Business in 2020 is the Same as a Century Ago

In 1920, life was different. Civilians’ connection with everyone around them created a small-town culture within many cities. People left their doors unlocked, hung out their laundry, and everyone knew each other.


This was significant to local businesses because if someone was treated poorly at the local barbershop, it didn’t take long for 75% of that town to know what happened. That gentleman’s barbershop was now at risk of going under… or at least taking a hit. Likewise, if a local had an excellent experience somewhere, word got around and allowed for that business to become a pillar in the community.


Here is the point: In 1920, word of mouth was so big that it could make or break your business. It could be the difference between a flourishing, well-respected company, or a foreclosure sign.


Now, jump forward to the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. Home phones are widely accessible, e-mail was steadily gaining communicative ground, and the culture changed as it always does. Civilians no longer discussed their favorite pet food clerk to their friends and family. Phone calls consisted of 30-minute pow wows conversing about life (how is junior doing, are you enjoying your new job, did you hear so and so got pregnant, etc.)


Word of mouth marketing has always been the most effective marketing hack. It was still prevalent during this era, just not nearly as much as others. Post-2010, we have re-entered a time where consumers are excited to tell their friends and family about a new product that exceeded their expectations.


Small talk at work, a Snapchat to your brother, or even a post somewhere on your social media promoting a product of which you weren’t paid! It happens every day in this digital world we are living in and for a variety of reasons.


First, the person spreading the information is usually delivering it to someone who they think will like it. If you recommend a product or service to someone who would enjoy using it, you have now done them a favor. Who doesn’t love fulfilling favors that require nearly zero effort? We are so much more connected now than we used to be that:


  1. It is much easier to share that piece of information digitally

  2. so many new products and services are available to pretty much anybody in any place at any time.


That means your consumers don’t stop at the city limits, you can buy anything from anywhere, and using your own network of friends and family to share these goods and services is vital. With goods and services being discussed around the clock on forums, comment sections, social media posts, Yelp, specific review sites, private conversations, and everywhere else in between; it has become essential to treat the consumer right. We currently emulate the 1920s in which a string of “bad publicity” leads to an inevitable demise.


You could get away with bad reviews 30 and 40 years ago, because it wasn’t mass published and word didn’t travel as fast. Unfortunately, cancel culture is pretty quick to judge and this mob does have the ability to hurt a business if they so choose. H&M got a ton of horrible media coverage for what many would call standard does-nothing brand practices. That said, the point remains the same.


Your business has received the ability to humanize itself on social media rather than be a corporate brand. Use that humanization aspect to connect with your customers, grow real relationships, and help them when possible.


This strategy is scalable due to reasons stated above: these people being treated so right by your brand will tell their friends, their virtual friends, and their virtual friends’ friends how excellent their experience with your company was. We are playing on psychology and humanism and fewer metrics moving forward.

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