I spent a lot of years overseas making microloans, and consulting with microfinance institutions (MFIs). One of the attitudes which made me want to tear my hair out was: We don’t need to do marketing, we use word of mouth.
Microcredit is very driven by personal sales and yes, word of mouth. However, too often, MFI managers just assumed the word of mouth was happening, and that they were getting positive word of mouth.
Marketing in the third world (I refuse to say “developing” until I actually see some development happening) is a far cry from marketing in San Mateo, CA. Technology, infrastructure, and cultural traits change everything. But in the age of social media, “word of mouth” seems to be gaining in importance. And I think it’s important to recognize that as business owners, we can and should cultivate positive word of mouth through social media. Of course, first and foremost you need to give great service and/or provide great products to your clients. But here are some other things in the social media realm small business owners can take advantage of:
- Listen and respond to customer comments promptly – free software such as Tweetdeck allows you to search for mentions of you or your company on Twitter. And there’s more expensive software out there as well. And don’t just respond with platitudes. Follow through.
- Identify and cultivate influential people (i.e. “influencers“) in your markets. Who do your clients listen to? Who do they get their information from?
- When you post something on Facebook (or whatever), include a call to action, encouraging your readers to pass it on. E.g., at the end of a Facebook post, add: “Like this? Then like it!”
Want to learn more? Here’s a great article about word of mouth from the Social Media Explorer.