Hi, my name’s Emily. I’m Vice President of Marketing, and I don’t think marketing matters.
Let me explain.
First of all, I admit that was a bit dramatic; marketing does matter (please don’t tell my bosses I said otherwise), but it’s not newspaper ads or tv commercials or sponsored Instagram content that most affects your business’ reputation and drives sales. The most important piece of marketing your business has isn’t even really marketing at all—it’s customer experience.
The experience your customers have in-store is reflected in the way they talk about your store with others, otherwise known as “word-of-mouth marketing.” Word-of-mouth marketing is the time-tested and time-proven advertisement for every business. In ancient Rome, olive peddlers didn’t place ads in the Forum Gazette to boost trade; they sold quality olives with a smile, and word of their olives traveled across the streets and deserts, by sandal-clad feet and weary camel, until they became the most popular olive stand for miles.
Today, even in a society dominated by flashing screens and digital delivery, it’s still word-of-mouth marketing that prevails, and we have the stats to prove it:
-75% of people don’t believe advertisements, but…
-92% believe brand recommendations from their friends, which means…
-Word-of-mouth marketing generates twice as many sales as paid ads.
The proof of the value of word-of-mouth marketing generated by a great customer experience transpires in all our lives on a daily basis. Let me give an example. When one of my favorite restaurateurs opened a new healthy restaurant in Asheville called Simple, I went just days after it opened. The food was fresh and thoughtfully prepared, the design modern and welcoming, the service incredible and engaging (the owner, Suzy, always remembers my name). It doesn’t matter that the wait time is a little long as they find their stride, because even the wait is a pleasant experience.
Since then, I’ve recommended the new eatery to several of my friends, and know of at least four people who have visited based on my recommendation alone. Business is booming—and they haven’t placed a single ad, as far as I can tell. Sure, they have a beautiful Instagram presence and received a couple write-ups in local news outlets, but that’s not what’s already driving their success—it’s the experience.
When you sit in Simple, it’s like watching magic. Suzy greets a surprising number of guests by name and remembers their orders; employees deliver fresh fare on colorful plates and in vibrant mugs; customers swoon at first bite, and hang out just a little bit longer in mid-century chairs decked in punchy fabric. And you can just about guarantee that each one of those customers—much like myself—is telling their friends, who then tell their friends, about this great new spot on Haywood.
Simple isn’t an anomaly. Word of mouth marketing drives some $6 trillion in annual consumer spending and amounts for an estimated 13% of consumer sales. And word-of-mouth marketing is directly tied to the experience customers have with the brand; brands that inspire a higher emotional intensity—by remembering customer’s names, offering insightful product knowledge, or any other of thousands of ways you can engage with your clients on a personal, authentic level—receive three times as much word-of-mouth marketing. Offering an incredible experience, and nothing less, makes you memorable, and it’s being memorable that inspires your customers to relate their experiences in conversations. On the other hand, a memorably bad customer experience can have a detrimental effect on your marketing.
I’m not alone here; 64% of my marketing colleagues agree that word-of-mouth is the most important form of marketing. So rather than prioritizing old marketing initiatives, we’d suggest reallocating some of those marketing funds to your customer experience. Invest in training (like, ahem, The Mann Group offers) that aligns all of your employees with your company’s vision and helps them implement an amazing customer experience. The result will be increased sales, profitability, and a free gang of ardent fans who hit the streets with all the marketing materials they could need: their words.