View Full Version : Word of Mouth

Mike Null
04-23-2014, 8:40 AM
Many of our members have reported how word of mouth is so important in getting their name out and for securing new business. I have not found that to be the case as I deal with mostly commercial accounts.

Yesterday I had two incidents to underscore this. First was a famous local university. I got a call from one dept. ordering a plaque. They wanted the logo but said they didn't have the artwork. No problem I have three versions of the logo as I do work for the school regularly. "Oh, I didn't know that". JUst a day earlier another dept. had called to place a reorder on plates for this year and another had ordered a sign.

A while back a bakery ordered name tags for their several locations but the wanted their fonts and logo on the name tags. They said they'd have their designer send it to me and also gave me her number. "Oh she's been a customer of mine for several years", I said.

Then yesterday I received another call from a cake decorating firm wanting name tags. In the course of the conversation I mentioned that I had just finished a name tag order for the bakery. She laughed and said, "that bakery will be doing the cakes and cupcakes we decorate."

So much for word of mouth.

John Frazee
04-23-2014, 10:19 AM
Word of mouth........ I had customer that told me everyone at a function was asking her where she gets all her nice stuff. She said it was her secret. She actually told me this and I about fell out!

Mike Chance in Iowa
04-23-2014, 11:58 AM
I have just the opposite. Most of my business is word of mouth based on my products and my customer service. Just yesterday I called a new customer about an order she placed online. It didn't look quite right. I would rather take the extra step and contact my customer and verify it, then engrave it as-is and have an unhappy customer when they receive the item and discover they had a typo. I explained I had questions about the order and she apologized for having written such a confusing order. We worked out what she needed and she profusely thanked me and said she has heard such great things about my customer service and I just proved it to her.

Another regular customer who places orders once a year placed her order. This time, the order was different then before and was missing some text they normally have. I sent an email to her saying I wanted to double-check this before engraving and stated what was different, including a name that was slightly different then before, and asked if this was okay. She called me hours later in a panic asking if I had already engraved it. (No.) It turns out she was writing the order up from memory and really screwed it up and saw one of the items in her office later. She too thanked me a great deal and said "We tell everyone about your products" ... and I can tell. I see orders from her region come in and I often have someone tell me so-n-so told me about you.

Bill Stearns
04-23-2014, 12:02 PM
Mike -
Thinking your post goes beyond the value, or not, of "word of mouth" - hitting on what I see as a slightly different conundrum. Companies (may I add City and County offices) that are so compartmentalized the right-hand doesn't know what the left-hand is doing. Especially, when it comes to ordering from suppliers. (Be it: name badges awards, plaques, signs, etc. Pretty common, I find. We can either live with this, or seek to find better and more clever ways to reach (and keep our name in front of) the actual decision-makers for each business. (Got' a be why some companies flood business' mail boxes with their full line catalogs, uh?) As for "word of mouth" in general, I've found it helpful, if not earth-shaking when it comes to increasing sales. Rather have someone out there talking 'bout me - than not.

Later, Bill (was 'great talking with you.)

Mark Sipes
04-23-2014, 12:04 PM
I just picked up a national firm as a client when the name tags I made for a competitor was seen at a conference 6 months ago.

Two electricians from well over 60 miles away stopped in my shop to get labels made. One had called prior and asked what my turn around was, he was told I was fast, my reply was " when do you need them?. they were available 30 minutes later.

Of course my speed has lost me clients also. Had a Secretary call on a Wed, said she needed a plaques for a retirement by COB next day. I asked her if she had a company logo, what style she wanted ( $60 -120 ) and if she could send over some text for a layout. She told me there was no way I could do it, other shops had told her it was impossible. She was right.....she never sent anything or called back.......sorta makes it impossible..

I have tried to pin down the culprit of the "Word of Mouth" but the closest I have gotten is "somebody" mentioned your name/shop as a place to come to get...XYZ..

I am not the only shop in a 20 mile area, in fact there are 8. Most of my business is over 200 miles away with larger portions going far out of state. And even there "somebody" is at work.

Kev Williams
04-23-2014, 12:21 PM
So, how did you get these customers' business in the first place?

Word of mouth is the reason we've never spent a nickel searching for work. It all started when Dad's friends found out he bought and engraving machine. Many of these friends worked with him at Litton, then moved on- One went to Edo Western, one went to Beehive medical electronics. Edo needed ID plates engraved. Beehive needed computer screen covers manufactured and engraved. Then someone from Edo went to Westech, another went to Sperry Univac-- Someone from Beehive went to Gentner, another to Larson Davis-- then people from these companies moved to Texscan, and System Concepts, and Quanta, and BTS, and from there people ended up at Fluidics, Crescent, Codale, Metals MFG, Lite Touch, Vantage, CTEC, Jetway, HK Systems, Eaton Kenway, Tradestar and pretty much any company with "Electric" in their name.... etc, etc... Many of these companies don't exist, many still do. Right now I have something like 400 'non-active' customers and over 200 'active' customers, these are my "regulars", not 'off the street' customers. And now that google has our name and address in their 'phone book' database (I didn't ask or pay for that), well, sometimes I wish they'd lose it. And word of mouth on certain internet forums is nearly getting out of hand...

One man's poison... ;)

Tim Bateson
04-23-2014, 12:39 PM
For me, Mike's theory is partially correct. About 70%-80% of my business is for resellers, so I cannot label/mark that work. However, I've had a manufacturer or two refer me to another. Knife & gun owners are the best for referrals. Had a guy in Alaska send me a shotgun butt just based on a friend's recommendation who I did work for here in Cincinnati.

Ross Moshinsky
04-23-2014, 2:13 PM
Word of mouth sales happen and depending on who you are dealing with, can happen "regularly". We find it happens most often when someone is involved in 3-4 organizations. When the time comes to buy something, your name may be thrown out there. That's about all you can hope for aside from someone taking over the task that happens to be a regular customer.

Something I haven't really done but need to do is improve my web reviews on sites like Google, Yelp, and even Facebook. People like to know that you are active and that people are happy with your work. The positive reinforcement is invaluable. It's why almost all retail websites have a comments/review section. It makes people feel comfortable with making a purchase.

As for an example of word of mouth not working at all, we had a county police chief's association as a customer for years. They weren't a big customer but we did one job for them fairly regularly. Well we noticed they hadn't done it for around a year. We called around and found out no one knew what we were talking about. The end result were 2-5 chief's knew about this product we offered and no one else in the county did. As those 2-5 people were less involved, the number shrunk to 0.

Bill Cunningham
04-23-2014, 7:26 PM
I haven't Spent a nickle on advertising for at least 15 years. All my jobs come from my website, and word of mouth, and I probably turn down as many jobs as I accept. I make as much money as I need and a little extra for the fun stuff in life. This is probably why I have enough time for the fun stuff in life.

Dee Gallo
04-23-2014, 9:12 PM
I am like Bill... I have not spent anything on advertising, unless you count my website which is really more of a museum than a sales site. Everything I do is through word of mouth and repeat customers who email me with requests. I work a little bit more than I want to, but that is my own doing really.

Bruce Volden
04-23-2014, 10:24 PM
I started engraving in 1995 with a 25 watt LMI 32" X 11" bed. I had not planned a business, was only going to experiment and use for personal items I hand crafted from wood ie: music / jewelry boxes, inlaid tables.... Somewhere along the line (about 3 months) word got out from "friends" at work (I was working full time for the post office) I had a laser.
In my part of America word travels fast as it is quite rural. In no time at all I was overwhelmed with laser work. I had my kids running files while I worked and when I came home I took over from them. Had to buy a 2nd machine after about 2 years just to get a break. A third was to come later.
NEVER ONCE did I advertise, solicit, or ask for more business. I am now quite burned out with engraving. Have scrapped out the LMI's and am waiting for the Epilog to die.
I am sure I will miss what the laser can do once I no longer have one, but it will be nice to get away for a while.
It's been an interesting ride.


Robert Tepper
04-23-2014, 10:30 PM
I agree with Bill and Didi. I wanted a laser for 8 years. They finally became affordable. I make a certain amount of rubber stamps, cut out letters, control panel labels etc.

But I hit it big when I created a product for the crafting industry. I honestly have more work than I can handle, but I do get it done. I work 6 1/2 days a week and it is getting old. I have a standard 3-4 week delivery time.

I so much want to go fishing and I had a trip planned for June when, of course more work came in. I am the luckiest person I know. I never spent a dime on advertising, just exhibited at one trade show and I have been non stop since.


Joe Pelonio
04-24-2014, 7:53 AM
Like the others, I never advertised since I cancelled the yellow pages ads back about 1997. I always ask a new customer how they found out about me, and back then it was 90% word of mouth, the rest website. The yellow pages got me a few calls but no actual work, and I was surprised that a high-traffic commercial location did not yield many walk-ins. Often someone saw my work elsewhere and asked where they had gotten it. Most was from one business to another, like some of the others have said. For example I do work for a parking management company and get work doing directory/suite signs inside the building when the owners or managers ask the parking people who did their signs.

Mike Null
04-24-2014, 8:18 AM
This has been a quite interesting thread and I don't want to take it off track but the one area where I've had some success with a version of word of mouth is my habit of putting my label on the back of many of my pieces. Name tags and plaques, for example. Those labels, particularly on name tags have been worth their weight in gold. Since I do a lot of re-seller work I can't always use them but they are valuable.

Like many of you I do no advertising besides my low cost web site. I did advertise early on without any return.

Tim Bateson
04-24-2014, 9:26 AM
Like advertising, doing charity work pays $0 in the near term & long term. Early on I thought it would be a good way to get my name & work out there. Big waste of time & $.

Mike Null
04-24-2014, 10:20 AM

I agree with that but I do have a charity, the Focus Marines Foundation, and I do all their work gratis. That's basically a "feel good" for me. I don't put my mark on any of that work and don't expect any business from it.