(Pulse Check #34) How word of mouth actually works…

Word of mouth is the gold standard for sales.  People who were recommended by a friend are pretty much ready to hand over money when they walk through the doors.

But the other problem with word of mouth is that it can be incredibly inconsistent and unreliable…

You ask everyone who comes in to tell their friends.  You offer discounts or special promotions for referring people.  Anything that might get someone to start talking about you…

But that's not how word of mouth works.  The truth is only a tiny number of people are going to talk about your business to their friends.  Even fewer are going to do it with enough conviction to get their friends to come in.

But that's ok.

Most people believe word of mouth happens because I tell you, and then you tell your friend, and then your friend tells someone, and so on like a giant game of telephone.

What happens, in reality, is that one or two influential people tell 10 or 50 of their friends, and that's what sets off a word-of-mouth campaign.

According to Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point (worth the read/listen), there are two types of people who are responsible for getting things started.

Connectors and Mavens.

Connectors are the socialites of the world.  They're the person that seemingly knows everyone in town.  They're the kind of person who always knows someone that can help in any situation.  More importantly, the people they know answer when a Connector calls.

We all know a Connector. They're the kind of people you can't help but like.  They're the person who goes out of their way to talk to you.

Mavens, on the other hand, aren't necessarily as social. Instead, they're focused on finding great buys, whether that's the best deal at the store or knowing which hotel is going to blow you away.

What sets Mavens apart is their genuine passion for helping others.  If they hear you're taking a trip to a place they've been, they'll tell you all the good places to eat and the must-see attractions.  And by the end of if you'll want to do all of those things.

Now, if you tell enough people about your referral program or the free whatever, you'll probably stumble on a few Connectors and Mavens.  But most of your efforts will be wasted.

Instead, have your staff be on the lookout for the people who fit the description of a Connector or Maven and let you know.  Give those people some special attention as the owner.

Or, if you're serious about growing your clinic, then find those people in your town and make a connection with them.  Maybe they aren't a good fit for the services you provide, but they're likely good people to know in the community, and they probably have someone close to them who would be a good fit.

As long as you approach these relationships from a place of genuinely wanting to help and form a connection, everything should be fine.  Don't be the person who is only looking out for their interests.

One unique part about being a clinic owner is you get to meet people from very different circles in your community and have a chance to become a Connector yourself.  If you put in the effort.

Becoming a Connector yourself is one of the best long-term marketing strategies you can have for your business.  Being an active member of your community will have a higher ROI than anything else you do.

After all, people do business with people.

Jason Duprat, MBA, MSA, CRNA