Word of mouth: Your strongest marketing tool

Word of mouth has long been recognized as the best marketing tool a company can have. A half century ago ad genius Bill Bernbach, founder of perhaps the most famous ad firm in history (Doyle Dane Bernbach, now DDB Worldwide), said “Word of mouth is the best medium of all.” Since then that truth has only been amplified. The advent of the Internet has added a whole new facet to the ability of small businesses to generate new customers through positive word of mouth.

Now, instead of relying on customers to tell family, friends and colleagues how wonderful your business is in face-to-face conversations, you have the power of online mentions as well. This combination of offline and online conversations is being called “social voice,” via which your customers can tell not just the people they actually know but also total strangers about how great they think your products or services are.

The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) regularly does surveys to determine the power of word of mouth recommendations on consumer buying decisions. Their latest data shows that 72% of consumers say reviews from family members or friends exert a “great deal” (39%) or “fair amount” (33%) of influence on their decisions to use or not use a particular company, brand or product.

WOMMA also found that 81% of U.S. consumers are influenced by friend’s social media posts and 92% of consumers worldwide trust recommendations from friends and family more than any form of advertising. This is up from 74% in 2007, which, I conjecture, may be because of the increased use of social media, meaning that there is simply more word of mouth being generated than there was six years ago and people are listening.

On the reverse side, I’ve seen a number of studies done over the years that showed the terrible damage that can be done by negative word of mouth from a dissatisfied customer whose problem is not resolved quickly. For example, a study done by TARP, a customer service research company, found that customers who had an awful experience with a business will share their negative incident with an average of 12 other people. In turn, each of those 12 people will mention the occurrence to six others. This means the news of one negative customer experience can reach as many as shocking total of 85 people. Think about it; if you’ve had a bad customer experience that left you fuming, haven’t you told others about it?

Generating positive word of mouth

Here are tips on how to generate positive word of mouth for your small business:

• It’s all about the experience. First and foremost, provide an outstanding consumer experience – with great service – and you will stand out in the crowd and generate positive word of mouth. A key part of this is having good communications systems in place so that if something does go wrong for a customer, they can easily reach you and get a quick resolution.

Engrain in your employees that there is no downtime when it comes to customer service. The customer who spent $10 is no less valuable than the one who spent $100. Strong company values that focus on valuing the customer will almost certainly product strong word of mouth for your business.

• Leverage the power of social media. As I already mentioned, the popularity of social media has added a whole new dimension to the ability of small businesses to generate word of mouth. Just yesterday, a local business I follow on Facebook reached out and asked their community to help them generate the 62 more “likes” they need to get to 1,000. I was one of the people who shared their message yesterday with my Facebook friends, and I’m sure others did, too, because this morning they reported that they now only need 26 more people to get to 1,000 likes.

One of the reasons I follow this particular small business on Facebook is because they provide helpful information in their posts. They aren’t just trying to sell me something; they are helping me out. Take this approach and people will generously share your posts or tweets with their social media friends.

• Monitor your online image. Of course, not everything said online about small businesses is all sunlight and roses. It’s important to carefully monitor your online image for negative reviews or comments and, if something bad does pop up, take a deep breath and respond promptly and appropriately. Here’s a helpful article on how to do this.

• Get testimonials and display them prominently, both online and off. Some small business owners are shy about asking for referrals. You need to get over that, and one way of easing yourself into such a conversation is to ask for a testimonial. Once you have a testimonial, use it on your website, your Facebook page and in offline marketing materials, such as a company brochure.

• Be visible. Whether it’s participating in community events or offering workshops or seminars, being visible outside of your shop or office will help generate positive word of mouth. This is especially true with the “buy local” movement now playing such a strong and growing part of consumer attitudes. I definitely make a point of shopping at local businesses that I know are supporting community initiatives that I like; for example, we have lots of garden centers in my town and I frequent the ones that have been very generous to the Friends of the Granby Library, an organization I’ve been active in. What’s more, I give these businesses positive word of mouth by telling others in town about their generosity to the Friends. Similarly, I’ve generated good word of mouth (and referrals) for my own business by giving workshops at various nonprofits that support small businesses.

Why do I believe in word of mouth so much? Because it has been the chief marketing tool I’ve used to build my business. I’d estimate that 80 percent of my business over the past 24 years has come as the result of positive word of mouth, while the other 20% has come from people finding me online. Of course, the Internet didn’t even exist when I started my business, so when I started it was all word of mouth. So as far as I’m concerned Bill Bernbach was definitely right 50 years ago and is still right today!


  1. Armand says:

    Plans and objectives are generally tested for measurable results. Commonly, marketing strategies are developed as multi year plans, with a tactical plan detailing specific actions to be accomplished in the current year. Thanks for sharing. dental school admissions

  2. Customer services of your blog is good and instant response to all. It is such a best retail store solution blog in web. Thank you so much. Keep going on. All the very best and have a nice day.

  3. Yeah of course everyone knows that the word of mouth is the best marketing tool as everyone just blindly believe the words of their people and not only for the singe reason but the one's who were spreading the words were maximum of the experienced people and knew very well about what they were talking and spreading all over.

  4. format maker says:

    These days, the strongest marketing tool of advertising is word of mouth. For any business, this concept really works out. I have truly liked your blog, as a positive word of mouth really brings more productivity and profit. Keep posting such informative blogs further to build up marketing strategy through new ideas and concepts.

  5. Very interesting a useful post for those who are looking for a different and innovative way for marketing. Word of mouth is definitely a best way to grab more number of customers to your products and services.

  6. nice sharing of artical thanks for sharing it.

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