There’s a quaint hole in the wall eatery not too far from where I live. Their menu is limited to grilled cheese sandwiches and cupcakes. I’ve never seen an advertisement from them. They don’t offer coupons or lunch specials. There are no gimmicks or claims of being better than the rest. However, unless you call ahead, you can expect to wait almost 30 minutes for a sandwich during peak hours. Standing. Amid a crowd packed in like sardines. No one complains. I’ve been there. It’s worth the wait. How does a small establishment draw in such a large crowd day after day? Word of mouth marketing.
Word of mouth marketing isn’t a new term or concept. It’s been around for decades and, at one time, before social media existed, it was heavily relied upon. The word of one or two people held more value and leverage than paid advertisements and had the potential to steer customers in your direction. Figuratively speaking, it’s not a stretch to think of word of mouth marketing as being the original social media platform.
With word of mouth marketing playing a fundamental role in a company’s reputation and survival, why aren’t we more focused on this influence? If you think back to when social media platforms surfaced, a lot of companies and consumers shifted their focus on numbers. If Company A had 10,000 followers and Company B only had 347, we were conditioned to think Company A was better. And, from the standpoint of Company A, they assumed their online popularity, based on numbers, put them several steps ahead of Company B.
This trend continued for quite some time. Kimberly A. Whitler, a contributor to Forbes Magazine, nailed it when she said, “The problem is that for the last few years, marketers have been focused on “collecting” instead of “connecting.” In other words, brands are too caught up in collecting social media fans and they are forgetting to actually connect with them. Having 100 really passionate fans that love your brand or product is exponentially more effective than having 10,000 “fans” who signed up just to win a free iPad from you.”
In today’s digital world, it’s easy to allow the most practical concept drown in the sea of what’s available at our fingertips. However, despite its fluctuation in popularity, word of mouth shouldn’t be a term or practice that is deemed extinct. In fact, it should take center stage especially when approximately 90% of customers trust the word of friends and family over campaign ads. And, when word of mouth spreads organically, it’s not deceptive. You’re not going to be seduced into trying the new bistro down the street with mouthwatering illusions and photos of happy patrons. More than likely, you’ll hear about it from a friend and it’ll come in the form of, “The food was to die for and the service was incredible.”
Yes, there are some who consider word of mouth marketing old school. However, there’s nothing old school about generating conversation, connecting with customers, keeping it simple, getting creative, being honest and earning the trust and respect of your customers. Without those elements under your belt, forking out thousands for marketing campaigns is like throwing money out the window. As Andy Sernovitz, author of Word of Mouth Marketing, once said, “Open your eyes to a new way of doing business. You’ll see that honest marketing makes more money, because customers who trust you will talk about you. Learn how to be the remarkable company that people want to share with their friends.”