In our modern world, there are so many different ways to advertise and market your products or services to consumers. The list gets bigger and bigger by the day. In addition to traditional methods like television, radio and newspaper ads and billboards, now you’ve got options for banner ads on websites and social networking. I could go on for hours. However, there is only one method of marketing that is time-tested and proven to be the most effective — word-of-mouth.
Word-of-mouth advertising is as old as the human race. It’s also the most powerful way to let new and existing customers know about your business. If one customer comes to you, and you provide the absolute best customer service and support, he or she will surely recommend you to friends and family.
However, what if your customers are, for lack of a better phrase, “talking smack” about your business, or are unsatisfied with the service or products you provide? You would want to correct that issue as quickly as possible, right?
Of course you would. But you won’t be aware of these issues if you’re not listening.
The Importance of Listening
How many of you make decisions based on instinct and what you think the customer wants? I can tell you from experience that you have no idea what your customers want unless you ask them and listen to what they have to say.
Don’t just ask one customer. Ask all of them. Your customers know what they want from your business, and it’s your job to listen and respond to those demands.
Here’s an example. Let’s say Business A decides to start carrying a new product. They promote it with tradition marketing and advertising, and their customers are buying it up.
After a while, they see sales start to decrease. They come up with a hypothesis that maybe it’s the price, so they drop it, and nothing significant happens. Sure, maybe a few more people buy, but overall the product is suffering, so they decide to ax it.
In this case, Business A never really tried to understand why that product failed.
Now let’s take the approach of Business B. They put out a new product and it does well at first, but then sales decrease. Instead of asking themselves why, and coming up with their own hypothesis, they do some simple research by asking their customers what they thought about the product, and find out that the product was initially great, but their customers had no reason to continue buying it.
Now, the company has data that will help the improve the product without dropping the price. All the had to do is ask and listen.
How To Listen
There’s a difference between hearing and listening. You should always have your ear to the ground to find out what your customers are saying about you, your products, and your services, but really listen to what they are saying and respond to them.
Let’s say you just opened someone’s inground swimming pool. Wouldn’t you like to know what the customer thought of the job you did? Of course you would. It helps you determine ways to improve your business. And with improvement, comes more satisfied customers who could become part of your loyal army of word-of-mouth marketers.
Here are a few ways of gathering the data you need to improve your offerings:
After each product sold or service performed, you can send a simple email asking your customers to take an online survey. Since they are able to do this on their own time, you may need to come up with an incentive. Offer a free coupon on their next visit for taking the survey.
Just ask! Ask them what they thought of the service you just provided when you are done working with them. They will tell you the truth, and you will learn and become better at providing that service.
Visit search.twitter.com and type in your company’s name. Someone may be talking about you. If they are, you can respond to what they are saying, whether it’s good or bad.
You can also check out what people are saying on Facebook and other social networks. Just remember, always listen and respond to any issues or compliments. It will make your company seem transparent and trustworthy. This will cause more people to talk about you and spread the word about your business.
Act On What You’ve Heard
When you listen, sometimes you’ll get responses you really don’t want to hear. Perhaps a customer is complaining about your business. Instead of ignoring them, respond quickly!
If a customer is complaining via an online social network, you have the chance to change that customer’s mind, and in doing so, demonstrate to other customers that you care enough to respond.
On the other hand, it’s a glorious day when you see a positive comment about your business online. These comments shouldn’t be ignored, either. You can respond by saying a simple, “thank you.” Or you can go the extra mile and reward them with a special or a discount. This may spark more people to leave positive comments online and offline about your business.
If you have a story about a time where you listened to a customer, or a group of customers, about your business and improved something, please let us know in the comments below. Let’s start a discussion and share ideas on how we can better our businesses and the industry as a whole.
Matt Giovanisci is the creator of
Swim University and has more than 15 years of experience in the swimming pool and hot tub industry. He is also an award-winning web designer and has been featured on Martha Stewart Radio as a pool and spa care expert.