Reviews are now a highly accessible and powerful resource for consumers, make them work in favor of your business.
Recommendations and word of mouth have always been important. Research tells us that 92 percent of consumers say a word-of-mouth recommendation is their top determinant in making a purchase decision (Nielsen 2012). But in the age of social media, recommendations are beyond important; they’re essential. Every customer is now a reviewer, with the ability to share their rants and raves with an audience of hundreds or thousands in an instant, often from the mobile device in their pocket. Customers hunt for recommendations for everything from mascara to cars, often reading reviews and comparing prices on their phones while they’re at the shelf or the dealership. Recent research shows that as few as three negative reviews will turn many people off from a potential purchase.
By now, most companies have a social media presence, but in turn, consumers have upped their expectations; they’ll no longer accept canned customer service responses and branding messages copied and pasted from other media. In fact, in this new age of communication, nothing less than authenticity and transparency will be tolerated. Jargon-filled marketing speak will often simply be ignored.
A word-of-mouth recommendation from an advocate is the single best thing marketers can hope for. But becoming recommended in the way you want doesn’t happen by accident. Here are some beginning steps for how you can start this process of transforming your business through the power of the recommendation. If you put them in place, I have no doubt you’ll see results.
Put Recommendations at the Center of Your Marketing Mix
It’s critical to put recommendations at the center of your marketing mix. First, develop a clear and purposeful story of how you want to be recommended. Buyers have a staggering amount of choices. Why would someone recommend your product or service over another? Understand how and why you and your competitors are currently being talked about, and find your niche. Then live your brand, ensuring your customers’ experience will live up to that story along every step of their journey. Identify and engage influencers that can advocate for you, and equip your fans with the tools they need to easily recommend you.
Stay Authentic and Engaging
In your communications, it’s critical to stay authentic. Marketing success used to be defined by how well we could interrupt consumers and compel them to give us their attention. Success today, on the other hand, is based on how well we engage our audiences before, during and after the sale. A good rule of thumb is to engage your customers on things that are of interest to them 90 percent of the time, and be no more than 10 percent self-promotional. When mistakes happen (and they will) – be transparent, own up and apologize quickly.
How Recommendations Can Change Your Business Inside and Out
This philosophy of putting recommendations at the center of what you do can extend far beyond marketing into every facet of running a business. Companies that effectively harness this power can reap tremendous benefits in every area. In research and development, for example, social listening can identify product improvement ideas, while in human resources incentivizing employees to recommend quality candidates from their networks can result in recruiting top talent.
From years of learning how word of mouth works and seeing it in action with some of the world’s top brands, I have seen first-hand that recommendations can transform your business and reap benefits in the bottom line and beyond.
Paul M. Rand is the President and CEO of Zócalo Group and Chief Digital Officer of Ketchum. He is the author of Highly Recommended: Harnessing the Power of Social Media and Word of Mouth to Build Your Brand and Your Business. www.highlyrecommendedbook.com
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