Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

Did you see the look on that young boy’s face when a Bronco receiver tossed him the football after scoring a touchdown recently?


The boy felt like businesses feel when they get an unexpected “attaboy” or “attagirl” from out of nowhere.

It’s gratifying when a satisfied customer or client tells you how much they appreciate your products or services. It’s great when they give you an “attaboy” or “attagirl” for exceeding their expectations. It’s even better when they tell others.

Word-of-mouth referrals and public “attaboys” and “attagirls” are money in the bank for business. People seeking quality goods and services rely heavily on the advice and feedback they get from colleagues, family, and friends.

They tend to go where others say they can get the best deals. We want people talking about what we’re doing, about the goods or services we are providing, about our follow-up, our low prices, our extensive inventory, our selections and choices.

We want them telling others. We want all the referrals that “attaboys” and “attagirls” can create.

But word-of-mouth is a double-edged sword.

What if the buzz about your business isn’t generating referrals? What if the talk is negative? What if misconceptions are distorting reality? What if those talking have biased motives? Worst of all, what if there is some truth in what detractors are saying? There are no “attaboys” or “attagirls” in any of that. There are no referrals you can take to the bank.

Referrals are not given freely. They have to be earned. When people make recommendations to others, they’re putting themselves on the line. They have to know that your business will live up to their billing.

It matters little how well we think we’re doing if the public doesn’t share our perception.

The best way to monitor prevailing sentiments is to candidly assess what the public is saying.

Is your business on the public’s radar? Are people talking about you? Is what they’re saying positive, something you want repeated, something that will bring repeat business and new customers or clients through your front door?

If not, why not?

Before that question can be answered, you have to know and understand. You have to tap into the grapevine.

There are many ways to do that. Well-crafted surveys can give you insights into how your products or services are perceived and received, into how customers or clients are treated absent direct supervision, into inventory expansion possibilities, and into how effective your communication and marketing plans really are.

Focus groups take it a step further. When focus groups are constituted to reflect the demographics of your target audiences and when a professional moderator keeps discussions on track, feedback from focus groups gets to the core. It tells you unequivocally what is working for you, what is not, and what needs to be done better.

And then there’s just talking with customers and clients one-on-one.

That means going beyond saying “Have a good day” as they go out the door. It means asking them about their in-store or in-office experience and then listening. Listening without injecting excuses to whatever they have to say, taking comments to heart, and following up in all appropriate ways. If they’re sold on what you’re doing, ask them to go public with their “attaboys” or “attagirls”. Ask them to help you sell others. Ask them for referrals.

You’ll end up feeling like that little boy who caught a Bronco football.

As the boy’s beaming face confirmed, a price can’t be put on that feeling.

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. 
Visit www.comm-concepts.com or call 303-651-6612.

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