Would you be the least bit surprised if I told you 98 percent of businesses depend almost entirely on word of mouth marketing?
What if I told you of those 98 percent, only three percent have a strategy for obtaining leads via word of mouth?
Here is my reaction to that: SCARY!
If your number one way of obtaining new business isn’t even something you have a strategy for, it’s time to rethink what you are doing.
The good news is networking has become easier to do than ever.
According to my LinkedIn profile where I have just over 1,900 first-degree connections, I am within two degrees of nearly 18,000,000 professionals. This means that between myself, my friends and their friends, I have access to a whole lot of people. This is really powerful.
Our Networks are Becoming Our Biggest Influencers
Think about the last time you were making a major purchase decision or hiring somebody. Where did you go to seek advice? You probably sought insight from the Internet.
For your purchase you may have begun by searching Google for trusted sources where you could research and become better versed in whatever it was you were buying, say a house, a car or a major appliance.
As for a hiring decision, did you reach out to your professional network? Perhaps post a note on your LinkedIn network or pick up the phone and call a few friends you thought may have some intimate knowledge of a few perfect candidates?
If this sounds at all like the way you consume, then you aren’t in the minority. Considering 92 percent of all companies use social media as a top vehicle for hiring, I would say you are in the majority.
Consumers 35 years and younger, a rapidly growing portion of management in the workforce, are 50 percent more likely to make a buying decision based on a recommendation they received through their social network.
Another emerging trend is blogs and social networks are quickly becoming the “de facto” source of inspiration for purchasing decisions. If you omit the impact of retail sites, which are primarily a vehicle for B2C, blogs and social media are the key influencers in purchase decisions are quickly surpassing brand sites.
Why are a Business’ Networks So Influential for Customer Engagement?
Networks reach far beyond just social, although it is more common than not that people connect to their “in person” networks via social media networks, making the two somewhat ubiquitous.
By default, we trust people that we are close with and for some reason we also show more implicit trust to the brands we follow. In fact, 64 percent of consumers are more likely to buy from a brand they follow on Twitter, demonstrating we become more emotionally connected to the brands with which we are engaged.
For businesses that stay closely aligned with their customers, this provides a massive advantage. With the ubiquitous nature of social networking along with the high-touch capabilities most B2Bs have, the opportunities to stay close to customers and to build trust are tremendous.
The best thing is social vehicles provide an opportunity for companies to connect more frequently in less intrusive fashions, providing a win-win for the customer and the provider.
Back to Your Word of Mouth Strategy
The statistics alone make it pretty overwhelmingly clear that a business’ network is pivotal to its ongoing growth potential.
The trend toward doing our own research (see Chapter 2) and looking to our friends for guidance in purchase decisions are trends that are only going to continue to proliferate. Knowing our personal business activities are becoming more ubiquitous with our professional business activities makes this more evident than ever.
Businesses cannot ignore the importance of building a network. This includes the business being high-touch through low-touch mediums like social, email and other education opportunities.
It also is dependent on businesses having a strategy to maximize the networks of its employees. While there is much uncertainty about what an organization can ask for when it comes to its employees’ social media activities, there is absolutely nothing wrong with an organization asking its employees to engage their personal and professional networks in a way that is valuable to all parties involved.
Successful selling has always had a certain prerequisite of asking for a sale in order to earn it. The big change today is the asking is much less direct.
The positive is our reach to current and potential customers is better than ever and leveraging those relationships is one of the most important tactics in growing leads and converting business in the connected economy.
New Rules of Customer Engagement, an e-book for sales professionals (and their bosses)
CI columnist Daniel L. Newman’s book is being showcased on Commercial Integrator. Check back weekly for excerpts:
1/10—Intro: Redefining the Sales Process
1/17—Trend 1: How Informed Consumers are Changing Everything
2/7—Trend 4: The Role of The Human Network; Your Human Network
2/14—Trend 5: Don’t Sell Me. Show Me! Selling More by Driving Outcomes and Advocacy within Your Client Organizations
2/21—Trend 6: Customer Experience Trumps Everything Else You Do: Why Mediocre is the New Bad and Extraordinary Must be the Ordinary