Nearly every business person you talk to will tell you that word-of-mouth is his, or her, best advertising. Then someone, (usually a media rep), will point out that word-of-mouth is also the worst form of advertising, because you have absolutely no control over it.

I disagree. You have total control.

The operative word in business in the first half of this decade was bandwidth. For the second half, I suspect it’s going to be transparency.

What’s transparency?

It’s telling your prospective customers what you’re trying to accomplish. It’s admitting when things aren’t going as you planned. It’s being totally truthful in your dealings with your prospects and your customers.

It’s candor, truthfulness, openness, honesty. Its accountability, understanding, and the willingness to team with your customers to help them get what they want.

And why is transparency becoming so important?

Because the internet has become a powerful communication tool. Because customers are now in control. Because they are now speaking directly to each other.

And you can bet they’re talking about you.

In the old days, when you controlled the media, you also controlled what was said, approximately to whom it was said, and how often that message was repeated. Today, customers will talk to total strangers about you. They will also believe what they hear.

And why not? What incentive does a stranger have to lie? What does he gain by misleading someone else? He’s not involved in your company. Shoppers expect you to tell them the good things about your company and leave out the bad. They don’t expect other people to lie for you.

The reality is if they don’t trust you they won’t buy from you.

So, if you want shoppers to start trusting you; if you want customers to keep trusting you, you need to tell it all, brother. Tell it all. The good, the bad, and what you’ll be doing next.

Which brings us back to word-of-mouth, and how to control it.

It’s simple. You commit to treating every customer as if (s)he’s going to tell everyone in town what doing business with you is like.

You make that commitment right now, and you never waver.

And if you do treat everyone that well, what do you suppose your customers will be telling total strangers about you?