Research shows that personal recommendations are the number one driving force behind a consumer’s decision to make a purchase. About 80 percent of purchases are influenced by a recommendation – most of which occur face-to-face. Small businesses in particular thrive on recommendations among family and friends.
This bit of information is nothing new, and hardly surprising. But the reason it needs reinforcing is the belief that social media is the be-all and end-all for businesses. As good as social media is in its ability to reach innumerable amounts of people, an online referral is no replacement for word of mouth. Yes, social media is important. But small business should balance their online activity with customer service and incentive driven referrals.
So just how important are personal recommendations? In aNew York Times article, Sherry Turkle, a professor at M.I.T., wrote that “we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection”- and this may be true.
Social media certainly helps business owners make connections. However, these relationships have less depth, making it easier for the customer to take their business elsewhere. Building deep and meaningful relationships is the best way to maintain business. Make your customers want to come back. Remember that your customer can help you generate new business by recommending you to their family and friends.
Of course, social media provides a support system where consumers can tweet, share, and post information about a particular brand. But real relationships are more important - even in a digital marketplace.
Imagine for a minute that you are with a friend in a clothing store. You like two shirts, but only have money for one. You ask your friend’s opinion, and he points to the one you liked best. You buy the shirt without hesitation and with the peace of mind that you made the right decision.
What if you did not have your friend? Maybe you would have walked out of the store with the other shirt. Even if you made the same choice, you may still have some reservations.
Though this example represents a more mundane, day-to-day decision, it proves the power that a second opinion or recommendation has. Recommendations inspire confidence in a choice. The fact remains that real relationships have great influence over consumer decisions.
The pivotal importance of recommendations should be a comforting fact for entrepreneurs and small business owners, who often have close personal connections with their customers. Be sure you engage and excite your customers. Ask them to recommend your business to their family and friends. Such a simple gesture can inspire confidence in your brand.