21st Century Word of Mouth: Better than BBQ

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Keep an eye on what’s being said about your business online.

Word of mouth has been an important way to get your message out since … well, always. Since the first market visit in ancient times, people have been telling their friends about the good stalls, where the produce was fresh and the purveyor kind. In spite of the world of technological wonderment in which we find ourselves a couple thousand of years later, the best way to get new customers is still to please existing customers, and then get them to tell their friends. The only things that have really changed are the platform and the reach.

Digital word of mouth

Today, word of mouth encompasses not just backyard barbecue chit-chat but also Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Yelp, and the myriad other platforms through which consumers communicate their retail experiences to hundreds, sometimes thousands, of friends and followers—which makes effectively managing your word of mouth marketing more important than ever.

It’s especially important in the tire business, as a needs-based sector. Unfortunately, few people wake up on a Saturday morning thinking about grabbing a latte and wandering the tire aisle just for pleasure. Most of us buy and have tires installed resignedly at best.

That makes top-of-mind awareness and good word of mouth even more important than for, say, party dresses or furniture— people want to minimize their inconvenience and pay as little as possible, so the majority do their homework first.

They probably start with a Google search, and then proceed to their preferred social media platforms, where they check on existing reviews (on, say, Yelp) and ask friends for advice (on, say, Facebook). As much as possible, you need to make a positive impact on what gets said.

Looking for chatter

Just searching for your business name on Google is a good first step. If there is chatter about you online, you’ll quickly know where. Social media platforms all have good search features, so get on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest—whatever you can think of—and see what you can find, both for your business and for your competitors.

If you don’t find much of a presence on a given platform, it’s time to give it some time and energy because it means you are already behind. Social media changes constantly, leaving you in the position of playing catch-up for a while.

If you do find bad reviews, a timely response is critical. You shouldn’t take more than 48 hours, in fact, which means you have to regularly monitor those sites where people are talking about you.

New customers want to see that you’re responsive, not that you’re perfect. Keep it professional, and never get into a “Yes, you did! No, we didn’t!” scenario. Do what you can to resolve their issue, but remember that everybody can have a bad day, so don’t ever take a bad review personally.

Never get into an argument. A simple, “We’re so sorry you had this experience and would love to have the opportunity to mend our relationship” is fine. Leave a phone number or an email address where the customer can follow up offline.

The sheer number of social media sites and opportunities for customers to engage in contemporary word of mouth can be intimidating, but remember that it all has a distinct advantage over the old-school kind—you were never going to get invited to all those backyard barbecues, but you can have an influence online.

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