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I’ve been giving "word-of-mouth" a lot of thought lately. I recently had Ben McConnell speak to a group of my clients in Austin, TX about this. Ben is co-author of the book, Creating Customer Evangelists, and the popular blog, Church of the Customer, and I was really impressed with his thinking.

Ben talked about loyalty being the "willingness to make an investment or personal sacrifice to strengthen a relationship." When our customers reach that point where they are willing to invest time and personal sacrifice to spread the word about our company and/or products, that’s when WOM (word-of-mouth) really works.

I witnessed this first-hand yesterday while getting a haircut at The Hair Lounge. Marv Smith was espousing his experiences with Zappos.com to all within earshot. He was absolutely sold on Zappos and said we should all shop there. Marv is a customer evangelist.

So it would make sense that if we could have evangelists, like Marv, spreading the word, we would work hard to find those people. I was curious about whether this was working for my own readers, so I set up a "10-Second Survey," on SurveyMonkey. I asked one question — What percentage of your business would you estimate comes from referrals and word-of-mouth?

258 people responded to my question and, surprisingly, 50% of them said that less than 40% of their business comes from referrals and WOM. Only 14.3% rated WOM customers hitting 80% or higher.

What does this mean? That we’re not very good at generating WOM? That we don’t know how to generate WOM? That we aren’t good enough for people to talk about us? What is going on here?

Maybe you’ve got some ideas on this. I’d sure like to hear them.

In the meantime, I’m going to do some more 10-Second Surveys and see what I can come up with. I’ll keep you posted.