I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the power of word of mouth as a marketing tool. For one thing the majority of my work comes from word of mouth. Also, part of what I help my clients with is defining and developing campaigns to build relationships with existing and potential customers, enhance their brand and drive more sales and these campaigns always include a word of mouth component.
But what I’ve also been thinking about is the darker side of word of mouth. We’ve all heard the adage that a happy customer tells 3 or four friends and an unhappy one tells everybody. The reason I’ve been thinking about this is that I’m really upset with my hosting company – MediaTemple. I transferred a domain to my account for one of my customers and since doing so I’ve had major issues including 2 of my other domains pointing to this new domain. It’s been a mess. I’ve spent hours trying to get MediaTemple to help solve the problem. Most of what I’ve gotten is “the brush off” and treatment that has left me feeling like a nuisance instead of an asset. So of course I’ve been thinking about launching a negative word of mouth campaign against MediaTemple in an effort to shame them into providing better service – not to me as I’ve made the decision to take my business elsewhere but to the rest of their customers.
Part of what makes me so mad is that I’ve brought MediaTemple(MT) quite a bit of business over the years. I’m one of those people who tell everyone about products and services I like as much and as often as I tell about ones I don’t. So I sort of think of myself as an unpaid marketer for MT. And now in my time of need they’re treating me like crap. But oh well. I’ve decided that the karmic blowback isn’t worth the effort. That and, I just don’t want or need the negativity.
But this is, in a way, a lesson for companies doing business in this modern social media age – treat your customers well, maybe even the way you’d like to be treated, because it only takes one sufficiently motivated person with the time and increasingly easy to acquire skills to spread a negative word like wild fire. Companies can no longer afford to offer sub-standard service and expect it to pass muster for long. In the old days an unhappy customer would be able to tell 25 to 100 people so a company’s exposure was small. Today in the age of Twitter, Facebook, Plurk, epinions, digg, golo, Google groups, etc., etc. a single person can reach tens of thousands of people almost instantly and the ripple from retweets and the like can be exponential.