Local Marketing Vs Word-of-Mouth

Why Small and Medium Businesses should invest more in maximizing the power of their word-of-mouth network and less in wasteful local marketing efforts.

Ask any Small or Medium Business (SMB) where they get most of their business and they’ll tell you “word-of-mouth”. Then, ask them how much they invest in local marketing and advertising and they’ll tell you “too much”. The irony lies in the fact that far too many SMBs do not view word-of-mouth as marketing or something they should invest in – yet they cite it as the one sure thing that actually gets them new business.

Be Smart
Now, more than ever, SMBs need to be smart and creative with how and where they market their business. The one mistake a lot of small businesses make during trying economic downturn is to stop all their marketing efforts. Being smart means taking a good hard look at what you already know works and figure out ways to make it work even more. If word-of-mouth is the number one way you get your business today, then look for ways to expand and maximize its effectiveness by getting it in front of as many potential customers as possible.

Smart businesses, such as 54 Main Bar & Grille in Madison, NJ, have recently discovered exactly how much the Internet can impact the success of their business. They recently stopped buying ads in local newspapers, magazines and the Yellow Pages and, instead, shifted all their efforts to Internet Marketing. In addition to revamping their own website, 54 Main started using BuzzHub.com to help them expand their existing word-of-mouth network and to help them get found on Google. 54 Main now includes, with each bill, a card asking customers to post a review for them on BuzzHub. In return for posting a review, customers receive an incentive or discount on their next meal, which encourages repeat business. 54 Main’s owner, Joe Iossa, says “we’ve had record breaking business recently – even in this economy – and I can only attribute it to our recent focus on Internet Marketing and, specifically, what we’ve done with BuzzHub.” In addition, 54 Main’s V.P. of Marketing, Todd Gieger, says, “In the past, we’ve tried every other form of traditional marketing but nothing comes close to the direct impact that this has had on our business. Ironically, and perhaps more importantly, this is also the least amount of money we’ve had to spend on marketing.”

Change is Good
Research now tells us that the primary way people find local businesses today is by searching on the Internet. So if your spending most of your marketing budget on local print ads and coupon books, it may be time to rethink that. Consider the difference between getting an ad seen in a local newspaper and getting a business found on Google. Newspaper readers are primarily motivated to read about the local news – not seeing an ad. However, Google users are primarily motivated to find what they are searching for. In other words, if a Google user is searching for a local business, it means they are already motivated to buy from a local business.

There are lots of ways to help get a business found on the Internet. You will find tons of companies that offer Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) services, which all claim to get a business “top placement” in Google. In reality there is only one guarantee when it comes to getting a business found on the Internet and that is doing a little helps a lot and doing nothing hurts a lot. The trick is to not only get a business found – but get it chosen, which leads us right back to the power of word-of-mouth. Nothing is more powerful than having a business’ own customers say how great the business is. So if you’re a great business with happy customers, be smart and start expanding and maximizing your word-of-mouth network.

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Chris Gieger | President & CEO, GIEGER Visual Communications, LLC

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