Is it reality or is it perception?

Remember the pink tie craze, and before that it was the red tie? It was a statement of power and of authority and pretty much a subtle message that you are talking to The Guy that makes things move and shake. Did you know that before you were told what it meant? Most likely not. Once that “message” was planted, everyone jumped in the pool and then we had more red ties than June bugs in June.

Wearing a red tie did not create authority, it only suggested it. So actually trusting a person with a red tie on is not an automatic thing. In purchasing, a person is more likely to trust the judgment of a friend or relative because the source of the message is much more reliable than a red tie.

Fair enough. But, where did the friend or relative get their information?  If it was through experience, that is powerful. If it was through an advertising message… hmmm. Shel Holtz, a veteran communications expert says on his blog, that influence is not relative to trust. He says, “after all the friend must get his information from somewhere.”

A recent study says that 80% of 1,100 adults surveyed would consider using a product recommended by a friend rather than one by an influential blogger or found on line. But, where do people go to get the most up to date information? The Internet, of course.

This brings up another term called “Social Media”. This is a medium which is all opinion which may or may not include cold, hard facts. Bloggers are a form of social media. FaceBook and Twitter qualify as well. Talk show hosts, such as Oprah, are social media stars. But, still it is mostly opinion.

There is where the rubber meets the road. Opinion is that slippery relative factor that drives the “Word of Mouth” advertising which is generally the absolute most effective advertising. “The food is good,” is opinion. What if I don’t like so much garlic in my sauce?  But, “They give you a rental when servicing your car,” is a cold, hard fact that can be tried and found to be true. However, many people shuffle off to a restaurant because their friend, brother, cousin said, “The food is really good.”

A Chilton study years ago found customers will relate a good experience about 5-6 times, but will expound upon a bad experience 20+ times. Which is why making sure your customers have good experiences, or at least fixing the bad experience is crucial. What is scary is that you may never know about a bad experience. Some customers will quit doing business with you before initiating a conflict or just telling you they didn’t like the color of your tie.

What’s a business do about that?

Talk about it. Ask them. Show them you value their opinion, and then ask them to talk about you.

Paul Rand, president of a major marketing firm in Chicago, has gone out on a limb and said, “Word of mouth is the fastest growing sector in all of advertising.” According to MEDILL Reports, expenditures on Word of Mouth advertising will exceed the $1 billion mark this year. Companies are not looking for cheaper advertising, they are looking for effective.

We’ve become a tune-out society because of all the background noises we’re bombarded with every day. People decide where they’ll put their concentration and block out all the other “noise.” Al Munez, associate professor of marketing at DePaul University stated consumers are exposed to “roughly 3,000 commercial messages a day…effective marketing will cut through that clutter and word of mouth is the best at it.”

Does it replace traditional advertising? No. You cannot reach 1,000 people with Word of Mouth in a reasonable length of time. People are not wired that way. So the message you send won’t be about a Spring Sale, or about your daily specials. It will be more about you and what you do. Is that scary? Sure it is. But, you are marketing by word of mouth every time you serve a customer or speak with a client. It is the experience that sells. The experience will determine if you’ll do business with that customer again… and with her mother, his sister, her cousin, his uncle. It really is a family thing.

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