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From the Desk of

Steven Werley

What Dale Carnegie Won’t Teach You About Word of Mouth Marketing

Jan 7, 2019Business & Marketing

What Dale Carnegie Won’t Teach You About Word of Mouth Marketing

by Jan 7, 2019Business & Marketing

Anyone that converses with me about business books knows my favorite one is, “How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. So if you think I’m bashing Carnegie or claiming to be better, I can assure you I’m not. Carnegie uses the book to explain exactly what the title states. His methods prove time tested and battle ready. However, it was published in 1936, and as you can guess a lot has happened to word of mouth marketing.

What this isn’t..

This isn’t an article going over the old-school methods of word of mouth (WOM) marketing. I won’t cover how to approach a new business contact, create an elevator speech, or how to interact with anyone at your next networking event. There is more information on the web about that information that I can fathom, and none of it will do it better than “How to Win Friends & Influence People.”

How else can I generate WOM referrals?

There is a new age to word of mouth referrals – stick with me and keep an open mind. We live in a world where if we move to a new area and need some food, we Google or Yelp ‘Chinese food near me’. Off we go to the best place. Hold up though.. there’s a process in-between those two things. That is where word of mouth comes in. Let’s list all the things that go into someone’s decision of where they will order the General Tso’s they desperately need:

  • Distance to the restaurant
  • Amount of reviews
  • Average star rating
  • Recency of reviews
  • Sentiment of reviews
  • Average ratings across multiple sites
  • How a business responds to negative reviews

Okay, that’s a lot, and outside of the distance, they’re all related to reviews and ratings on these directory listings. If you haven’t got the hint, whether your a Chinese restaurant or a private investigator, potential customers are able to investigate your reputation (or lack there of) without any skills. So yes, you can use the Internet to generate word of mouth referrals.

Is no reputation a good reputation?

Simply put, no. There are a few reasons for this so let’s dive in. Some businesses believe that their industry is more prone to negative reviews, so trying to attain more reviews would garner a negative impact on their business. Not if you have your best customers leave reviews. I can guarantee you 90% of searchers will see through the bullshit and connect with the sentiment of the positive reviews. A major factor is having no reputation leaves you in an extremely vulnerable position. Almost all business owners have pissed off at least 1 customer before (and if you haven’t you’re doing something wrong – because it’s kinda fun ;). Imagine if you have no rating, and then one person leaves a review, and you’re sitting on Google at 1-star getting torn apart in the context of that review how you’re a terrible person. How many businesses would you voluntarily do business with if you see they have a 1-star rating and that’s your only impression of them? Most people would say 0.

What value does this have for my business?

Again, this is a great question, and for this, I have no exact answer for you. Frankly, it depends. What I can do is tell you how to evaluate this and where it should be on your radar. My guess is, it should be very high if you serve a local market. There are multiple factors that play into this. The first thing I always consider is what is a customer worth to you? Not in philosophical mumble jumble, but in money. Is your average customer spending $20, $150, $500, more? A good rule of thumb, is if your customers are spending three figures ($100) or more, this should be very high on your radar. Think private investigators, plumbers, photographers, and just about anything else service based. Another factor is how much competition do you have? Are you the only company doing what you do in the area, or are there a lot? It’s definitely more important than a lot, but if you get a jumpstart if you are the only business serving the local market, you can help prevent customers from jumping to the new guy when you have competition by bolstering your reputation today. The third factor is the search traffic for people looking for businesses like yours near them. The higher the search total, the more potential money you can make by strengthening your online reviews.

Best Practices

There are a lot of red flags asking for reviews nowadays. Yelp says, “f you” if they do it, and unless someone has left at least five reviews (I think) on their platform, they hide the review if it’s positive. Don’t worry, they’re a total asshole company so they will show the review if it’s negative. Side note: Yelp sucks. For real, do not buy their services. Just take my word for it and thank me later when you hear the horror stories of other business owners.

1. Ask for honesty

No matter how you ask for reviews, always ask for customers to be honest. Let them know that you can’t improve your business if you don’t get critical feedback. Your business will do much better being able to adjust.

2. Don’t mass mail customers

You can email them, but don’t send an email out to all thousand of your customers at a time asking for reviews. This strategy goes against multiple directory’s policies including Google.

3. Don’t filter reviews

What this means is there are solutions to help get positive reviews on directories and prevent negative reviews from appearing. This strategy is no longer valid as it goes against all major directory policies. Just have integrity, respond to negative reviews, and make things right for customers with negative experiences.


I’m no Dale Carnegie, but I know a thing or two about what he teaches, and I know a few more about digital strategy. There is a new way to generate WOM referrals thanks to the Internet. The best part about it is it’s predictable. No more going to networking events and wondering where your next customer is coming from. You can start to see consistent calls come in based on how you generate reviews on your directory listings. As a conversion specialist, I can assure you social proof (testimonials) are critical to increasing the chance of a customer doing business with you. Oh yea, do you know over 80% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation? I pulled that stat from this article on Brightlocal. It’s a great resource that backs up a lot of the points presented in this article. There are a lot of reasons to take your online reputation seriously. And yes, you’re wondering why I don’t merely call it “online reputation” as opposed to word of mouth referrals… The reason is that I know you all love your word of mouth referrals, and I want the message understood that this could be an extension of that. Not just “online reputation.” As always, thanks for following along and let me know of anything I may have missed or questions in the comments below!

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