Word of mouth advertising is NOT the best form of advertising.

I ask my speaking audience, “What is the best form of advertising to build market share?” Invariably, almost everyone responds “word of mouth.” Yet I tell them they are wrong.

In fact, the reach of word of mouth has gone beyond just family and friends. People are turning to the internet to use sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, UrbanSpoon and even Facebook to make buying decisions. While the reviews and advice are virtual, it is still word of mouth advertising. We do it now and most likely with technology advances, will do it even more. For some reason, while we don’t know these people, we trust their reviews. Michael Angelo Caruso, communication consultant, says it like this: “If I tell you how great I am, it’s advertising. If someone else tells you how great I am, it’s the truth.”  We will trust the reviews and the ratings of complete strangers over advertising. But here’s the catch. We not only are looking at the good reviews. We’re making a buy or no buy decision on the poor reviews, too. For example, if you’re looking for a hotel you may veer away from one that has posted reviews of paper thin walls or poor housekeeping. A bad review will hurt you more than a good one will help.

So simple word of mouth, be it in person or on the internet, is not the best form of advertising. The best form of advertising is “positive word of mouth.”

There are three things that happen after someone does business with you.

  1. You do not meet the customers’ expectation, and he is dissatisfied.
  2. You meet his expectation but, in his mind, did nothing to set you apart.
  3. You exceed his expectation where he wants to continue to do business with you.

So exceeding a customer’s expectation is the only outcome that actually builds your business. But it takes more than exceeding a customer’s expectation to drive positive word of mouth advertising. In order for someone to become a raving fan, that customer must experience an interaction that is simply over the top. They must walk out your doors and say “Wow, that’s the best thing that has happened to me today.” Without the “wow” there is no rave review. And if you are not generating consistently positive rave reviews, you simply are not generating enough positive word of mouth advertising to build your business.


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