Word-of-Mouth: The World’s Best Known
Marketing is a topic that
comes up frequently when REAP associations plan their
programs. This article is adapted from Entrepreneur.com
by Ivan R. Misner, co-author of the New York Times
bestseller Masters of Networking.
What if there were a way to build your business, year in
and year out, regardless of fluctuations in the economy
or the activities of your competition? Well, there is.
It’s called word-of-mouth.
Word-of-mouth marketing truly is the world’s best-known
marketing secret. Practically every businessperson knows
how important word-of-mouth marketing is, yet almost no
one truly understands how to build his or her business
Some people think that word-of-mouth is a little like
the weather: fairly important, but not much they can do
about it. Many others think that it’s just about good
customer service, but it’s not. Good customer service is
critical for the success of any business, but if you
expect happy customers to talk about you a lot – think
For the past two decades, I’ve talked to tens of
thousands of business professionals about word-of-mouth
marketing and customer service. I’ve described how the
“average unhappy client” can talk to dozens of people
about their bad experience.
I’ve then asked my audiences if their “average happy
client” truly talks to as many people as a potential
unhappy client. In two decades, no one has ever said yes
to that question.
Unfortunately, people are more likely to talk about your
business when they are unhappy than when they are happy
or satisfied. Therefore, good customer service generally
reduces “negative” word-of-mouth. However, the good news
is, there are many things entrepreneurs and business
professionals can do to positively impact their business
Here are three important things that a business
professional can do to start the process of increasing
their business through word-of-mouth.
Diversify your networks. I believe that most
business professionals are cave dwellers. They get up
each morning in a large cave with a big-screen TV called
their home. They go out to their garage and get into a
little cave with four wheels called their car. They go
to another really big cave with plenty of computers
called their office.
At the end of the day, they get back into their little
cave and drive back to the large cave, and they can’t
figure out why no one is referring them. If you want to
build your business through word-of-mouth, you have to
be visible and active in the community by participating
in various networking groups and/or professional
Develop your Contact Spheres. Contact Spheres are
businesses that are symbiotic and noncompetitive to you.
For example: a lawyer, an accountant, a financial
planner and a banker. All of them have clients with
overlapping similar needs. They can all work with and
refer each other easily. Another good example is what I
call the wedding mafia: a florist, a photographer, a
cake decorator, a jeweler and a travel agent. A referral
for one of them becomes a referral for all of them.
You should immediately determine what professions fit
within your Contact Spheres and start developing
relationships with them.
Word-of-mouth is more about farming than about
hunting. Building your business through
word-of-mouth is about cultivating relationships with
people who get to know you and trust you. People do
business with people in whom they have confidence.
One of the most important things I’ve learned in the
past two decades is this: It’s not what you know, or
whom you know; it’s how well you know them that counts.
If you go into this process understanding this one key
point, you will have a better opportunity to build your
business through word-of-mouth.
Ivan Misner is the founder
and CEO of BNI, the world’s largest referral
organization. He also teaches business courses at
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, CA and
resides in Southern California with his wife and three
children. Dr. Misner can be reached at
Dealing with Negative Word-of-Mouth
At some point, your business may fall victim, warranted
or not, to negative word-of-mouth.
It’s essential you nip the problem in the bud before it
leads to devastating results. Here’s how to fight back:
The best way to counter negativity is to create positive
word-of-mouth. Try to get to the source of the problem
and specifically answer the charges.
Negative comments are often spread by discontented
customers. Compile your customer complaints, and see if
there’s a pattern. Do you have a problem with a
particular product or service? Or could a disgruntled
employee be the cause? The best way to find out is to
ask customers what they think about your business.
Finally, plan ahead. Have emergency plans in place in
case there is a problem. And if you encourage an open
relationship with your customers, you’ll likely be able
to head off the problems before they happen.
Excerpted from Get Smart:
365 Tips to Boost Your Entrepreneurial IQ. Rieva
Lesonsky, Entrepreneur Magazine.