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Word-of-mouth advertising

October 11, 2010
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Marketing and advertising are always a major component of a successful detail business’ budget. Television, radio and all types of print media are core advertising mediums used by detailers across the country.

However, savvy marketers are constantly looking for new media to attract consumers to their businesses.

Many consumers do not respond well to traditional automotive advertising, of any kind.

As a result, many marketing experts today are focusing on word-of-mouth (WOM) advertising, a medium that is preferred by many, especially women who purchase over 58 percent of auto services in this country.

Even though this method has been around since Adam and Eve, only recently has it been recognized by marketers as a true advertising medium.

WOM and your business
So, how does word-of-mouth advertising affect your business? How much does it cost? Can you even buy it? Is it measurable and how do you do it?

All good questions and you should be asking them.

Ed Keller, author of “The lnfluentials,” is starting a company to measure the impact of daily, in-person conversations on people's purchasing decisions. He plans to measure how everyday chatter, such as a recommendation or a tip from a friend or relative, affects buying behavior.

“Measuring bloggers, chat-room denizens, message board scribes and other digital-based influencers is easy,” he writes. Determining the value of an everyday-life, face-to-face conversation is much harder.

Yet they are estimated to comprise some 80 percent of all word-of-mouth marketing.

Keller's service, TalkTrack, asks 100 people each day about conversations they have had about brands, media and purchasing decisions.

According to Roy Williams in “The Best Advertising Money Can Buy,” “The price of making a powerful statement is cheap compared to the cost of ads that don't work.” Williams urges companies to plan experiences that will trigger word-of-mouth advertising.

How to make WOM marketing work
You can achieve this in several ways. By always providing more than anticipated, consumers will spread the word for your business.

Offer special promotions designed to drive savvy motorists into your detail business and then present them with an educational or fun experience.

For example:

  • Sponsor a car care seminar and make your promotion a year-long program, not just a one-time happening;
  • Create a Motorist Advisory Board for your detail business comprised of influential car owners in your targeted market segment.

Whichever direction you go, make sure to allocate sufficient dollars, assign people to carry out the plan and devise a way to measure your return.

Good word-of-mouth advertising is a natural by-product of being visible and active in the community.

You and your employees should join and participate in key civic organizations and networking groups. Serve on the boards of nonprofit organizations.

In “The World’s Best-Known Marketing Secret,” Ivan Misner says, “Word-of-mouth is more about farming than it is about hunting. You are cultivating relationships with people who get to know you and trust you. People do business with people they have confidence in.”

According to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, word-of-mouth marketing is relatively new, but it is just as actionable and can be tracked and planned just as any other form of marketing. WOM involves generating buzz and is more authentic than data gathered from focus groups.

Planning successful WOM advertising
In his book, “5 Rules for Guerrilla Marketing”, Michael McLaughlin states that roughly 60 percent of marketing resources should be focused on cultivating existing relationships. This focus would result in more customers experiencing relationships with your business and your salespeople.

By forming relationships, rather than just providing transactions, customers will feel confident to refer their extensive network of friends and acquaintances to your business.

McLaughlin continues by allotting 30 percent of the remaining marketing budget to reach new prospects and the final 10 percent for building visibility in the business community.

Many of these efforts are outside the realm of traditional advertising vehicles and require rethinking marketing strategies to better fit today's consumers and technologies.

As you move into word-of-mouth advertising, you should:

  • Reassign some of your advertising dollars to new areas such as a Customer Advisory Board;
  • Join those professional and civic organizations which focus on your target market;
  • Hold events for car enthusiasts; and
  • Provide exceptional sales and service experiences to customers.

A structured word-of-mouth action plan is definitely something you should add to your existing marketing mix.

R.L. “Bud” Abraham is president of Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems, Portland, OR, and a 37-year member of the car-care industry. He can be contacted at