How Important Is Word of Mouth To Your Business… and How Do You Get It?

by Lorna Collier on March 14, 2011
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The number one reason people pick one product over another — or even pick up a product in the first place — is due to recommendations from people they know. In other words, through word of mouth.

“Word of mouth is the most powerful form of marketing,” says Scott Cook, who co-founded Intuit in 1983.

“For most of the company’s history, we’ve been competing against much bigger companies, and the strongest factor driving our success in the market has been word of mouth,” he says. “Most of our new customers began using our products because of word of mouth: a friend told them about them.”

So how do you get positive word of mouth for your company?

First, you can’t buy it. There are no tricks, but there is a challenge: “You have to be really great at delighting customers,” says Cook.

“Only really delighted customers are going to go out and tell their friends,” he says. Customers who are “merely satisfied” probably won’t bother.

Another wrinkle in today’s marketplace: social media. Delighted customers can spread that delight much farther than ever before — while at the same time, those with less positive views can push a negative word-of-mouth buzz about your company very effectively.

“Word of mouth is even more important now because of the web,” says Cook. “Every customer has a megaphone, whether it’s through Yelp or Amazon Reviews or forums or Angie’s List. Now customers can connect with other customers and prospects over the Internet to find out who is good — and who isn’t.”

The trend is only going to continue to grow, says Cook, becoming “more and more important in driving the success of business.”

So long as you create exceptionally happy customers, word of mouth will act as a key customer acquisition tool for you.

“To me, it’s a wonderful thing,” he says. “You don’t have to become good at something else in order to create word of mouth: You have to be good at delighting your customers. It’s actually a wonderful improvement in the world.”

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