Even in the internet age, word-of-mouth is still the most powerful form of marketing available. Whether the comments are positive or negative, word-of-mouth has the greatest impact on what people think, for better or for worse. According to Entrepreneur Media, word-of-mouth is one of the most credible forms of advertising because people who don't stand to gain personally by promoting something put their reputations on the line every time they make a recommendation.
Social media gurus get extremely animated by something they believe has “gone viral”. What they’re really marvelling at is the power of word-of-mouth, or rather its online counterpart.
Those of us who are of “a certain age” will remember an advertisement used by Alberto to market its VO5 shampoo: “I told two friends, who told two friends, who told two friends.”
That is how word-of mouth works.
One of my fundamental business tenets is that the only real asset an individual or organisation has is their reputation. Reputations take a long time to build yet they can be destroyed in seconds, usually because an individual has not fully thought through the consequences of something they’ve said or done.
I’m not an advocate of not taking risks or always doing what you’ve always done. That’s because things that are seen as being edgy or risky can build individuality and respect. Standing out from the herd is what will drive business to your door. I’m also not an advocate of leaping out into the unknown without at least doing some form of risk assessment first. If nothing else at least pausing for a few seconds to imagine the worst thing that could happen.
Organisations need to encourage cultures that allow risk taking. I believe that this is where real success comes from. That means being prepared to accept failure and to learn from that, rather than condemning it either overtly or covertly. Acceptance of failure means being prepared to fess up and squarely own the problem when things go wrong. People don’t like hearing excuses, particularly when common sense clearly shows what the truth is. As a Wellington retailer once famously said “It’s the putting right that counts.” While that slogan worked well for his home appliances business, I would change it a bit to read “It’s the being seen to put things right that counts.”
“This stuff’s pretty obvious, Brett. Why are you telling me this?”
Because, sadly, there are still too many organisations and people that don’t get it, that’s why. Some are in “leadership” positions. I guess that organisations and individuals like that won’t read this blog either. But there may be others who read this who tell two friends, who tell two friends, who tell two friends...