How ‘word of mouth’ CAN work for you.

Editor’s Note: Founder and tech blogger, Wayne Smallman, offered this response to our earlier piece, Why ‘word of mouth’ marketing won’t work. We like Wayne’s stuff. When you’re done here, definitely check out: Twitter Isn’t Jesus.
Finding cost-effective marketing techniques is a challenge. One such marketing technique defies the passing of time, and stoically remains both free and reliable — and that’s word-of-mouth recommendations…
I say word-of-mouth is free, but if you look at it in a tangible sense — from within the finely-defined territory of a sales funnel — there was some expense on your part.
Fortunately, that expense was in the form of effort, all of which was poured into a previous project, probably the most recent.
However, there’s a caveat… word-of-mouth recommendations only really work if you’re any good at what you do.
But according to Seth Godin, word-of-mouth isn’t all that great which is wrong, and flies in the face of the experiences of almost every single business person alive.
I can see what Seth was hoping for — the contrary thinker — but he missed the target. And in using politics as a starting point for his analogy, his argument just doesn’t make any sense at all:
“[Your customers] … lay low, because they’re afraid or shy or just not used to talking about brands and products or experiences.”
Many has been the time when I’ve heard someone extolling the virtues of a company they’ve used for one thing or another.
Amongst a multitude of such conversations, I cannot ever recollect any one of those people dipping into brand speak, or being uncomfortable discussing specifics or generalities of products or services.
On the issue of “products or experiences” — such things are the very cornerstone of word-of-mouth recommendations.
Imagine you’ve just bought 5 new computers for your office. For a small business, that’s a big buy, and you’re keen to see you’ve spent wisely.
Over the course of a day, the computers arrive, they’re installed, set-up, integrated into your existing network, tested and you’re then left with a solid support contract and 24/7 call-out number.
You’re happy. You made the right choice, and guess what? Pride gets the better of you and damn it, you just want to tell the next guy you meet all about it!
Seth’s argument has fallen between two stools; one of politics and t’other of business, neither of which quite works the way they should.
If it’s statistics you’re after, then how about this — about 3 years ago, 90% of my new work came from word-of-mouth recommendations. Today, it’s about 75-80%, but that’s only because I’m now partnering with a print design agency — who happen to be very happy about what I do.
In business, it’s about qualifying your leads. And if you have an enthusiastic army of clients happy to extoll your virtues to those they meet, you’re onto a winner!
If that’s word-of-mouth marketing not working, then don’t even think about trying to fix it…

For more on ‘word of mouth’ strategies see:

How Second Life found its 2nd wind.
You sell me, I’ll sell you
06208c8.jpg Wayne Smallman is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology blog, a showcase of his passion for making complex technology issues approachable and accessible. He is the principle founder and managing director of Octane Interactive, a Web design, Web applications development, and Internet marketing agency established in 1999 and based in Yorkshire, U.K.