Most of the time, big corporations serve as a great lesson in what not to do in business. However, as a small business owner (or someone who’s thinking about launching a start-up), here’s one strategy worth swiping from the big guys’ play book. Amazon has come up with a cheap and highly-effective way to hawk their wireless reading device, the Kindle: get the customers to push it. Amazon currently isn’t running any outside advertisements for the Kindle. Instead, they’ve launched a campaign on their site that encourages happy customers to tell others about their Kindle either through comments on the site, or programs like “See Kindle In Your City,” where current Kindle owners can demo their reader for people who are interested in buying them.
The strategy seems to be working, according to Wired, who has a piece online about Amazon this week. While no official numbers have been released (although there’s been plenty of speculation), anecdotally it appears the Kindle is selling far better than expected. Reports Wired: “Amazon is relying more than ever on its tried-and-true sales strategies of word of mouth and customer reviews, and it appears to be working, although the total market for the device is questionable.”
The take home lesson here is two-fold. First, it’s not always necessary to have an expensive ad campaign to sell a product or service. In fact, unless you know what you’re doing, or hire a professional, a major return isn’t guaranteed. Perhaps the most important point though, is the second: word-of-mouth and the customer referral are incredibly powerful. Potential customers are far more likely to be wooed by positive feedback about a good or service from an actual customer (and someone they trust) than any advertisement you could purchase. That doesn’t mean you should nix the ad campaign you’ve developed for your small business or start-up. It simply means that you shouldn’t count out word-of-mouth as a powerful tool that could actually help stimulate sales for your business. Amazon certainly hasn’t—and it’s paid off.