Beyond Word of Mouth
Supplementing an effective marketing tool with other strategies
By Terry Fine
Word of mouth marketing is one of the most effective ways to build new business. But it is not the only way and it certainly does not work on its own.
What Is Word of Mouth Marketing?
Word of mouth marketing differs from traditional word of mouth "buzz" in one simple way: You have specifically created the opportunity for a customer to spread the word. Everything from providing quality service and asking a dentist to mention it to a friend to using a clinician testimonial on your next ad is word of mouth marketing.
One good thing about this strategy is it is trustworthy. When a clinician tells a colleague that your laboratory has the most reliable turnaround times or the most precise-fitting products, you have won a higher level of trust than you could earn on your own. However, one of the biggest problems with word of mouth marketing is that it relies on other people to spread your message. Your messengers may be trustworthy, but they may not be reliable. Further, using marketing channels that you control can help to relieve any negative word of mouth that may exist online.
How to Move Beyond It
Moving beyond word of mouth marketing means using research and data to find new audiences and spread your message. Survey current customers, peruse industry forums, and even watch for popular conference topics to generate fodder for a company blog, mailers, case stuffers, or newsletters that can reach a larger audience. Dig into the demographics and interests of dentists in your area or read about trends among new dentists to see if you can identify where and how they find business recommendations and position yourself within those channels. The more you know about your audience, the more you can meet them where they are, instead of relying on a surrogate messenger.
Marketing in Good Times and Bad
Marketing the business often takes a backseat to running the business when things get busy, but that is the best time to expand your efforts. When a slow period hits, you need to know what channels and tactics are most effective in bringing in new cases. Is it direct mail with a promotion? Is it an email blast touting your services? Now is not the time to take risks or be waiting around for work to come in the door. When you are busy, you can try new things without putting your business in danger. This could mean dipping a toe into the Facebook advertising world, running search ads on Google, or even organizing a webinar. When your laboratory is busy, it is also the time to fine-tune your old strategies and start planning your marketing initiatives for the next quarter or next year.
Other marketing tactics to consider:
• Email marketing
• Contributing to industry outlets
• Company blog
• Direct mail
• Industry sponsorship
Word of mouth marketing remains an extremely effective method. However, to maximize its impact, it should be just part of a larger strategy for marketing your business.
Terry Fine is President of AMG Creative in Fort Collins, Colorado.