Yesterday, Search Engine Land released the results of the third and final round of BrightLocal's Local Consumer Review Survey. Conducted between January 15th and March 1st of this year, this survey looked at the current state of local consumer purchasing behavior, and compared it against results from 2010. We referenced some of the data from previous installments of the survey in an earlier post on this blog about how to accumulate more online reviews for your local business, but the data from this installment of the survey focuses on consumer recommendation behavior for local businesses.
In other words, how can you turn your customers into word-of-mouth marketers for your local business? It's an important method of customer acquisition for businesses to master because those customers are, to put it plainly, wicked cheap; no marketing costs get expended to bring them in, and any sales efforts are typically minimal when accompanied by the rousing recommendation of your business from the customers' friends. So let's check out the most recent insight BrightLocal can give us about how consumers recommend local businesses so you can determine the best way to increase word-of-mouth business.
Do People Ever Recommend Your Type of Business?
The likelihood that your local business receives customer recommendations does depend a bit on the type of business you're running. According to the survey results, there are simply some types of businesses that customers are more likely to recommend. Here's the breakdown:
While I was surprised some of these business types weren't recommended more often -- particularly tradesmen, builders/roofers, accountants, and some of the other service-based industries -- Search Engine Land brings up a good point about these findings: many of these services aren't used that frequently. Think about how often you go to a restaurant (and how often that comes up in conversation) compared to how often you call a roofer (and again, how often you're chatting about that with your friends, family, and colleagues?). You're much more likely to recommend a place for dinner on a regular basis than a good accountant -- who may just come up once a year during tax season.
If your local business addresses something of dire importance, or something that people just love to chat about and use all the time, you're more likely to see recommendations come through from current customers than businesses that are very niche, or don't cater to a demographic that sees them on a frequent basis. That doesn't mean you're totally out of luck -- you'll just have to work a little harder at your word-of-mouth marketing. Luckily, we've written a blog post all about creating a powerful word-of-mouth marketing strategy to help you out!
How Consumers Get the Word Out About Your Business
If you're providing an awesome product or service (of course you are!), then you can be sure consumers are talking about you. The question is -- where are they having that conversation? Apparently, this is where:
The good thing about knowing where consumers are talking about you is you can be there to foster the discussion. The bad thing (well, positive recommendations are never "bad," but go with me) is that it appears consumers are largely recommending local businesses verbally. So unless you have some really enviable superpowers, you can't really scalably interject yourself into those conversations to do some closing and upselling.
When we look at the comparison from 2010 to 2012, however, it is clear that there is an uptick in the use of social media and search engines for consumers to voice their recommendations -- particularly on Twitter and Google. Although now that Google Places has been replaced by Google+ Local, it will be interesting to see whether those online discussions take to another online channel. Either way, we can take away two action items from this data. First, sometimes your customers will talk about you "behind your back," so always provide top-notch products and services to increase the likelihood they rave about you to others. Second, they will also talk about you all over the internet, so establish your presence on local review sites and social networks so you can be a part of those conversations.
What Tickles Consumers' Fancies
Speaking of providing those top-notch products and services ... what exactly do consumers consider top-notch? Or at least, what is top-notch enough to get people recommending your business?
Not surprisingly, what makes consumers want to recommend a business hasn't changed much over the past couple of years -- that's because what makes up good, quality products and services doesn't really change much. It's worth calling out, however, that while discounts and cheap prices are one reason consumers recommend your business (more on that next), it really comes down to how you make them feel. If you're friendly and reliable, you're instilling a sense of trust in your customers -- that sense of trust is what makes them feel confident that if they recommend you, that experience will be replicated.
How Important Are Coupons, Really?
Uh, kind of important. Yes, you must instill a sense of trust in your customers so they know their friends, family, and colleagues will have a similarly great experience; but these are trying times. People like to save some moolah!
Not only has the number of people who would recommend a local business based on great value, offers, and discounts increased dramatically in the past two years -- from 52% in 2010 to 66% this year -- but also, the number of people who wouldn't recommend a business for these reasons has decreased by 7%! And while I could just tell you that your marketing takeaway from this data is to whip up some Facebook coupons, what's most interesting to me is the inclusion of the word "value" in this research. Your products and services don't have to be cheap or discounted to get consumers talking about it -- the price they pay, whether high or low, has to be equivalent to what they are receiving. It's when customers get an amazing value for the price they paid, no matter how high, that they'll begin telling everyone they know about it.
Tell a Friend! I'll Make it Worth Your While ;-)
You may have caught a data point above that said only16% of consumers will recommend your business just because you explicitly asked them to. Pretty low, but still, not shabby for very little effort. Well what if you not only ask them to, but also incentivize them to recommend your business? Here's what they'll do:
The results run the gamut. Although it's less than a couple of years ago, some people will recommend your business if there's some sort of personal incentive, while others are adamant about not doing it. Still others are on the fence, presumably only doing it if the offer is right. It makes sense -- some businesses pull off the incentivized recommendation really well, while others struggle.
I was at Starbucks yesterday, in fact, and saw a promotion that asked me to recommend Starbucks, and in return, they would make a charitable donation. In that scenario, I anticipate a lot of those who answered "Maybe" could be swayed into the "Yes" column -- because you feel good about inciting a charitable donation, and Starbucks feels good about getting more business. It's when the incentive is simply self-serving ("Recommend us to a friend and get $1 off your next purchase of $1,000 or more ... when redeemed between the hours of 10:15 PM and 10:30 PM ... only on Tuesdays!") or just plain not enticing ("Share this email to be entered into a raffle to win a $5 coupon!") that your offer is unlikely to get consumers gabbing about your business.
Are these findings consistent with how your local business gets recommendations?