A new study by Constant Contact found that the primary source of new business for more than 80% of small business owners is referrals. Learning how to engage customers and encourage them to talk about you, your products and services, it seems, is critical to your small business’ success and overall growth long-term.
Of course there are a number of key factors that also influence whether or not a business, product or idea has an impact—think superior quality, attractive pricing and basic awareness. However, nothing else works quite as well as word-of-mouth, according to University of Pennsylvania Assistant Professor of Marketing and author Jonah Berger.
In fact, in his new book titled Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Berger asserts it is actually much more effective than traditional media approaches for two key reasons: One, word-of-mouth is persuasive in that in comes from a trusted source, oftentimes friends or family members. And two, it’s more targeted by its very nature, reaching an already receptive audience.
So, what’s the secret? How can small businesses increase the likelihood that word about what they’re offering will spread?
According to Berger, there is a science to it all—the so-called “psychology of sharing”—that when harnessed and leveraged correctly can foster virtually any small business’ success in new and creative ways. And perhaps most surprisingly, it’s not just about jumping in on the newest technology and using social media.
Far from it in fact.
According to research cited in the book, only 7% of word-of-mouth happens online. That’s right, just 7%. The rest is happening the old-fashioned way—person-to-person, one critical and oftentimes simple exchange at a time.
“Virality isn’t born,” Berger writes, “it’s made.” The question is, “How can we design products, ideas and behaviors so that people will talk about them?”
According to Berger, it’s all about taking the right STEPPS:
Social Currency—Crafting messages that help consumers to make the desired impression on others.
Triggers—Ensuring products and ideas are top-of-mind through environmental influences.
Emotion—Emphasizing feelings over function to achieve the desired result.
Public—Making things more observable to encourage imitation.
Practical Value—Highlighting the incredible benefits of what is being offered.
Stories—Wrapping an idea or concept into a broader and more meaningful narrative.
Berger’s book guides the reader through these six STEPS in such an engaging way that its 210 pages goes by in a flash, leaving small business owners across all industries—in fact, companies of all sizes and kinds—with a newly piqued desire to be more creative with innovative business ideas than ever before. Its anecdotes about small business ingenuity alone make for a worthwhile and inspiring read, one that will surely catch on and become contagious in its own right.
Contagious can be found at your local library, or you can pick up a copy today by visiting your local bookstore or clicking here on either of these online retailers now: Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble.com. And click here on Constant Contact to view the results of the study cited in this article.
Let us know what you think! Did you find Contagious helpful? Why or why not? What other word-of-mouth strategies have you used to market your small business that you have found are successful? We’d love to hear from you…