When it comes to word-of-mouth marketing, it’s imperative that you pay attention to the stories being told about your business.
Last week I attended a storytelling camp run by Speaker, Storyteller and television personality Kelly Swanson.* My purpose for attending was to hone my skills and master the craft of professionally speaking. However, Kelly also got me thinking more about the power of storytelling in business.
The truth is that with word-of-mouth marketing, we have less control over the stories that are told about our company than ever before. There are really channels used to tell your story, and it’s imperative that you pay close attention to all of them.
The 3 channels that power your word-of-mouth marketing:
They are: your customers, your employees, and you.
What stories are your customers telling?
“What are Yelp reviews?” Kelly asked the group. “They are personal experience stories about your business.” BINGO! Today the most influential stories being told about your company are the ones coming from your customers, on Yelp, Trip Advisor, social media sites, and any number of review sites. The first way to ensure those personal stories are positive ones is to focus on building a culture where everyone on your team understands what red carpet customer service looks like, knows how to deliver it, and is passionate about doing so.
The second way you influence the story being told about your business is by how you respond to those reviews. Prospective customers don’t only watch to see what others are saying about you, but they want to see if and how you showed up to address the complaints. As Jay Baer says in his excellent book Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers, “Satisfaction among people who complain about business hasn’t improved at all since the 1970s. Haters are not your problem. Ignoring them is. Not responding is a response. A response that says “I don’t care about you.” Answering complaints increases customer advocacy. Not answering complaints decreases customer advocacy.”
Respectfully respond online and then take the issue offline. Sometimes your greatest advocates come in the form of complaining customers who are happy with the resolution.
What stories are your employees telling?
In terms of word-of-mouth marketing, it’s important to consider the stories your employees are sharing about your company too. Each day they go home and tell their family, friends and social media followers about their experiences at work. With each anecdote they are adding to the story of your company. The question is, does this worry you or excite you?
I’m often asked, “How do you get an hourly employee who has never received red carpet service, to give it?” You must model it for them. Are you doing what it takes to hire people who’s values are in alignment with the company and then enrolling them in your mission and vision? Are you noticing and verbally appreciating their contributions? Are you holding people accountable? (Lack of accountability can hurt employee morale.)
An article in Fortune magazine provides several insights as to what makes a great place to work. For instance, a few of them are having clear goals that everyone in the organization understands and buys into, camaraderie and good food! Good food is always important.
Companies who make the “Great Place to Work” lists have employees who are telling great stories about their workplace.
What stories are you telling?
As Kelly told us at camp, you can bore your clients with a list of features and benefits about your products or services. Or you can move them emotionally by telling personal stories about the people who benefit from your products and services. At Red-Carpet Learning Systems, we call them “stories worth sharing.”
You can tell stories about the impact your services are having on specific people, the fun your employees are having, the contribution your team members are making in the community. Come up with examples of your employees rolling out the red carpet for your customers. One of my favorite stories is the one of Kanyon, a technician at Safelite Auto Glass. Perhaps there’s a story behind the mission of your organization. You can see how we’ve incorporate ours in the Red Carpet training video.
In today’s market, you have less control over the stories being told about your business. However, you can influence those stories by the service you give customers, the response you provide to complainers, and the atmosphere you create for employees. Focus on improving those 3 areas and you’ll soon be creating stories worth sharing.
Donna Cutting is the Founder & CEO of Red-Carpet Learning Systems, and the author of two books on customer service including 501 Ways to Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your Customers. Click here to learn more about working with the Red Carpet Team. For more tips on how to engage your team to improve the customer experience, subscribe to our YouTube channel.
*Watch for Kelly Swanson in the new Amazon Prime reality show, The Fashion Hero!