. It could be the beginning of a slowly dying company with happy clients that is nevertheless running out of new customers.

If you only rely on word of mouth, you’re putting the destiny of your business into the hands of someone else; into the hands of someone who doesn’t even know that he has become responsible for your success and your future!

It’s like owning the world’s best football team and hoping for the fans to tell the players what to do, while you’re sitting on the sideline not saying a single word.

When you don’t get referrals

Think about yourself: I’m sure you’re quite happy with some companies you are the client of. Do you run around all day long telling other people how great their stuff is? I’m sure you made some recommendations in the past, but how many? I assume that even if you’re happy with ten companies, you might have mentioned just one or two of them to your friends; even if the other eight or nine are great as well.

This doesn’t only happen to you – it happens to all of your clients as well regarding your company!

There are several reasons for not getting referrals and some of the most common ones are:

  • They don’t know that their friends are looking for your product/service
  • They know that others might need your service, but the last time they met you was two years ago and they simply forgot about you
  • If the other person’s issue is not exactly the same issue you solved for them, you won’t come into their mind
  • They don’t know that you are looking for new clients
  • They don’t want the other person to hire you

And there are many more reasons…

But it can get even worse: In some businesses you might be the best in the world and never get a single client through word of mouth.

Let’s assume that you are a top executive coach or consultant. You are only hired by the CEOs, VIPs and A-list celebrities. You think: “They are well known and are surrounded by other successful people that could potentially be my clients. They like my services, because I really help them become more successful. I’m sure they will tell their friends more about me and I’ll get more VIP clients.”

Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen for one of these reasons:

  1. Your client is scared to let other people know that he needed help. He regards this as a weakness and he will never ever tell anyone that he is weak.
  2. Your client sees you as his competitive advantage and doesn’t want to let others become more successful, because he knows you will be able to make others soar as well.
  3. Your client doesn’t want to create a shortage of your services, and they don’t want to make you too busy so you wouldn’t have time for them anymore.

The recipe to make ‘word of mouth’ work

Since you’re aware of the fact that word of mouth is not reliable and should never be the single source of new clients, I don’t deny the fact that it is an outstanding way of getting new clients.

Instead of just waiting for new clients, you can become a ‘word of mouth-superstar’ by following some of these rules:

  1. Be a well-known expert/be the provider of unique tools solving clearly defined problems, so your clients know exactly for which special topics you are the best one to send their friends to.
    (If you’re a ‘Life and Executive Coach’, people might not think about you if their friends want to lose weight. If you are the ‘Weight-loss-expert’ they will!)
  2. Position your services or products in a way that your clients use it to show off or to label themselves with.
    (Nobody needs a 720 horse power Lamborghini on a public road, except for making a statement about their wealth.)
  3. Stay in touch with your clients all the time; send birthday cards, new information and success stories on a regular basis.
    (The best sales man ever, Joe Girard, sold 13 001 cars within 15 years – that’s a staggering four cars/day. Every single day! How? Because his customers always came first and he sent post cards to each client every month (This equals thousands of cards/month to ensure that none of his clients would ever forget him.)
  4. Depending on your business, you can offer referral gratifications for your clients. But you have to be aware that this is just the icing on the cake! If your client doesn’t love your service or product, he will never recommend you, because the value of his friendship with someone else is much higher than your gratification!

Word of mouth is one of the best ways to find new clients, but you mustn’t be sitting on the sideline waiting for it to happen. You have to work hard and make it easy for your clients to refer someone to you while you continue running sales activities.

Axel Rittershaus
Axel Rittershaus is an internationally renowned C-Level / Executive Coach & Author who started as an entrepreneur in the IT industry in 1993. He knows that success is the result of hard work and determination even more than innate talent. A master of maintaining focus and follow-through, Axel supports C-Level leaders globally in achieving goals. Axel is dedicated and passionate to see clients succeed beyond their expectations. Axel is also the president of the International Coach Federation South Africa and a multiple Two Oceans and Comrades finisher. You can follow him on twitter.