Brand Builders - Key to Success

Word of Mouth - Ep 12

A mistake I often see small businesses make is using word of mouth as their only form of marketing. Although it is one of the most credible forms of marketing, word of mouth only reaches a small amount of customers and doesn’t always guarantee that these customers will come back. Word of mouth fundamentally means that people are recommending your brand which makes it one of the most credible forms of marketing but this cannot be the only form of marketing that you rely on.

Marius: 00:00 Kyle, good afternoon

Kyle: 00:01 Afternoon Marius

Marius: 00:02 I hope you are well, in the Platteland, we are still doing fine, we’ve got electricity, water, potholes and sometimes all three at once. It’s all good and well. Kyle thank you again for your time, we’ve been spending some time in the last few weeks on brand building but also the management of the brand that we’ve built and today we are going to spend a little time on something we all know - word of mouth. Does it work, is it enough in the circumstances that we find ourselves in financially but we’ll leave that up to you. What does it mean - word of mouth?

Kyle: 00:39 Well word of mouth means that fundamentally people are recommending your brand and within the context with which we’re in and the reason that we came up with this topic is because a lot of people I talk to about it and I say what are you doing in terms of marketing and they reply ‘no I don’t need to market because I rely on word of mouth’ and word of mouth is incredibly important. Look if you are in any corporate that is a huge company, they are going to be talking about word of mouth so I’m not here to say that people shouldn’t be aiming to gain word of mouth, I think that just within the small to medium enterprises space, it has become the kind of crutch ‘for me not to properly market my brand so I’m not going to do things that the other people do because I can rely on word of mouth’. That’s a mistake I see a lot of small to medium-sized business owners make is that they are completely reliant on this thing to bring people in the door.

Marius: 01:36 You know if we talk about word of mouth sometimes, in my little bit of experience, might as well be a death sentence because if your people make a mistake, the employees are not vigilant and they make that negative attention, the word of mouth that I am referring to now can also spread and it might just be bad for your business. Is there a thing like ‘too much of it’ or ‘too little’?

Kyle: 01:58 Yea. Look I think that the main thing when you look at word of mouth is you want people to be talking about your company and your brand in the right way wherever possible so that you’re getting in the type of customers that you want and that’s why kind of like, and this is a generalisation, but I think that it’s kind of like the normal small business mindset of ‘ok I’m going to service this customer really well and then they will refer me on to the next customer and so on and so forth. The problem with that is that you will never be able, in my opinion, and I’ve looked at businesses over a long time, you will never be able to substantially grow a brand out of that marketing strategy. That marketing strategy is going to let you build a small business that will pay you and few other people a salary and that’s fine… If that’s what you want.

But I’m talking to the people that have a vision, I’m talking to the people that want to grow their business and understanding word of mouth within the context of the modern space that we’re in, is that if you want to be sending out a brand message, you want your staff to understand what the brand is about so that they are delivering an experience that backs that message up and thereby the natural organic word of mouth, which in many ways is now directed through things like social media, WhatsApp and these types of things, that those messages that you’re building the kind of brand that you want to own. This is what I’m trying to say to people is, marketing strategy, proper marketing strategy takes into consideration word of mouth but I find a lot of small business owners are sitting back and going ‘I hope that that customer refers me on to the next customer.’

You can create word of mouth, it’s very simple, you do a very successful project, let’s say for a client, or you do something really great, you say ‘hey can I take a photo with you or take a photo with you and your new product?’ A lot of brands do that type of thing, take a photo of you with our product and they will give you a hashtag or a way to tag them, that’s word of mouth but it’s now the brand kind of facilitating it and helping it move forward.

Marius: 04:02 While you are talking, as usual, I’m thinking about a million things while listening to you and it makes me think of the guy who said ‘advertising doesn’t pay’, it’s like putting a stop to a clock and taking out the batteries and thinking that time is going to stand still. If you think about new business, a startup business for example, and you’ve got this target to make and the opening is 2 weeks from now and I don’t think, please help me with this, I don’t think word of mouth in that scenario is going to help a lot if you need to attract thousands of customers from day one of your brand new business.

Kyle: 04:38 Well, it’s not if you look at how that, like I framed it, like the typical small business owner I would say in South Africa, thinks of word of mouth but it’s not. This is also what I see happen, people do a whole bunch of marketing when they need something like a launch or something like that and then they are going to sit back and then go ‘well ok it was a great launch, a bunch of people are going to just automatically come to my restaurant or my store or whatever’ and the answer to your question is actually there is a word of mouth strategy that works really well for launches and that’s to get what we call social media influencers to start talking about your brand and start talking about your launch. So these are people that are out there and they are doing things and they are getting the following, you can then build the word of mouth. You can do that through your community by getting the right people in the right WhatsApp groups to start sharing about your business. There’s a little coffee business that is literally in our suburb where you WhatsApp them your order and then they’ve got a little tuk-tuk van on the side of the road and you can grab your coffee on the way to work. That entire business’ marketing strategy was built off WhatsApp and it works brilliantly, they got in and found people in the various communities and said is there a WhatsApp group for your little estate or your little suburb or whatever and they started marketing to it and they said here is a WhatsApp number and you can order your coffee through the WhatsApp and that’s how they did it. I mean it’s fairly simple, you think how can it work but it does.

This is what I’m saying to small business owners who want to build a brand, a brand that’s going to go out there and be that, is that you can’t look at your marketing and go ‘ok I’m going to rely on word of mouth, I’m going to rely on hoping that people will go out and talk about me’. You’ve got to stoke that fire, you’ve got to get people involved, you’ve got to put petrol into the engine and you’ve got to get things moving, if you don’t and you’re just going to sit back, the problem is that sometimes it will go really well, other times it won’t and you won’t know why because you are going to basically be like a little ship that is just taking the tide and going in and out as and when the tide comes in and out rather than having some kind of control of your brand and where your business is going.

Marius: 06:42 To take your foot off the petrol, you hit third gear, that’s also not going to help a lot. I mean if we are getting back to the topic that we dealt with last week and to leave things and to just use it when I think there is an emergency pharmacy open, it’s not going to help. All of these things need to be used in conjunction with the other and it needs to be an ongoing thing, whether it’s word of mouth or whether it’s a campaign that you have on Facebook, you cannot stop with it. Don’t use marketing for an hour a day and leave it for 3 weeks or a month, it’s not going to help.

Kyle: 07:16 100%. One of the big things I say to a client is what are you saying to the customer after they've made the first purchase from you? Are you communicating with them again or are you just going to hope that they will come back into the shop. You know if you take loyalty programs as an easy example, the value for a brand in loyalty programs is twofold. One, you developing so much great data on your customer, so the brands that get this and they do it really well, already they see a significant growth but they learn who their customer is and what they like and don’t like. You know if you think of it like, if you have a Woolworths card and you are going to buy a bunch of things and you tend to get the vouchers for the things that you buy to get you to buy more, you know which is brilliant if you think about it. The second thing is that they are able to communicate with you, they’ve got your details, you’ve willingly given them your email address or your telephone number or whatever so they can communicate with you. And you know we talk a lot about nurturing the customer nurturing them before and after the purchase so that they keep coming back, so keep feeling a part of the brand and that kind of thing.

Marius: 08:22 And then also I think you know to end off with this segment is that the consumer, in my opinion, these days we are spoilt for choice, there’s a hundred Woolworths shops, there’s a thousand Checkers and so the list just goes on. The time in the past that Piet told Sonny and Piet told John about an engineering business downtown in Middelburg that delivers good service, they do something that somebody else can’t which again comes back to word of mouth. That’s changed a little bit and therefore the whole system of word of mouth changed with it but we are still spoilt for choice whether it’s word of mouth or not there’s shop A, B, C that I can go to. It needs to work for you and you need to nurture that word that gets spoken.

Kyle: 09:12 100%. One of the common mistakes I see clients make, especially now with the new age of social media is how to deal with a bad review on social media and let’s be frank, not all bad reviews are legitimately the brand's fault, the customer could have been misunderstood or whatever. What I keep saying to the client is when replying to this person, even though their review may not be legitimate, in other words, in the sense of you actually messed up, you have to reply to them in a manner in which puts everyone at ease because remember that the whole thing about this review is, it’s public. So don’t think that you are replying to Joe or to Suzie or to Piet, think that you are replying to your entire customer base, give them this understanding because what happens is that people go onto reviews and they go ‘ok cool’ and there’s this South African thing that I’ve seen and actually we ignore all those 5 star reviews, how many 3 star reviews are there, how many 2 star, how many 1 star and then we read all the ones. That’s just the nature of the people and then what we are looking for is how was it dealt with because most people are saying it’s impossible to be perfect, yes you should be aiming for it but it’s impossible.

So when you are replying to it and the people are going ok well this guy replied this thing and he got replied to and then it was this thing and it got replied to. People don’t understand that and very much in terms of the new age start-up business that hasn’t been around for a while or even if you have been around for a while but you really trying to target new people, being active with your brand is super important. I know people that are going ok cool I’m going to order from this company and I’m going to check their Facebook or I’m going to check their Twitter or whatever and I’m going to see how active the company is to make sure these people are legitimate, that they are actually out there and doing what they say they are doing.

So this is what I think companies and small business owners can sort of get into a little bit of a rut where they go ‘it’s going to all get done for me and my brand is going to go by itself and word of mouth is going to spread organically’, it just doesn’t happen that way.        

Marius: 11:12 Unfortunately, but that is the reality. To sum up, Kyle, I think word of mouth can help you a lot, but again like we said, understand that the word of mouth, where it fits in, where it’s possible to use and where it might even be ignored. But thank you so much again just for the sake of our listeners, where can we get a hold of you, Kyle?  

Kyle: 11:31 Well, you can get us on our agency’s website which is or you can get me on my mobile number, that’s 082 824 0077.

Marius: 11:45 Wonderful, we look forward to next week, we’ll talk to you again soon. Thanks Kyle.

Kyle: 11:50 Thanks Marius