There’s a new take on the most ancient way to advertise. Are you capitalizing on this often-neglected way to spread the word about your business?

There’s a new take on the most ancient way to advertise. Are you capitalizing on this often-neglected way to spread the word about your business?

Agents spend millions of dollars each year marketing their services. They spend almost as much money attending seminars that teach them how to generate business from referrals, how to develop Web leads, and how to convert prospects into signed business. Working by referral relies on word-of-mouth marketing. Today, a new sector in the high-tech industry is devoting its efforts to publicizing services and products through “word of mouth.”

What is word-of-mouth marketing? According to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association Web site, “Word-of-mouth marketing is the act of giving people a reason to talk about your products and services, and making it easier for that conversation to take place. It is the art and science of building active, mutually beneficial consumer-to-consumer and consumer-to-marketer communications.”

Everyone recognizes the power of the testimonial. When someone is a raving fan, their comments about your services are infinitely more effective than having other types of marketing. The real issue is how to create raving fans. Clearly, giving your clients a stellar customer-service experience is at the heart of this technique. What else is required?

First, you must be able to attract people to use your products and services. To do this, discover what makes you different from the competition and evaluate how well your service fits the client’s needs. Unlike traditional marketing that relies on print, television, radio or Web advertising, word-of-mouth marketing usually takes place on an individual-to-individual basis, often face-to-face. At the core of word-of-mouth marketing is one simple fact: “I really like this product or service so well that I want to tell others about it.” Thus, your first goal is to have people who use your services so excited about their experience with you that they will tell others about your services.

Next, actively solicit feedback from people you work with to uncover what worked and what did not work for them. While this may be a painful process, understanding how to better serve those you work with will allow you to better serve future customers. When most people face a major decision such as buying a house, they usually seek input from those they respect. Your goal is to be the person they are talking about. Furthermore, giving them a way to discuss your services can greatly enhance your results.

According to WOMMA, you can build your word-of-mouth marketing campaign in one of two ways – organic vs. amplified. “Organic word-of-mouth occurs naturally when people become advocates because they are happy with a product and have a natural desire to share their support and enthusiasm.” Organic techniques include customer satisfaction surveys, streamlining the transaction process (i.e. going paperless or digital), listening and responding to consumer feedback, and building customer loyalty by being of service.

“Amplified word-of-mouth occurs when marketers launch campaigns designed to encourage or accelerate word-of-mouth in existing or new communities.” Examples from the real estate industry include creating a community Web site where neighbors can share information about local events, creating a real estate blog niche for investors or seniors, and using a client appreciation event to create a buzz about your services.

Strategies to avoid include: spam; any type of e-mail communication that does not have an “opt out” or “unsubscribe” feature; making negative comments about competitors; and not telling the truth, even when there may be unhappy consequences.

All types of marketing work better when you have a strong word-of-mouth component. Positive word-of-mouth always results from strong connection with the consumer who has had a stellar customer experience. Effective word-of-mouth marketing is based upon consistently raising the quality of the consumer’s customer experience. Rave reviews are great; however, the best feedback often comes from people who did not have a stellar experience. Be diligent about uncovering what does not work and taking immediate steps to correct the situation as soon as possible.

Another key point to remember about word-of-mouth is that it must be legitimate. If you make up testimonials or misquote someone who gave you a testimonial, you are only harming yourself. Remember, telling the truth is the only option when it comes to anything that has to do with your real estate career.

Interested in knowing more about word-of-mouth marketing? If so, see next week’s column, “Eleven Ways to Spread the Word.”

Bernice Ross, co-owner of Realestatecoach.com, has written a new book, “Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters,” available online. She can be reached at bernice@realestatecoach.com.

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