Word-of-Mouth Cuts Both Ways
  • Maggie Franklin
  • July 17, 2009

They say that a happy customer will tell 10 people about you, but an unhappy customer will tell — well, according to YouTube's view counter for the runaway hit "United Breaks Guitars"  — at least 3 million people. Which brings up a whole other issue: namely, the power of the Internet to spread your name far beyond the reaches of your small community.

 

Let's face it. Used to be if you ticked off a customer the worse that was going to happen was she'd go back to her office and tell everyone how bad you suck and maybe someone would believe her and you'd never get that one new client that you didn't know was ever going to come to you anyway.

 

But as United Airlines has recently been reminded of, with today's technology, the average consumer has a lot of power at their disposal to share their customer experience. The 100 people that an unhappy customer used to tell is now 3 million … and counting.

 

Which made me wonder … Our industry relies heavily on word-of-mouth advertising. Anytime you see a conversation get started about the best way to advertise in this business you will inevitably end up with an overwhelming response that word-of-mouth is the most effective and the cheapest.

 

Which means we rely on happy customers to tell those 10 people how great we are. Or, preferably, someone could write a nifty little ditty about how great I am and put it on YouTube and get it to go viral. OK that won't likely happen (I am available for guest appearances though, if anyone's interested).

 

Anyway, over the years I have been pretty satisfied with the amount of positive feedback I've received and the number of new clients I've gained from word-of-mouth advertising. So, if I've gained maybe a couple hundred clients over 17 years from positive word of mouth, um, [nervous cough] how many people do you think are running around in my community who have heard nothing but BAD word-of-mouth about me?

 

I mean, I can probably go through my client records and actually pick out a few names of people who probably have nothing nice to say about me. How many people have never booked an appointment with me because their friend, relative, or coworker told them that I "took too long," "talked too much," "always ran late," or was just plain "a little weird"? (And yeah, btw, that's the thing that most often gets back to me — "a little weird.")

 

Think about it! For every 10 people who love me, there's another 100 people (or more) who hate me.

 

This is just too much for my delicate ego to digest. A hundred people who have never met me and probably don't want to because someone who was probably a demanding, snotty, narcissistic client told them it was my fault they aren't welcome in my appointment book anymore.

 

[sniffle] Well now I've just gone and depressed myself. And I don't even have any ice cream.

Keywords:   marketing/promotions  



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