Is Word Of Mouth the most important business growth strategy?
Is it the strategy that should be SKIPPED?
I think back to 2006 when my photography and graphic design business was growing fast. The business had doubled its turnover from the previous year, and it would go on to double its turnover every year until the financial crisis hit.
How did my business grow so fast?
The truth is, I don't know. There was a lot of hustle. A lot of testing new ideas. A lot of chasing shiny objects.
But… I couldn’t tell you that one specific thing drove growth.
As a kid of just 25, I knew I had a lot to learn about running and growing a business, so I spoke to as many experienced business owners as I could.
The question I asked every time was “How do you win new business?”
The most common answer was Word Of Mouth.
The fact that I kept hearing this made me think that I’d found the magic key that would unlock the door to riches.
There was just one problem…
Virtually none of my work came from Word Of Mouth.
Was this because I didn’t have a big enough network? Was this because I didn’t explain to my friends what type of work I wanted? Or did this prove that experienced business owners didn’t know the source of their new business?
When the financial crisis hit, the wheels fell off the bus! The phone stopped ringing, and I didn't get any new enquiries.
I paid for increasing amounts of advertising, desperately trying to stop my business from failing.
When I ran out of savings, bankruptcy forced me to stop.
When my business failed, I made a commitment to discover a proven path to business growth. This led me down a 7-year rabbit hole that ended with a campaign that made £672,989 in just 9 days!
In my 7-year journey, I learned the proven path to business growth. I also learned 6 Myths of Word Of Mouth.
It is true that some new business will come from recommendations from your network.
It is also true that the enquires that come from Word Of Mouth are the easiest sales to make because they have been pre-sold by their friend.
But can you rely on this? Can you accurately predict that every month you’ll get 10 new enquiries?
Word Of Mouth sales are addictive because they are so easy and because they are free.
But… if you can't rely on them, then you are not in control of your business.
Word Of Mouth makes business growth as appealing and as scary as gambling because you never know what's going to happen. If you hit the jackpot, you win big. That's exciting and addictive.
But when no new business comes, there are no leavers to pull. There is nothing that you can do to change the outcome.
I used to think that Word Of Mouth meant having a lot of friends, telling them what you do, and then waiting for a flood of new business.
The truth is that Word Of Mouth is a source of new business. A source that must be nurtured and cultivated.
So, how do you plant Word Of Mouth seeds?
You have to contact your network regularly. This could be seeing them in person for drinks, for dinner, or at a networking event.
This takes time, patience and commitment.
If you don't sow Word Of Mouth seeds, then you won't enjoy the harvest.
If you’re willing to invest the time today, that’s great. And can you continue to do that when the volume of work increases?
If not, then you’ll suffer through the classic feast and famine existence of so many small business owners.
There are lots of studies about persuasion that show that rewards can make people less likely to take the action that you want.
This could be the case with Word Of Mouth. Your friends are going to recommend you because they know the quality of your work. Not because you are going to pay them a commission.
If you give them a case of wine to say thank you (something they weren't expecting), then your friends will know that you value their support with more than just words.
For Word Of Mouth to be a sustainable way to grow your business for many years, you must thank your friends with more than just words. They are helping you grow your business, and you are giving them a better Friday night.
New business comes your way when a friend hears someone has a problem that only you can solve. So, it comes from a chance conversation.
If your friends are social butterflies at work or in their social life, then the chance conversations may happen frequently.
If like most people, they are buried under a mountain of work, then the chance conversations will not happen very often.
This means that it could be 6 months before they find the opportunity to recommend you. And it could be another 6 months before they can recommend you a second time.
If you've got a vast network, then 2 recommendations a year might give you the income and lifestyle that you want.
As long as you can wait several months for your first recommendations.
As I’ve already said, Word Of Mouth must be cultivated.
You must sow the seeds in the form of networking, drinks, or dinner with your friends if you want to enjoy Word Of Mouth rewards.
This means you must invest your time, energy, and enthusiasm, consistently if you want to enjoy any results at all.
As your business grows, you will have less time, which makes this strategy unsustainable.
In 2006, I was looking for the secrets to business growth in conversations with more experienced entrepreneurs.
What I didn’t know then, was the ask how these business owners knew most of their work came from Word Of Mouth.
After a 7-year journey to discover what drives business growth, I've realized that most business owners have no idea what drives growth. And they don't care, as long as new enquiries keep coming through consistently.
I felt the same way in 2008. It didn’t matter what caused my business to grow, as long as it did.
When the financial crisis completely changed the game, I lost everything.
I knew that if I was going to start another business, that I needed a proven growth strategy. Without one, I might enjoy a couple of good years before suffering through a slow and painful decline.
So, what’s the solution?
Find your ideal customer and earn their trust by building a community of raving fans.
How do you do that?
That’s a whole other topic for another day.
The point of today’s post is that Word Of Mouth is a source of new business and it is something that must be cultivated if I want to get good results.
Because Word Of Mouth cannot be relied upon, it does not give you control of your business.
If you want to have control of your business, you need to find your ideal customer and give them something of value so you can follow up with them, so that you can earn their trust, and then you can make them feel good about buying.
If you've found this useful, then please leave a comment below.
If you know a business owner or service provider that is great at what they do and struggles to get their name out there, then please share this post with them.
Until next time…
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I’m a copywriter and business growth trainer, mentor and consultant.
For the last 5 years, I’ve helped authors, coaches, mentors, consultants, software developer and health professionals to sell products and services in industries as diverse as property, technology, finance, personal development, business opportunity, weight loss, and alternative health.
These products and services have ranged in price from £5 to £12,000. My most successful campaign made £672,989 in just 9 days. I took that result and transformed it into a simple repeatable system. A system that I teach to ambitious entrepreneurs that want to make money on demand without a sales team.
Why do I want to help other business owners? Because my marketing journey began when I lost my first business, a photography and graphic design studio. The pain of watching my business slowly die, and being powerless to do anything about it, motivated me to discover how promotional messages can make money on demand without a sales team.
Today my mission is to prevent every business owner from suffering through the same pain as I did. I’d like to take entrepreneurs on the joy ride that comes with having a proven system to make money on demand and to relax with the security of knowing where your next sale is coming from.