This is a guest post by Ann N. Videan, APR, Business-Tribe Architect/Owner, vIDEAn Unlimited, LLC.
You can wish for that ever-so-valuable buzz about what you, and your clients, do. But do you actually have a strategy to make word-of-mouth (WOM) happen? Do you know the steps to take to emotionally bind customers together in a business tribe and get them chatting about your ideals, products and services?
The LINC communication process — Listen. Illuminate. Nurture. Create. — jumpstarts your efforts.
Step #1: Listen
To start, you must consistently gather customer comments. This involves creating a systematic plan to capture feedback. It’s got to be easy for customers to share comments with you, and you need to act on them promptly (when in line with your business direction, of course). To enhance Listening:
• Review social media conversations about your industry, using pertinent topics/keywords
• Ask customers in-person, via email, or via social media, what they love, value and/or would change about working with you.
• Use the feedback in your messaging!
Step #2: Illuminate
Customers will never buzz about what your business does unless you Illuminate three key elements in your business:
• An outstanding product or service. Not just as good or better than your competitor’s, but truly excellent. This is a process involving constant creative input.
• Exceptional customer relationships. They’ve got to truly love and value you. And, you only earn this by listening and responding to them with the highest level of integrity.
• Innovative ideas, processes or goals emotionally connecting you with clients. This involves creative thinking, folks. Plan a professional brainstorming session to help you manifest these unique ideas.
Step #3: Nurture
The goal here is to Nurture all the customer feedback and creative ideas you’ve generated, and hone them into a plan of do-able action items. This plan, of course, will include objectives, strategies and tactics to be completed and measured within a specific timeframe.
With a plan, you can begin to energize customers to support and tout a business. Your loudest supporters can develop into a customer tribe to nurture your business.
Seth Godin, in his book Tribes, differentiates a tribe from a group or crowd. A tribe shares a common goal/cause/interest, builds an interactive community, creates what the individual members are moved to create, and is exclusive to a certain group.
Step #4: Create
You’ll want to implement the plan you’ve nurtured to Create your success. This step potentially involves hundreds of fun and interesting tactics clients can use to generate WOM. From 14 years of strategy sessions and consulting with visionary entrepreneurs, let me cull out my favorites for you:
Ann’s Top 11 Favorite WOM Tactics
1. Be compelling. Do something unique, even outrageous. Humdrum is not worth chatting up.
2. Work to create something bigger than just sales. Align with a charity or sell a dream.
3. Build a village (tribe) that improves everyone. Align with an advisory board, vendors, even with competitors. Meet in person. Romance your database.
4. Just ask. Ask everybody everything, and act on what’s pertinent. Includes your most ardent supporters and folk you just met.
5. Make it easy for people to understand what you do. Share what you know: speak, write, add content in social media. Make messages concise and use plain verbiage.
6. Make it easy for people to work with you. Offer low-risk ways for potential clients to start working with you, provide feedback. Over-communicate.
7. Pamper constituents. Treat people special, like insiders. Show them how things work. Include them in decision-making.
8. Emotionally attach your customers in every sincere, creative way you can. A great way to accomplish this: tell stories about you, your customers, your products and services.
9. Don’t be a commercial. Let others tell your story, and make sure you tell theirs, too!
10. Be responsive. Do what you say you will. Act on feedback.
11. Actively practice random personal kindnesses. Write thank you notes. Give stuff away. Treat folk they way you’d like to be treated.
We’d love to hear about what your loyal tribe of business supporters is up to, and any of your great word-of-mouth success stories. Please share!
Ann serves as secretary of the Independent Practitioners Alliance, a national section of PRSA. She also leads several business tribes, including the AZ Independent Communicators & Creatives Tribe. The azICCT online groups may be accessed on Facebook, and LinkedIn which lists an indie professionals directory.