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Word of mouth marketing

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Word of Mouth Marketing
Andy Sernovitz
Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 5 minuuttia.

How many times has someone asked you “Where did you get that from?” within a week? I have been asked that question twice already today (and it’s not even noon yet). And when I was asked that question, I happily shared my experiences, explained the process of getting the product in question and recommended those products to my friends. Most likely, you also did the same: shared your experience of getting the product (or service) and using the product and told if you would recommend the product to others. That is called word of mouth.


It could also be called word of mouth marketing. Instead of B2B marketing or B2C marketing, word of mouth marketing is more like C2C marketing or even B2C2C marketing. Word of mouth marketing happens, when a business is worth talking about and then the consumers talk about it.


Word of mouth has always existed – it just is more important now than ever before

Of course, since the beginning of our ability to exchange things for other things and then later on also for money, word of mouth has existed. I can imagine a man telling his friends to or not to do business with a local store a hundred years ago just as well as I can imagine me today telling my friends to or not to do business with a local store here in Tampere. Word of mouth was crucial a hundred years ago, then stopped being important and now is even more important than ever before.


I already explained more about this in a previous essay* based on Gary Vaynerchuk’s book The Thank You Economy, so I won’t go into too much detail here. But back in our great grandparents’ day, word of mouth was pretty much all that people had for marketing. It had significance, because small local stores had small customer bases, so losing a number of customers due to negative word of mouth could have been lethal for those businesses. Then our society advanced, small stores were bought by bigger companies and corporations. Word of mouth lost its meaning, since huge companies with huge customer bases could afford losing a couple of customers due to negative word of mouth.


Luckily, the internet came. It has granted word of mouth more power than it has had ever before. Word of mouth outside of the internet still exists and is important, but internet and more specifically social media provides consumers with more power. With social media and mobile devices, it is easy and fast to share your thoughts about a company to hundreds or even millions of people sometimes.


But the internet, social media and mobile devices are not for consumers only. These technologies also gave businesses and marketers something, when it comes to word of mouth. In his book Word of Mouth Marketing, Andy Sernovitz explains that the internet provides businesses an ability to track and measure word of mouth and an ability to take part in the conversation.


I believe that this is when word of mouth turns into word of mouth marketing. Word of mouth will happen anyways, since people talk. They always have and they always will. Word of mouth marketing is something a business regardless to its size should now take into consideration. Knowing the power word of mouth now has, a business doesn’t want to be too much on the negative side of it.


Rules of word of mouth marketing

Sernovitz lists four rules for word of mouth marketing. Those rules are:

  1. Be interesting
  2. Make it easy
  3. Make people happy
  4. Earn trust and respect.


I find all of these principles to be crucial, if you want people to talk about you, your business and your products. First of all, you have to be interesting. You have to have something, that is worth talking about: consumers won’t talk about something they do not care about. Making it easy is also important, since if your something interesting is some technical, hard to understand qualities of your product, people still won’t talk about it. Your something interesting should be easy to understand, easy to remember and easy to communicate forward.


Making people happy is especially important. This can be done by excellent customer service, by creating amazing products and for example by being genuinely interested in helping the customer. As Sernovitz puts it: “When people like you, they share you with their friends”. People will become loyal customers of you and they will want to support your business even, when you’re not asking them to do so.


The last key element is trust. It kind of goes hand in hand with making people happy and making them like you. They won’t like you unless they trust you. If people can’t trust you, your company, your service or your products, they won’t put their name on the line – they do not want to be embarrassed in front of their friends.



In my opinion, the best way to do word of mouth marketing is helping people and making people happy. While small things, such as an interesting product name, well-written emails and marketing messages and beautiful packaging, go a long way, I still find that excellent customer service and taking part in the conversation are key in word of mouth marketing – and in marketing in general.


Since it has been allowed for businesses to so easily “eaves-drop” and participate in the conversations happening online, the chance should be utilized. Businesses can take part in conversations in which they, their product or their brand is directly mentioned. Nowadays people often also tag companies in social media while sharing something, positive or negative, about the company making it even easier for the companies to find these conversations and participate.


A response to these direct mentions online often enhances the image the consumer has of the company. If a consumer shares a picture on Instagram about their new shirt on them and thanks for the excellent customer service at the shirt store for helping her to find the perfect shirt, a simple reply for example like “The shirt looks amazing on you! You’re welcome to ask for our styling advice any time.” is in place. It will show the customer that you truly do care. Online, that also shows to her followers.


The same goes for negative word of mouth online. When someone vents about poor service at a local coffee shop on Facebook, a public apology could help the business to enhance its image in the mind of that consumer.


I find that it could also be useful to participate in conversations that do not directly mention the company. For example, if you come across a conversation regarding your industry, participate. For example, if you have a shirt business and you find an online forum talking about which materials make a long-lasting shirt, you could participate and offer your advice. The key here is not to advertise, but to help.


So rather than writing a quick comment on how long-lasting your company’s shirts are and linking your company’s website, explain that natural materials often last longer than synthetic ones. Offer your genuine help. People will be thankful and they will find your company and they will already like you (one of the key elements of word of mouth marketing). If you only advertise and do not help, people will regard it as spam and most likely ignore your link.

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