Word-of-mouth marketing is the best referral source for any business. This has been true for centuries and remains true today.
However, word-of-mouth (WOM) referrals have changed. Like everything, it’s gone digital. This shift is why it is so important for established businesses to digitize. The strong referral that businesses would normally generate will dry up if they are not modernized.
The digital landscape has changed referrals in 2 ways:
1. Clients Verify the WOM Referral
People no longer take a referral at face value and memorize your phone number on the spot when someone recommends your service at a lunch meeting. Instead, someone will Google you.
Once you are Googled, it’s important that your brand reflects the referral. If you are the trendiest party planner, your site must capture that. If you are the best divorce lawyer, your brand must signal that. If you are the strongest, best boxing coach…you get the concept. Your past clients or evangelists are still spreading your word; what’s changed is that people do the research before you get the privilege of their email or call.
2. Your Digital Content Acts as the Referral Medium
Content today acts similarly to the one or two referral sources that transformed your business in your early days. Once your content is online, it advertises for you as you work, sleep, vacation, etc. This happens in two ways. First, your followers like, comment and share your content for you, which exposes your name and brand to their network.
If you post a piece of content that your followers and clients love, and they share it on their pages, they are now referring you to their network as a trusted source for information and services for hire.
If you have a handful of followers that share your videos and posts online, your potential reach to new clients would significantly grow. The second way social media acts as a referral network is through its algorithm. As your content lives online, it is fed and pushed to your followers and potential new followers. You can increase this reach with a paid boost or let the platform organically push out your content to potential followers who do not follow you based on the algorithm assessment of their interests.
Platforms like Youtube, Tiktok, and Instagram do this organically on their explore page. If a piece of content does well, you can go viral.
For each user that views or engages with your content, you are potentially reaching hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions of people through the network effect. Every person that watches your video, reads your blog, or follows your account, could share or refer you to their network. This cycle can continue to expose your business in impactful ways without you realizing it. Simply put, the digital marketplace is not that different from the real-world marketplace, where you are not sure who is referring to your business or praising your services when you are not in the room.
Because the internet is always moving forward, there is no end to creating content, which is why content creation has to become a new necessary evil that you need to make time for.
Take it from someone who was hesitant to create video content but decided to branch out regardless. One year into posting videos online, one of my videos went viral and currently stands at 1 million views. This one video resulted in over 40 consults to date. It has become my greatest referral source, and it’s working online without me even thinking about it.
This is where the importance of a strong brand and engaging digital content enters the conversation.
We now live in a digital age, where we verify all information on the internet. Investing in Google reviews, a modern website, and engaging content is vital because it’s objectively how people buy. If Joe says you are an incredible lawyer, and Michael checks Google, and you have negative reviews and an outdated website, he’s not going to be convinced that you are the best person for the job. These online markers are all that the client has to determine whether or not you are the best person for the job. It’s imperative you take your branding seriously.
Word-of-mouth marketing is the gold standard, regardless of where technology is today. Technology has amplified its significance and pivoted the process. The time has passed to resist digitization.
Digital marketing is the modern referral source, and if word-of-mouth referrals transform your business at any stage, it’s time to get ahead of the current way these referrals take shape.
Send me a DM if you want to chat more about this concept–thank you for taking the time to read this article! @thirdeyeinsights