It’s time to rethink word of mouth

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How comfortable would you be if all of your Google search history were suddenly made public to your friends and family? You would probably be somewhere on the spectrum that is slightly uncomfortable and completely mortified.

While I was in the search industry, part of my job was to do in-depth research on how people search Google, what they search for, and how often. I have worked in sporting goods, underwear and now in the legal sector.

Regardless of industry, my research has led me to the same conclusion every time: people turn to Google with questions they aren’t comfortable asking their friends. “I can’t believe how many people Google this, ”Is a common statement of mine.

I often hear lawyers and other small business owners, especially in the service industries, proclaim that word of mouth is still their main source of new client acquisition, despite the fact that the rest of the world. world is heading towards this new trend of “digital marketing”.

However, many lawyers are on a mission to help people facing difficult situations. Situations that may involve asking Google very personal questions.

Word of mouth plays an important role in most business marketing strategies. For mature businesses, this may be enough. However, if you are in the growing phase of your business and word of mouth is your main source of new customers, it probably means that you are not investing enough in other marketing vehicles, especially research.

There are more … than 100 billion Google searches per month. There probably aren’t 100 billion cases of people asking a friend for a recommendation for a local business. While some people will always turn to their closest friends and family for recommendations, many others will go to Google first.

Think about your product or service. Is this something that comes naturally to the conversation at the table? Or is it something that your customers might want to keep in their Google search history and leave their friends out of it? In the legal sector, for example, the answer is mostly the latter.

If you rely on word of mouth, you are only scratching the surface of a much larger pool of potential customers.

Diversify your marketing acquisition efforts

When businesses claim word of mouth is their “best” or “best” marketing vehicle, this is what they really mean: It’s easy. A lead generated by a referral is very likely to convert into a customer or customer of your business. You have virtually no work to do to convince them to buy your product or service. Your existing client who made the referral has done the work for you.

But for every new customer you get through word of mouth, there are likely hundreds or thousands of potential customers looking for answers to questions your business can help you with.

A well-diversified marketing strategy can help minimize or eliminate business volatility. Businesses that are too dependent on one or two sources of new customer acquisition can find themselves in precarious situations if that source lulls.

To assess a new marketing opportunity for your business, I have found that it is necessary to develop an industry-specific understanding of the following four factors:

• Cost or level of effort: What is the cost structure of this marketing channel? Beyond the physical costs, what is the level of effort involved?

• Potential scope: How many people can you potentially reach through this form of marketing?

• Conversion probability: Of your total potential reach, what percentage of people are likely to become customers?

• Frequency: Is this marketing tactic designed to generate a constant, constant stream of new business or is it more volatile?

These factors vary by industry and geographic market. For a law firm operating in a mid-sized metropolitan market, a qualitative assessment of marketing options might look like this:

Marketing vehicle Cost or level of effort Potential scope Conversion probability Frequency
Word of mouth Moo Moo High Inconsistent
SEO Moo High Moo Coherent
Paid search Moderate to high Moderate High Coherent
Direct mail Moderate Moderate High Coherent
Social media High High Moo Coherent

Next, think about the best way to diversify your marketing efforts based on your business goals. For example, suppose this law firm wants to reach new clients while keeping overall costs low for the first year. A combination of word of mouth and SEO can make the most sense.

If you have access to real or industrial data, use it to train predictive modeling.

• Hard cost: How much money am I going to spend directly on this marketing effort?

• To reach: Based on my investment, how many people will I reach in a month?

• Conversion rate: What percentage of leads can I expect to turn into customers?

• New net customers: How many new customers should I expect based on reach and conversion rates?

Let’s say the law firm is a criminal defense law firm and wants to focus on retaining new clients with DUI cases. They pay an SEO agency a monthly fee of $ 1,200. They have a good ranking for DUI related keywords which collect around 13,000 impressions per month. A word of mouth and SEO analysis might look like this:

Marketing vehicle Hard cost To reach Conversion rate New net customers
Word of mouth $ 0 20 60% 12
SEO $ 1,200 13,000 5% 650

Redefining word of mouth

See your marketing efforts as a way to build a core of customers that generate referrals.

If you provide a great experience for your customers, word of mouth will bring you new business. In fact, you can even amplify it with incentive programs if it is ethical in your industry. But if your mission is to help people during tough times, it won’t compare to the scale and ROI you can get with other marketing tactics. People will google their issues and you should invest some time to make sure you’re there with an answer.

You’ll set yourself up for success through a careful assessment of each marketing option, coupled with strategic decisions to diversify your efforts to support your business goals.


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