Are ‘word of mouth’ referrals dying in modern society?

Word of Mouth

Businesses used to obtain new clients from word of mouth referrals, so what happened?

Word of mouth has fuelled businesses for hundreds of years. Long before the internet was a glint in the eye of its creators, the good old fashioned chat was the way businesses either thrived or faltered in society. It can come from anybody; a friend, family member, work colleague, your hairdresser and even a complete stranger. If it’s from someone you value, you’re more likely to check out their endorsement from viewing websites, social media and more way before making contact with a business.

Now with the modern technology available to the masses, a new age of investors is searching for clients and advisers online without a referral being passed on. A simple Google search can render millions of results in seconds, so the whole purpose of word of mouth is slowly becoming mute in a world of technology. Advanced searches can be carried out for niche markets, so you can find anyone for a specific service online.

How can a business capitalise on the online experience and increase their chances of landing clients?

The first step to such things is to realise that the process isn’t going to change immediately. For example, it won’t deliver results overnight. Patience is key in the online world, as long as it’s met by persistence. Building an online presence can be a lengthy process, but it pays off in the long run, giving businesses new ventures all of the time.

Your “Digital Assets” 

All digital assets cover all forms of online marketing. Social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn), blog posts and YouTube videos are all fine examples of digital assets. These should connect with one another and join together at some point, creating broader ways to catch prospective clients throughout the world wide web, making a small “spiders web” of your own, allowing to reach people those who it would’ve been previously impossible to find.

Here's an example of digital assets
Here’s an example of digital assets

An online presence consists of a number of items, known more commonly as digital assets. These can be divided into three categories: those you earn, buy and own. Purchased assets aren’t as valued as those that are either earned or owned. These are detailed below:

• Owned assets are things that you control, including the content and the time of which it’s delivered. The goal of this category isn’t just to give this content to prospective client, but to convert them into “earned” clients, therefore reaching a much wider audience. Clever, right?

• Earned assets can come from contributing to articles, where as your words and ideas are used and accredited to yourself from third parties. Press releases that are distributed from various websites are seen to have more credible material than their fellow counterparts.

• Digital assets that are bought are things like Google Adwords, so these are forms of online advertising and directory listings. Listings can be free to member, but this depends on the website you’re going with. Membership is usually paid, but again this can depend on who you go with.

The Evolution of SEO

SEO, shortened for Search Engine Optimisation, is a tool used to alter the listings in search engines like Google. Keywords are used on web pages and these all add up to the resulting placement that a listing sits at. The process previously consisted of compiling numerous amounts of keywords into a web page, overloading itself with numerous tags that didn’t require frequent monitoring. In the current SEO climate, consultants are in a race against time with the search engine experts to please the algorithm that they create. The algorithms change regularly and when they do listings can find themselves dropping or rising dramatically. It’s down to SEO experts to change this, rectify the reasons why they’ve dropped and bring the listings up the rankings once more.

Online experts have taken over the word of mouth classic referral
Online experts have taken over the word of mouth classic referral

There’s more than just SEO in the war against discoverability. The following tips can help your online presence grow:

• Avoid used the same old “canned” contact that other websites will produce. Doing so can be harmful to your site, as search engines will go with an authority that has posted this content and pretty much blank out the rest. Don’t rely on this content to get you recognised.

• A responsive website recognised what device a searcher is using. With the recent increase of tablets and mobile phones being used for searches, a responsive website will resize itself to fit the devices display. People don’t like websites which require zooming, so this can cause an increase in back outs from the homepage.

• If you regularly monitor your search rankings, you can pick up drops in your rankings much earlier than normal. This allows time to implement a strategy to pick up your rankings much quicker.

Given you can get people to give up their contact information, you’re opening a whole new world of opportunity for your company. This allows you to give the users a much more customised experience when communicating with them as you’ll already know their name, email address etc. Content that requires personal information for subscription, like newsletters and whitepapers, not only captures information but it also builds a level of trust with the user, who are giving you their information for more of your content and want to hear from an advisor like yourself.

Need further guidance on all things online? Web design, social media, SEO and more from Strategy Plus.

Are 'word of mouth' referrals dying in modern society? 1
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