Friday, October 20, 2006

Word of Mouth at Internet Speed

Word of mouth has always been a factor in business success. These days, though, the Internet has given us word of mouth on steroids. We had an instructive case of this in Houston this week. (I have no business with anyone involved.)

On Wednesday morning, Sabrina Farber of Garden Guy, a landscaping business in Houston, wrote an email to a potential customer:

Dear Mr. Lord,

I am appreciative of your time on the phone today and glad you contacted us.  I need to tell you that we cannot meet with you because we choose not to work for homosexuals.

Best of luck in finding someone else to fill your landscaping needs.

All my best,


That was the day before yesterday. Mr. Lord and his partner forwarded the email on to friends and family to warn them about Garden Guy's policy. The rest, as they say, is history.

The email has circulated around the country. It's been blogged about - just have a look at Technorati's search results for the company's name. You'll also find results at Google News. And Google Blog Search. Today, the Houston Chronicle ran a story on it.

That's two days of word of mouth.

It's fair to say that a lot of potential customers now know more about Garden Guy than they ever would have without that email.

Whatever you think of their policy, there's a lesson here: customers talk to each other. And they send email. They send them to their friends, to their family, and if they're upset, to everyone in their address book. And those emails get forwarded. And don't forget the various directory sites that allow visitors to leave comments about a business.

Whatever people are saying about you, it's going to be heard far and wide a lot fast than it ever used to be. Pay attention to it, or it might come back to bite you.

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