Jun 242017
 
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How To Encourage Enthusiastic Word Of Mouth Marketing

First, as an entrepreneur, why should you care about encouraging word of mouth marketing and advertising of your business?

The reason is simple: it works!

Numerous studies (for example, see this Nielsen survey) and common sense (think of your own experience) tell us that referrals from friends are the most credible recommendations we can get.

The reasons for this are both obvious and subtle. The obvious reason is that if someone we know is recommending a person or company to provide a service to meet our needs, we trust that recommendation more than if a stranger were providing it, or worse yet, the company itself were telling us how great it is. The more subtle reason is that we are drowning in information and sensory overload these days, and as the Internet and our online existence continue to expand, that situation will only worsen.

That, coupled with the fact that we are busier and busier as time goes on, means that we need a shortcut to find product and service providers to meet our needs.

Word of mouth marketing is that shortcut.

So, if you take it as a given that word of mouth marketing and advertising are extremely important to the success of your business, what can you do to stimulate such activity as much as possible?

First and foremost, you must provide consistently valuable service! Word of mouth marketing can cut both ways! So, if your service is not consistently good and valuable, that word will also travel. And if it’s bad news, it will usually travel faster than if it’s good news. Provide a good customer experience, and when things don’t go exactly as planned, which is bound to happen, make sure that you have trained yourself and your employees to “make it right”.

Create a mindset in your business that customer experience is paramount and that any time there is feedback, positive or negative, that can help improve that experience, it must be taken seriously. Just as communication between customers and potential customers is the essence of word of mouth marketing, effective two-way communication between your company and customers is the foundation of building a great customer experience.

Second, make sure your business is active on social media. These days, a lot of what used to happen on the phone and in person, at least in part, happens online. Make sure that you and your team actively monitor social media, including review sites (Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc. – whatever is relevant to your business), and actively engage in the conversation that takes place about your business and the services it provides. Be prepared that not all feedback will be positive, but most importantly, those who have used and are considering using your products and services must know that you and your company take customer feedback seriously. In order for word of mouth marketing to take place as positively and effectively as possible, customers and prospective customers must know that you care and are doing everything possible, within reason, to always work toward improving the customer experience.

Third, be honest. Beyond it being a requirement legally (Google FTC requirements for customer reviews), it’s good business to do what you can to ensure that the feedback that is provided online (and offline), both positive and negative, is valid and truthful. You may have noticed, for example, that Amazon and others will include “Verified Purchase” where possible, to show that the feedback being provided is coming from someone who actually purchased the product. There are strict legal limitations on what you as a business owner can do to encourage people to provide reviews of your products and services. These limitations relate to payments to the reviewers, among other things. Before pursuing any kind of word of mouth marketing strategy, I encourage you to familiarize yourself and your team with these limitations, so you don’t run afoul of the law.

Fourth, be creative. Don’t limit the picture of your company to boring, relatively uninformative one or two line reviews of your products and services. While these are helpful to some degree, and in large numbers, of course, they are a strong signal to the market that your products and services are worth purchasing, it is also very persuasive to see longer stories about the use of your products. Put together (truthful and factual, of course) case studies of real customers using the products and services you provide and don’t be afraid to share these, both online and in-person when you are marketing and selling.

Finally, embrace marketing with stories. This is related to the use of case studies, but it takes it to the next level. Marketing with stories involves developing a mindset that understands and values the reality that humans love a good story. Who didn’t enjoy a bedtime story when they were growing up? Who has not learned extensively from stories told to us by our elders? As humans, we are programmed to respond to and learn from stories. We connect with stories both logically and emotionally. They reach us on a level that few other forms of communication can. This is true especially when they’re inherently visual (think video), but also when they’re simply told cleverly with words. So, if you want to stimulate even more word of mouth marketing of your company and its products and services, teach and encourage yourself and your team to tell good stories. When the story is good, we as humans are likely to repeat it. See this article for some good examples of marketing/advertising with stories.

So, by now, I hope you’re convinced that encouraging enthusiastic word of mouth marketing is worth the effort. To get the job done, first make sure that you are providing a valuable product or service, and make sure you create a company culture that focuses on improving the customer experience. Once you’ve done that, teach your team to be honest and creative in encouraging customers to share their experiences with others, letting them know, enthusiastically, how great it is to do business with you and your company.   The stories that your customers and your team tell will be what encourage others to give your company a try.

I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

 

Paul Morin

paul@companyfounder.com

www.companyfounder.com

 

 

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Jun 072017
 
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How To Use The UNIQUE Test For Better Marketing With Stories

We all know intuitively that marketing with stories can be very effective.

We’ve all seen commercials on television and ads in other media that grab us by our heartstrings and often subsequently influence our purchase decisions.

Since we were children, we’ve yearned to hear stories, whether at bedtime so we could get to sleep, or when we’re wide awake, so we could devour the symbolism and knowledge that stories can convey.

Most good stories, whether for marketing or otherwise, consistently contain several elements that grab our attention and keep us engaged as we make a deep connection with the emotions they convey.

While you could argue that other elements are also important in a good story, here are six that show up consistently and get the job done. I’ve arranged them into what I call the UNIQUE Test, to make the elements easier to remember. Each letter of UNIQUE represents a key element that can make marketing with stories more effective.

Here’s the UNIQUE Test for better marketing with stories. The story should be or should contain the following:

Unique

If it’s something we see all the time, we’re likely to ignore it.

Noteworthy

On the whole, the story should be something you’d at least make a mental note of, and better yet, something you’d want to share with others.

Intriguing

The storyline must be compelling and keep you engaged until the end.

Quandary

The story must contain a difficult situation or some challenge to be overcome.

Understandable

It must not be too clever and subtle, such that a large portion of people won’t understand the message.

Emotion evoking

It must touch the viewer, reader, or listener emotionally – you’ll note in the examples below that in addition to the story itself, the right music is also vital to striking this emotional chord.

The more of the above “boxes you can check,” the more likely your marketing with stories will make a major impact on your audience.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of advertisements and see how they do with the UNIQUE Test.

Note:  If the video is not showing up in your email/RSS feed just below here and in the two examples further down, click here to read the rest of this blog post on the Company Founder blog.

A very clever Mercedes ad

How does this one do on the UNIQUE Test for marketing with stories?

Unique – it’s not too often we see video of a small child sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night with his teddy bear and taking a lengthy trip on foot alone, so it’s definitely unique.

Noteworthy – would this story stick in your mind? Is it something that you’d make a mental note of and probably share with your friends? For me, the answer is definitely yes.

Intriguing – it’s definitely compelling and keeps you engaged until the end, as you watch the child pass through a series of dangerous situations on the way to what turns out to be the police station. It’s not likely you’re turning this one off in the middle.

Quandary – this child certainly overcomes several difficult and dangerous obstacles on his journey in the middle of the night.

Understandable – it’s very understandable, and better yet, you only really understand it toward the end, so it keeps you engaged.

Emotion evoking – it’s quite emotional to see the child finally safe, and the emotion peaks toward the end, right about the time that the police officer is turning the Mercedes key in the ignition, as he delivers the child safely back home, again.

So, this Mercedes ad passes the UNIQUE Test with flying colors!

 

An Exceptional Thai Ad – You’ll Never Guess For What

How does this ad do on the UNIQUE Test for effectively marketing with stories?

Unique – we don’t often see so many instances of generosity in quick succession, so it is indeed unique.

Noteworthy – a story of someone helping so many people and not looking for anything in return, other than the satisfaction of helping others, is noteworthy and something we’d likely want to share.

Intriguing – as the story continues over time and he keeps helping out the same people, you wonder how it will end, so it is intriguing and keeps you engaged waiting for the conclusion of the story.

Quandary – all of the people he is helping are working to overcome challenges, some bigger than others, so it certainly contains this element.

Understandable – it’s not particularly understandable until the end, but again, that’s an excellent time for the meaning to come through, as it keeps you engaged and seeking to understand the message of the story.

Emotion evoking – it’s very emotional. Watching someone selflessly help so many people, and ultimately, unknowingly, help a child who has been living in the streets, find her way into a school that requires a uniform, is indeed quite emotional.

So how did this commercial do on the UNIQUE Test? I think it checks all the boxes. I’ll bet you had no idea, nor did I, that in the end, this would be an ad for a life insurance company! Is it effective? I’d say so, and further, it’s not a reach to tie quality of life while living, to the importance of having life insurance for the benefit of those about whom you care most. Very well done.

 

Guinness Empty Chair Ad

How does this ad do on the UNIQUE Test for effectively marketing with stories?

Unique – it’s unusual to see someone pouring a beer and putting it at an empty table day after day, so it is unique.

Noteworthy – this story sticks in our minds. It honors our connection to other humans, whether they are currently with us, or presumably, in this case, away putting their life in danger in some far-off land.

Intriguing – this story is intriguing because as it unfolds, you’re trying to pick up on all potential clues to understand why the bartender keeps putting a full glass of Guinness at an empty table.

Quandary – the difficult situation, as it turns out in this case, is the bartender coping with missing the soldier who ultimately shows up to drink the glass of Guinness. Correctly, or incorrectly, most of us also assume that the soldier has been in challenging, even life-threatening situations, while away and likely longing to be with his loved ones and share a glass of Guinness with them.

Understandable – as with most of these good ads that involve storytelling, it’s not understandable until toward the end of the ad, where it becomes crystal clear.

Emotion evoking – the commercial evokes a great deal of emotion, as it touches upon missing loved ones, as well as upon national pride, and finally, upon the satisfaction of sharing a beer with our friends.

The ad ends with: “The choices we make reveal the true nature of our character,” with the obvious inference being that those with strong character choose Guinness. This ad is quite brilliant and a great example of effectively marketing with stories.

So, there you have it, a few examples of advertisements that pass the UNIQUE Test with flying colors!

While you as an entrepreneur may not have the ad budget of these companies that would allow for ad production of this quality, there is no doubt that you can use your entrepreneurial ingenuity to incorporate stories into your marketing in all forms of media. You will likely need to start small and it may be quite challenging in the beginning, but keep at it!

Use the UNIQUE Test as you perfect your storytelling. Keep learning and improving based on the results you see from marketing with stories, and if you do so, I’m willing to bet that you will see a marked impact on the effectiveness of your marketing and advertising in all forms of media.

 

Paul Morin

paul@companyfounder.com

www.companyfounder.com

 

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Apr 072011
 
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How important is naming your product or service? Many experts will tell you that the name alone can make a huge difference in whether your offering succeeds or fails. This may be why there are specialized companies out there that advise clients regarding naming their new product or service offerings. The fees for these services can run into tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. The reality is that as a startup entrepreneur or small business, it’s unlikely that you have the financial resources to invest such a sum in naming your product or service, and even if you do, it’s likely that you’d prefer to allocate the resources elsewhere. The good news is that if you’re willing to put some time, research, and thought into naming your product or service, you likely can do a pretty good, if not great job, on selecting the name yourself.

First, let’s get one thing out of the way: naming your product or service usually is not the same thing as naming your company. Remember, a company is a company, and by necessity, it can have just one name. It may have divisions that have other names, but the company itself will have just one name, let’s say XYZ Company, LLC. A company can, however, have many different products and services, each with its own name. So it’s important to bear in mind that while you may want to agonize about the name you should give to your company, in the end it’s the name(s) of what you will be offering to your target market that really matter. Unless they are one in the same (your company and offering names), focus more on getting the names of your products and services correct than you do on getting the perfect name for the entity that will market those products and services.
Now let’s talk about what makes a good name for a product or service. Let’s do a little exercise, bearing in mind that I said sometimes the product or service offering and the company name are the same. Let’s take moment to think about the first 10 “offering” names that jump into mind. Don’t limit yourself to a particular geography. Think global. Just jot them down, as quickly as they come to mind. Write your list without looking at mine below first.

Coke
Subway
Ford
McKinsey
Burger King
McDonald’s
Wells Fargo
Chevrolet
Microsoft
Google

Ok, so what does your list like? If it looks anything like mine, it includes a lot of companies whose company name and product/service names are virtually synonymous. So does my own list contradict my point that you should focus more on the product and service names than on the company name? Perhaps, but bear in mind an important point: these global brands jump to mind for us for a couple of key reasons. First, they have products and/or services that we consume on a regular basis. Second, they have spent billions upon billions of dollars marketing to us over a number of years, to ensure that the names of their companies AND the names of their products/services never escape our minds and in fact, are at the top of our minds when we’re thinking of making a purchase in their space. Do you or your business have billions of dollars to undertake a constant advertising effort to remain “top of mind” for consumers the world over? If yes, thanks for reading my humble article. If no, then let’s talk about the realities of marketing as a small or start up business.

In a small business, we don’t have the luxury of huge advertising budgets. Every cent we spend on advertising, marketing, public relations and other forms of promotion MUST COUNT. So let’s get back to naming your product or service then. Why do we want to focus on the importance of naming your product or service, rather than getting the perfect name for your company? Well, unless they’re going to be one in the same, i.e. unless the products/services will have the same name as the company, you must realize that what you will be trying to sell to your prospects are your offerings, not your overall company name. For example, do you expect to go out to your target market and say, “please buy XYZ Company, LLC – we’re a great company and we can do great things for you?” Perhaps if you are in a professional service business and you build into your company name something about the services you offer, then yes, you’ll market the name of your company to the target audience. However, if you’re XYZ Company, LLC and you’re selling a product, let’s say an all natural, citrus-based cleaning product, you’re more likely to go to the target market with the name of your product, such as Citrus Naturally Clean (I have no idea if this is a real product name – it’s just an illustration here.)

So what are the key issues you’ll want to focus on in naming your product or service (or company, if they’ll be one in the same)? First, you’ll want to make the name memorable. How do you do this? Well it helps to use alliteration, where appropriate. This is where you use words starting with the same letters, such as Dancing Dolphins. The name can often also be made more memorable by making it rhythmic, so that it has kind of a sing-songy sound to it and flows off the tongue very easily. Dancing Dolphins again is a good example, as it has a rhythm and is easy to say and remember. You may also note that this name evokes an image in your mind – when you say it, you may even imagine a couple of dolphins dancing on the water – this can also help with making a name memorable.

Next, if possible, try to have the product or service name promise a specific benefit. This makes it very clear to the target market what you are selling and sometimes can help to create a sense of credibility and confidence right away. An example here would be the Sewing Success System (again, not sure if this is a real product – it’s just an example here). It uses alliteration. It’s rhythmic – notice each of the words has two syllables, so it has a rhythm and a flow to it. And finally, it promises a specific benefit – if you buy this system, you will have success with sewing. I’m sure it’s also not lost on you that this is a situation where a decent company name (or your name) could come in handy as well. For example, you may take the chance to put in a plug for your company too. If your company were called, Johnson Sewing Solutions, LLC, you may refer to this offering as Johnson’s Sewing Success System, thus capitalizing on the opportunity to build both your company and product brand. If you had other offerings, you could name them in the same manner and thus continue the theme … Johnson’s Perfect Patch, etc.

Now that you have created some ideas for names, you’ll want to take a couple of other very important steps. First, you’ll want to head over to a domain name registrar, such as GoDaddy.com and do a search on available URLs (websites) with the name you are selecting, or something similar, so that you’ll be able to create a website to promote the product or service. The match does not have to be exact, but if it is, that would be ideal. If the name you’re looking for is taken, you’ll want to check out who has it and what they’re doing with it. Just go to the website and see what’s there. Often times you’ll find out that nothing is there – it’s just a “parked domain” – someone registered it and did nothing with it. If you want to see who owns it, go to a site such as whois.sc. If there is an active site on that URL, check out what they’re doing. If there’s not, once you figure out who owns it, if you want to buy it, you can make them an offer.

Second, and related to the idea of checking URLs and activity with the name you selected, you will want to do a trademark search on USPTO.gov. Unless you are a lawyer specialized in the area of intellectual property rights, you’ll only be able to do a preliminary search to determine if anyone has trademarked the name you’ve selected or something similar. Just click on Search Marks, then Basic Word Mark Search and put in the names you’ve come up with and similar variations. Remember that the standard for trademark violation is confusion in the mind of the person hearing the name. So if it sounds similar and it’s been trademarked, or is in the process of being trademarked by someone else, and it’s in the same “class of business” as you’re looking at, you should likely move on and not waste your time. Also remember that this is a specialized area of law, with many nuances, so it’s OK to do a basic search to get an idea, but you need to seek competent legal counsel to get the “final answer” regarding whether the name you’ve selected is without trademark issues. A good attorney in this area will also be able to tell you whether the name you’re considering is something that can be trademarked, if you’d like to go that route.

In conclusion, put some time and effort into selecting the names for your products, services and company, realizing that the greatest focus should be on naming your offerings, as these are what, as a small company, you are likely to have the resources available to advertise and market to your target(s). Be sure to make your names memorable and realize that it’s not about being cute or clever. It’s more important that you come up with something that will be easy to remember and ideally, promises a specific benefit. Finally, always be sure that the name you’ve selected is not violating someone else’s intellectual property rights. If it is, there’s a very good chance that will come back to bite you and you will have to endure all kinds of unnecessary costs, frustrations and lost time.

If you have questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or questions below or in the top right corner of this post.

Paul Morin
CompanyFounder.com
paul@CompanyFounder.com.

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Sep 222010
 
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I remember the very moment many years ago when this one hit me over the head.  An entrepreneur had asked me what I thought of his ad campaign.  As a naive college student at the time, I answered directly and in a somewhat idealistic way:  I told him I thought it was very basic, to the point where many people would be offended by how overly-simple it was.  He said to me, “you have a lot to learn about advertising, son” – he was right – if it’s not simple and it’s not repeated over and over again, not only will it not work, no one will even know you or your product exist.  In the many years that have passed since then, I have learned through experience and observation that he was exactly right.  There are so many ads and other media inputs to our senses all the time that it takes a focused, basic and frequent “attack” for any message to get through.  Your budget must be sufficient to allow you to hit your target audience over the head with your message over an extended period of time, on a very regular basis.  Popular wisdom in advertising says that your targets will need to see your ad at least 10 times before it makes any impression on them at all. Bear this in mind as you’re putting together your marketing strategy and budget.

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