Welcome to Beginning Word-of-Mouth, Part 4!

We’re talking WOM at MCE, and you’ve got to have it! It began with A Line Out the Door. The result of great, viral word-of-mouth is being so busy you stand out, like a local restaurant I know of. That’s what we’re all looking for—so can you shape it, or is it a roll of the dice?

Then we peeked into the story of Craigslist—because Craig Newmark’s secret is all in the story (and in trusting his Propheteers to do what they do best).

Last time, we looked at Why you? You know the best talkers in the world don’t want to talk about a product or service with no talk-ability, so we took word-of-mouth apart to find what makes someone talk about you.

This time:

How to make talking about you easy, 3 Ways


1. “New” isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be.

If your product or service is really new, as in “I don’t have anything to compare it to,” it’s going to be harder to talk up. Because? Because I don’t have anything to compare it to! “Game-changing” is good; “totally new game” is bad. Find a way to relate what you do to something folks are familiar with, then highlight your unbearably awesome differences.

When a new shop comes along, I want to be able to say, “They’ve got stuff that belongs at Tiffany’s—but they treat you like you’re at Disneyworld.” (Okay, I don’t want to be able to say that. But you got an image in your head, right?)

When a new online service comes along, we want to be able to say, “It’s like MySpace but without all the ugly, and it’s way less spammy than emailing people all the time.” (Facebook’s not so new anymore, but this is about how it was described to me when it was new…)

Don’t tell your customers and your brand-new staff that you’re like nothing they’ve ever seen before—even if you are. Make it easier for your talkers. Find a way to make what you do relate to what they do or wish they could do, and your best talkers will talk a lot more.


2. Everybody pats the head of the dog with a wagging tail.

Your first, best talkers will eat, sleep, and breathe your Vision. They smile branded smiles and wag their branded tails and folks gets swept up in their joy. People want to try out a business than can so obviously deliver delight. And among the first and the best—you should be firstest and bestest.

It may sound obvious, but you need to be your number 1 fan and Propheteer. Spread the gospel of your company wherever you are. Be the enthusiastic cheerleader you’re hoping to find, when you’re hard at work but more importantly, when you’re away from your desk. Talk yourself up—people need what you’ve got, so don’t hide it! Too many small business owners forget (or fear!) this simple rule.

Who’s next? Who should be most caught up in your Vision, after you? Your staff. The people you hire are not just creating Customer Experiences that will last, they’re thinking about work… and yes, talking about work… when they’re not at work. Treat your staff like gold—pay them well, make work fun, thank them loudly and often, and let them participate in your Vision—and you will have the best real-world referral engine in the world chugging ahead (or should that be wagging their tails?) long after hours.


3. If you really want a line out the door, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Show what’s in it for your talkers. And reward it.

“Word-of-mouth is so hard to measure!” I hear this all the time.

But my hairdresser has no trouble—she hands me a discount card to give to friends who might be looking for someone new, and because I love being a hero to my friends (remember Part 3?), I can’t resist offering the discount when I hear about hair woes. If cards come back, she knows it’s working. And she remembers to thank me next time I’m in.

An accountant I know has been kicking other accountant’s butts for a long time by simply asking, “Do you know anyone who could use my help?” Poising his pen in case a name pops up right away. Sending a card in a week or two reminding customers that he enjoys always working with them, and that’s why he’d love to work with people they recommend. Delivering a gift card for clients (and staffers!) after they’ve sent the company new business.

An ice-cream shop nearby has a loyalty punch-card to make my workouts last longer encourage me to return. When I’m on my way out, happy as a well-fed clam, they’ll let me know that next week is double points for new customers, so if I had a good time would I please cause someone else such exquisite torture?

Word-of mouth referral growth is only hard to measure if you:

Don’t ask for it (and so can’t track what caused it)—even a friendly request may put you miles ahead of your competition; throw in insider-only new-customer discounts or other promotions to up the ante

Don’t make it easy and obvious Why. Will I be a hero, help a friend, or help myself by making a referral for you?

Don’t ask, “How did you hear about us?” You can’t measure what you aren’t tracking. Not only will you find out which word-of-mouth techniques are working, you may even find out about ways the word is spreading without your help—and with a little knowledge, you may be able to improve these hidden sources

Don’t show your thanks. When employees and customers know you’ll show your genuine appreciation for them, you bet they’ll find more opportunities to spread the word.


Make talking you up easy and understandable. Be your own biggest fan—during off-hours as well as when it’s expected. Ask for it, track it, reward it. Let people know that helping your company, helps them, too. As it should—your word-of-mouth Propheteers are partners in growing your business!

What do you do, to make talking ‘bout your company easy?

What’s your biggest challenge on this list?


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson


If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out —

—the Brand Propheteer Interview Series here at Maximum Customer Experience, a great three-part piece digging into the heart of local small businesses (just like yours?) who are trying to make word-of-mouth referrals work harder for them, and

—the Experience Design 201 series, especially Experience Design 201, Part 2, where we talk about the customer who most enjoys talking about you.

—and please do talk it up! Use the “Share This” button right below this post to tell other folks that this post is your secret source for the best practical word-of-mouth tips. Thanks!