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VOL. 126 | NO. 106 | Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Susan Drake

Word of Mouth Pays Dividends


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If you’re a small-business person, you’re probably multi-tasking, running your company and trying to master social media as an advertising or PR tool. I have a great way for you to use it combining an old-fashioned advertising method and employee satisfaction.

First, the oldest and most effective form of advertising: word of mouth. Word of mouth purportedly delivers 10 times the impact of other forms of selling. It’s also beneficial because people trust each other’s opinions more than they trust paid advertising.

Next, social media: Forrester Research estimates that when someone posts a comment on a social media site it reaches 150 people. And, of course, it’s free. So, if you combine the effectiveness of word of mouth with the reach of the social network, you have a very powerful, no-cost method of getting your message out.

Now, bring in the employees, a fantastic potential social media team. What if your entire employee population raved about your company, its products and services? In my opinion, that’s even more powerful than a customer endorsement. Why? Because people know that your employees have the inside scoop. Their endorsement usually means two things: One, they like your company, which means it’s a good place to work, and two, they like your products or services. When an employee champions his or her company, doesn’t it make you favorably disposed to that organization? If a company is a great place to work, aren’t you more likely to believe in its product or service than if the company has a so-so reputation?

The trend today is for customers to do business with companies that are concerned citizens who treat people fairly. Thus, every dime you spend to create a great working environment and to build employee pride and loyalty is also an investment in word of mouth advertising.

Have you ever thought about employees as your most effective sales force? They’re posting comments on Facebook and Twitter and other social media seven days a week. Could you afford to buy that much advertising?

Of course, all of this depends on your company actually being one that employees like to brag about; a place where they love to come to work. Is it? One way to check is to go to the Great Place to Work Institute website and note the five dimensions they use in their employee survey: credibility, respect, fairness, pride and camaraderie. Local companies that achieve this distinction include St Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Whole Foods. Also, look at Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For, which includes Baker Donelson and FedEx.

If you create a great environment, chances are excellent that your employees will praise your company’s qualities and events online, as well as in their offline conversations with friends. Positive endorsements are welcome wherever they appear.

Susan Drake is President of Spellbinders Internal and External Marketing. Contact her at susand@spellbindersinc.com.

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