I learned a lot from Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference. He spoke about how epidemics of demand happen and the types of people who can trigger it. Malcolm claims that there are 3 types of people who start epidemics: the Connectors, the Mavens, and the Salesmen. For this article, we’re going to focus on the Mavens–the people who start word-of-mouth epidemics.
Before we go further, let’s define what word-of-mouth is. According to businessdictionary.com, it is an oral or written recommendation by a satisfied customer to the prospective customers of a good or service and is considered to be the most effective form of promotion.
As I was reflecting on this, I started thinking about how this relates to every business in existence and how important it is for success. It is still the most effective advertising for any business because people’s purchasing power still hinges on trust, familiarity, and likeability. Those 3 factors are what word-of-mouth advertising is based upon. Think about it: Would you stick your neck out for a company you’re not familiar with? How about a company you don’t like or trust? Your reputation is on the line and I would be willing to bet that you’d want to protect your reputation.
I decided to have a little fun and asked my friends and family what they bought last and why. The answers ranged from Kylie Jenner’s lip kits to pokebowls to Allbirds. Some reasoned that they have been wanting to try or buy the aforementioned items, but it mostly boiled down to one thing: someone recommended these items to them and they went out to buy or try them.
When asked if the recommendations came from a friend or a singular person, many mentioned that some of the things they bought came from recommendations or reviews from social media. So, indirect word-of-mouth recommendations are just as powerful as direct word-of-mouth recommendations.
Many of us initially discover brands such as Uber and Airbnb from people we know who have experienced their services. A lot of us have sought opinions from our trusted group of family and friends before making a purchase because, well, we trust them. We trust that they would give an honest, authentic input more than any other form of advertisement because they gain nothing from recommending or not recommending a certain product.
Here are some statistics that shows just how important word-of-mouth marketing is for businesses. (Source: 2016 survey conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Ambassador)
- 82% of Americans say they seek recommendations from friends and family when making a purchase.
- 67% say they’re most likely to purchase a product after a friend or family member shared it via social media or e-mail.
- 88% of Americans say they would like some sort of incentive (money, product or service, loyalty points, early access, swag) for sharing a product via social media or e-mail).
- That number jumps to 94% among 18-to-34-year olds.
- 77% of Americans say they prefer money vs. 18% who wants to be rewarded with swag.
- Across a variety of industries, 92% of 18-to-34-year-olds say they seek recommendations from friends and family when considering a product purchase– 10% greater than the general population.
- 86% of Americans with a household income greater than $100,000 seek recommendations when considering a purchase.
Carmelo Soberano Visuals
I wanted to focus on one of my friend’s wedding photography business, Carmelo Soberano Visuals, because he knows and understands the importance of word-of-mouth marketing. We set up a time to speak so I could ask him how he makes word-of-mouth marketing work for a business in his industry–specifically in the business of photographing weddings.
Carmelo Soberano has been a photographer for 12 years. His work has garnered him multiple awards such as “Director of Best Documentary Film” and “Recipient of Emergent Artist Award” among others. He has been endorsed by clients such as Lauren Peterson, owner of a pre-school athletic program, and Rosie Batista, a food coach. They both gave high praises on his quality of work, efficiency, and having a great experience with the process. He has also worked with clients like Jason Silverman, a highly sought out marketing expert and coach.
I believe Carmelo’s strongest suit is customer satisfaction. Word-of-mouth, he says, is how he gets most of his clients. He provides exceptional value to each one, and, in turn, they recommend him to their friends and family. So, how does word-of-mouth benefit companies in the wedding photography business? Let’s hear it from a few of Carmelo’s clients:
“Your wedding day is planned down to the detail over the course of months and months… There are so many emotional and beautiful moments that happen throughout the day. Capturing these moments is the most important investment you will make and choosing the right photography team will probably be one of the hardest decisions you will make. My husband and I continue to look back on our wedding photos almost two years later and still smile ear-to-ear… We owe it all to Carmelo Soberano Visuals. Carmelo and his team were so wonderful and easy to work with!!
I provided him with a list of photos I wanted, but he also artistically included some photos and poses himself that helped me create a beautiful and unique wedding album. I often get asked if the wedding pictures hanging in my home and office are of my wedding day, that’s how beautiful they are…truly straight out of a magazine. Carmelo and his team were so accommodating and ensured we captured all the moments we wanted for the night before leaving. Carmelo and his team were so fantastic and I loved their work so much, I ended up recommending them to two of my friends who got married after me.” – Nadine B.
“We used Carmelo Soberano Visuals for our Winter Show for Kiddie Academy of Freehold. Carmelo put us at ease by videotaping our school at our show. He added phenomenal effects and had great communication with my staff prior to ensure everything went smoothly. I recommend using his services and hope he’ll record our Spring Show as well this upcoming June.” – Honey M., Owner/Director of Kiddie Academy
“Carmelo and his staff are very professional and they do a high-quality job. We felt like he really focused on our needs and what we wanted to capture at our wedding. Because of this, we hired him to do multiple jobs for us (family events) as well as recommending him to my sister and her husband for their wedding day. I couldn’t be happier to refer him to my sister! Oh, btw, she was really happy with his work as well!” – Grish I.
“Carmelo is a different web designer in the sense that he is down-to-earth and listens to his clients’ ideas and creates a visual display that, at times, the clients have trouble putting into words. For him, it isn’t about the money first. He analyzes to see how everything will come together so that he can improve your image. In fact, at times, Carmelo is also a marketing public relations specialist… Carmelo has always viewed himself as a business partner in looking out for the best interest of what you are looking to accomplish. He not only possesses an artistic talent in his visual creations, but also has a business acumen that is a rare combination for the field of work he is in.” – Ben L., Founder of www.autosalesrep.com
Personally, I think his clients have come to expect a top-notch level of customer service from an award-winning director and cinematographer. Becoming a part of his clients’ network through their recommendations is something Carmelo takes great pride in. In addition, a lot of his clients utilized his services for their wedding which is a HUGE responsibility to any photographer and Carmelo has always exceeded their greatest expectations. Thus, when they become his clients, he becomes a part of the family– sometimes even getting invited to family events!
To get some business insights from him, listed are some of the questions I asked and his answers to them:
1. Q: Why do you think clients chose you over other cinematographers/photographers?
A: It’s a little difficult to tell the difference between two cinematographers or photographers especially if their style, quality of work, and prices are similar. Putting extra effort into customer service might be the very thing that gives me a competitive advantage over other professionals. I always get repeat business from my clients because I treat them like my own family. I understand that poor customer service contributes to client loss which, in turn, negatively impacts my business. The truth is, it costs me a lot more money to get a new client than to retain the ones I already have, so I put great emphasis on their satisfaction. Just imagine how much advertising costs and how time consuming sales calls are. I lose both time and money. I’d much rather spend that time perfecting my craft and let the clients speak for me. So, I’m very big on maintaining excellent customer service because it really, really pays over time.
Clients stay loyal to my company because they have very good reason to and that is the kind of relationship I look to establish every time I gain clients. I am aware that there is enough competition in the market for the possibility of clients choosing others over me. So, I work hard and provide the best in customer service to build their trust and loyalty in my services.
2. Q: Why do you think word-of-mouth is important in your wedding photography business?
A: In my business, I have my cameras, lenses, website, but WOM [word-of-mouth] is the most powerful tool I have. Believe me, I get most of my business from referrals. It’s the best way I know how to market my services. As a plus, I already have the credibility and trust factor behind the recommendations. Clients that have had positive experiences with my services will most likely tell two or three others about their experiences. What they say to others can make or break my business. That’s why I always provide the best customer service. When you give the best you got, guess what happens? They’re going to talk about you. They will remember you. If they hear someone else saying that they need cinematography or photography services, they are much more likely to say, “Oh, hire Carmelo, he’s great!”
3. Q: How do you go about forging positive relationships with your clients?
A: First and foremost, quality of work. Most of my clients mention that they worry about how the photographs and videos would turn out and whether or not they hired the right company. I definitely focus on providing excellent customer service along with giving them the best photos and videos possible. In my line of work, I don’t think excellent customer service can offset a bad set of wedding photos and videos. It’s a high pressure job, so I make sure my staff and my skills are on point. That, and I also consider my clients family. I’d go above and beyond for them like I would for my closest friends and family.
4. Q: What challenges have you faced and overcame while maintaining relationships with your customers?
A: I’ve definitely faced and overcame quite a few challenges. Let me tell you one incident that comes to mind. I had a client who was really worried on the day of her wedding because the weather was bad. It was raining and she was getting extremely stressed out and started screaming at everyone. So, I did my best to calm everyone down and make them feel good. The bride was getting concerned about how the wedding pictures would turn out because of the rain, so I got creative with the pictures and used the weather to my advantage. She was pleasantly surprised by the results!
I am extremely glad that I got to speak with Carmelo because he epitomizes what it means to put your customers above all else. After all, without paying customers, there would be no business. Here are some of the lessons imparted by Carmelo:
- Give them something to talk about. Going above-and-beyond the norm will give them a reason to rave about you and your services. A ton of other people out there are doing what you’re doing. What’s going to separate you from the crowd? Most likely than not, it’s going that extra mile.. or two.
- Excellent customer service. These create high quality leads because people know your value, they have seen you in action, and they know what you’re all about.
- Use social media. This helps your business with greater outreach. They should be able to reach you through the social media platform of their choice. Make it easy for prospective clients!
- Treat your clients as you would treat your closest friends and family. What you put out will come back to you. Once they see that they can’t get better service than with you and your company, that gives you the edge over your competitors.
- Eliminate the guessing game. Let your clients know exactly what they’re getting and what to expect. That way, they can have confidence and peace of mind about investing their money with the right company.