Why word-of-mouth matters more than ever…

We need a new refrigerator in our house, and after spending a ton of time this week trying to determine which fridge to purchase by visiting appliance stores, doing research on manufacturer’s web sites, and reading online product reviews from people I don’t know and have no reason to trust, I decided to send an email to my neighborhood distribution list and ask who recently bought a refrigerator and would recommend it.

By doing this I’ll cut out the incentive that both sales people and product web sites have to convince me to buy, as well as the anonymity and low credibility of online reviews. I’ll be able to get answers from people I know and people who have no incentive to trick or pressure me. The email will go to about 100 people, and I suspect I’ll get 4-5 responses. I’ll ask those people a few questions about features that are important to my family, and I’ll make a decision. I’ll avoid two problems I ran into before I decided to send the email…

I had my guard up.
Don’t you kind of have your guard up more now than ever? Don’t you feel like you are being sold to everywhere you turn? High pressure sales people. Emails. Phone calls. Newspaper/magazine ads. TV commercials. Product placements in movies. Online banner ads. It just never stops, and it’s easier than ever before in history to get in your face or in front of your eyeballs. You get burned a few times by falling for the hype, or the marketing, or the smoke and mirrors, and you get a little jaded. Your guard goes up. You don’t know who to trust.

Too many choices, too much information.
There seems to be an endless supply of choices of anything you buy. Want a refrigerator at this price point? No problem, here are 25 to choose from! Need a place to listen to free music online? Cool, here’s 15 sites to check out! Need some new running shoes? Awesome, here’s 300 of them! And while it’s great to have the Internet at your fingertips, with so much information, it’s nearly impossible to do the research yourself, especially if you need objective opinions from people you trust.

So for these reasons, people are turning back to good ole’ fashioned word-of-mouth to let down their guards, sift through the noise, and find the right product or service for them. And that’s why in my case, the company that makes a great refrigerator that works and lives up to the promise of the brand will win. Not the companies who tried to trick me, or pressure me, or offer me huge discounts to get me to buy…now!

It just seems so simple: Focus on making a great product, and take great care of your customers. Just be really good at those two things, and you’ll love the value of word-of-mouth, which is becoming more and more powerful every day…