Avoid Unpleasant Word-of-Mouth Marketing Surprises: Know What Your Customers are Saying First

Not everybody is going to love you all the time. You will make mistakes, customers will misunderstand your product, and expectations won’t always be met. This unavoidable fact of life can pose a problem when it comes to word-of-mouth marketing. It is inevitable that your WOMM initiatives will occasionally generate negative reviews or comments.

That’s why you need to be prepared and understand what your customers are feeling and thinking before you dedicate time and energy to your WOMM strategy. Work to address common issues or complaints beforeyou harness the power of word-of-mouth marketing and you will increase the number of positive stories and shares.

Where Do You Currently Stand with Customers?

An effective WOMM strategy only works if people generally like what you have to offer. If you have a lot of loose ends and unaddressed complaints, a WOMM initiative could backfire on you.

First, assess your overall position in the marketplace:

  • Is your brand trusted?
  • Are you a credible source of expertise?
  • Do people know about your corporate responsibility beliefs and initiatives?
  • Generally, are customers satisfied with your product/service?
  • Look at the broad brushstrokes of your business and see where you stand.


Dig a Little Deeper

Start to go a bit deeper and evaluate any shortcomings you have identified. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do people frequently complain about?
  • Where do you fall short compared to the competition?
  • What are the same 5 questions you always get on social media, via email, or during live events?
  • At what stage of the sales process do you lose prospects?
  • What is your customer retention rate?

When you have identified common complaints and frequently asked questions, work to resolve them.

Addressing complaints is a straightforward process. Fix the issue or explain to customers why something is the way it is. For example, if people frequently complain about your excessive, ‘wasteful’ packaging, let them know that the product is delicate, and that you use environmentally-friendly packaging materials to ensure it arrives in one piece.

Questions can be a bit trickier. They may seem innocent enough, but read between the lines: the same questions over and over could indicate that there is something wrong with your system and people are frustrated.

For example, if people are always asking when your office closes, it’s not simply about the hours. They may be asking because they feel like they can never seem to reach you.

Look at the questions people ask you and identify what they may be trying to tell you.

Do Your Research

There are many ways to gather valuable information about your customers and find out what they think about you.

  • Sign up for a Google Alert about your business. Every time someone mentions your company by name, you’ll be notified.
  • If applicable, read reviews or testimonials about your business and note what people praise you for, and what leaves them cold.
  • Review your social media comments. Are there any outright negative comments? Are there lukewarm comments that could hint at dissatisfaction? Did any posts cause you to lose followers? What was the topic?
  • Conduct interviews or focus groups about your business.
  • Send out a survey to your email list.

Take this information and get ahead of any negative comments or reviews. Work to resolve any problems you have unearthed and fix them. Let customers know when you’ve listened to their feedback and made a change. Announce any improvements on your social media and respond to people directly.

It’s impossible to 100% control word of mouth marketing, but you can be proactive and work to reduce any negative comments. Research what customers are saying, resolve any issues, and let them know you’ve made a change or an improvement. You will start to see an increase in positive word-of-mouth promotion, higher retention rates, and more repeat customers.

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