Eight Days A Week: A Few Words on "Word-of-Mouth" Advertising
Posted Aug 4, 2005

Word-of-mouth advertising is how I get all of my business.

I hear this claim made dozens of times every year as I consult with professional videographers. They tell me this expecting me to be impressed, and I would be . . . if they could only tell me more about those words and mouths. Who is saying what to whom, and why? Many business people toss around the phrase "word-of-mouth" because, in truth, they do not really know how they're getting their business.

But it doesn't have to be that way. By following six basic steps, you can gain a clear picture of where your business is coming from and start cultivating those sources to make your business grow.

First Step: Track your bookings. When we got into the videography business years ago, we discovered that photographers were our number-one referral source. However, the clients they referred to us had the lowest average sale. The clients we got through referrals from brides, by contrast, had the highest average sale. We actively seek referrals from many sources, but we know if a bride sends a prospective client there is a good chance she has already shown the new client our work and informed her of the investment. There is a high probability of a booking and an opportunity to add something to the new client's order. Consider keeping in touch with past clients by sending anniversary and holiday cards and email newsletters.

Step Two: Develop relationships. Friends refer friends. Think about the professional services you like and use. You have probably helped build their businesses by all of the friends you have sent their way. You have the most effective promotion power available when one friend tells another. As much as 80% of all sales depend on the advice of someone the customer knows. A great way to develop these relationships is by visiting professional colleagues. Make appointments to visit vendors who cater to the clients you wish to have as your own. Visit photographers, country clubs and hotels, florists, entertainers, wedding planners, etc.

Step Three: Network, network, network. Get involved with professional associations related to event videography. We are active with the Association of Bridal Consultants, the National Association of Catering Executives, and the local chamber of commerce. Check out photography and DJ groups too. Let these professionals know about your capabilities and accomplishments. People will not help spread the word if they have not heard it themselves. Volunteer to speak at their meetings or write articles for their newsletters and even produce their annual video. I got involved with photographers groups to learn more about marketing to brides and ended up becoming president of Professional Photographers of California. It was a great education and helped me make a lot of great friends and some pretty good bookings.

Step Four: Target your efforts. There are nearly 50,000 weddings per week in the United States with budgets from under $100 to over $1 million. Have you targeted your segment of the market? We will all work for anybody that will pay our fee, but which group is most likely to hire you? You need to target-market your networking efforts. Pick a segment and then associate with those already selling to your customers.

Step Five: Help past clients spread the word. You now have or will soon have many clients who are happy with your work and would be just as happy to tell their friends about you . . . if they could only remember your name and where to find you. Have a domain name that is easy to remember, and pass out lots of cards. I never hand somebody a single card; I always hand him or her several. If the recipient says, "I only need one," I will suggest that they might know someone who could also use my services. I order business cards 5,000 at a time. We have the domain name RiversideVideo.com in large letters on our three trucks and on signs downtown and a phone number that has the word "video" in it. I want to make it easy for people to tell people about us.

Step Six: Make your clients happy. Sure, you already produce a great product and have clients that love your work, but it is the unexpected that seems to motivate people to talk about your business. Perhaps you will surprise them or exceed their expectations by delivering more DVDs than they expected or by creating an extra tribute to a deceased relative mentioned during the wedding. By providing a great product and then surprising your clients with extras, you are bound to get them talking. A happy client will meet hundreds of people you never would and will be happy to spread the word if she believes she is doing them a favor by giving them your name.

Word-of-mouth advertising is a great tool, but it will not just happen by itself. Make the efforts to let the professional community know you exist and make it easy for them to get the word out, and then you'll really have people talking.