What’s in a Word?

In my review of hundreds of business plans and marketing strategies, a day doesn’t go by without mention of ‘word of mouth marketing’ (WOMM) as a client’s primary (no-cost) mechanism for attracting customers. The inevitable problem with this approach, however, is that unless it is supported via other advertising mechanisms—especially in the early stages of business launch and first year growth—the likelihood is that too few people will know about your business soon enough for you to leverage the possible positive effects.

There’s no denying the impact (both favourable and less so) of WOMM, particularly given the different types of social and mobile marketing which can be used to effectively harness the power of so time-honoured a tradition—and what some contend is the most valuable form of marketing. And yet…while the majority of marketing executives believe that word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing (according to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association—yes, there is such a thing), fewer than 6% say they have mastered it.*

In a recent Forbes online article, Kimberly Whitler referenced research suggesting that in recent years people have been too focused on “collecting” instead of “connecting” with their clients/fans through social media. Consider this: what’s the measureable effect of 1,000 “likes/fans” compared to 100 “champions” who are absolutely passionate about your service/product and actively promote it to everyone in their circle? Leveraging the distinction between the two makes all the difference. Truly connecting with your target market in authentic, respectful and meaningful ways turns dialogue into sales.

For years, every marketer’s mantra has been to align with the 4Ps of marketing: Product, Place, Price, and Promotion. There’s evidence to suggest that a 21st Century approach may be more effective. By applying the 3Es: Engage, Equip, and Empower, your word of mouth marketing strategy may well guarantee increased sales. But you have to be able to measure the effect if you want to replicate it throughout your advertising and marketing mix; remember, measurement is key.

In a recent strategic planning session, we were examining a client’s various mechanisms for connecting with their market and the most effective channels of distribution. It sparked some very interesting discussion and soul-searching on the part of the entrepreneurs who identified that direct and personal contact with their customer base was critical to their success and that word of mouth marketing was integral to its effectiveness. They’d have to make some changes to their business model to accommodate the approach…but identification of the issue was half the battle already solved.

Following the above-mentioned advisory session, with word of mouth marketing top of mind, one statement in particular from Whitler’s article resonated with me; “Fueling conversations and driving passion will make a huge difference for your brand.”

*Source: www.forbes.com Kimberly Whitler, Why Word of Mouth Marketing is the Most Important Social Media

– Alanna Keefe