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The dangers of relying on just word of mouth

When you talk to companies about the need to do some marketing, the conversation can be shut down quite quickly. For many they are ‘comfortably busy’ or have more than enough business. They believe that marketing is one expense they don’t need in order to promote their business.


This response is often prompted because they rely on word of mouth. Their customers simply love them and their products or service and tell others about it. Which means people just gravitate towards them. So, why would I need to spend money on marketing?


A built-in limitation

If word of mouth is your primary source of new business, you are probably limiting your opportunities. Relying on your customers to spread the word can be a dangerous tactic. The fact is they will only have so many contacts. And maybe these people aren’t in the market for your product or service.

The sort of conversations your customers have might only be a one-off. It’s not in their interests to communicate on a regular basis. Or they might wait until their contact has asked the relevant question and then tell them about you. All dynamics that are out of your control.

Wouldn’t it be better to target your customers and speak to them directly? Don’t go through a third party. Identify the sort of customers you want and seek to communicate with them. In fact, talking to them is not that difficult. A personalised direct mail pack will tell them everything about you and that you’ve done your homework.


Leave a lasting impression

A conversation is easily forgotten about. It’s great that people are talking about your company. They may even create a post on social media. But it’s all very transient, there today and gone within a matter of hours.

To remain top of mind you need to find ways to make a lasting impression. Which is why companies will plan a series of marketing activities. You don’t need a huge budget to do this. You just need to be in the right place at the right time, talking and engaging with your target audience.

This could be at a local business show, a seminar or networking event. If you have branded promotional items, these can be used by way of a thank you to the people who took the time to speak to you. Make the item of value to them. Something they can use in their work environment that reminds them of your conversation.


Create your own conversations

If you use print media as part of your marketing mix, this will already say something about your business. The fact it needs to be planned both in terms of production and how you use it, reflects a degree of intent. You are serious about your business and want to provide quality information to your target audience.

Something that is printed is also a lot easier to share. If you like what you read you are more likely to pass it onto someone you know. Maybe there is a promotional offer or something slightly controversial that sparks a conversation. Which means you are actually using something that is supporting word of mouth. There is now something physical you can show people.


Ikea have created a really powerful example of this in action. It was an advert to promote their cot furniture. No babies in sight on the advert. It simply invited you to ‘pee on it’ in order to receive a surprise. The advert generated a global conversation and it went viral.



Even the big brands still use print

For high street retailers you would think word of mouth is all they need. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. We are all exposed to a range of marketing and branding material. For companies such as Argos and Ikea, a brochure containing product information is an important tool for reaching their customers.

Admittedly, their websites do contain all the information. But when people visit the stores, they like to walk away with a brochure. Something to keep at home for reference. A quick flick through when they’re looking for a particular product.

Other companies such as Boden and Cotton Traders have brochures they send out to customers on a regular basis. A personalised letter to introduce their summer or winter collections. Many customers look forward to receiving these and keep them to hand until they need to buy something.

The big brands have recognised that you can’t always anticipate when customers want a product. Creating awareness and making it easy for them to do business with you is the main objective. A good quality brochure that is a permanent fixture on the coffee table is a great way to do this.

So, word of mouth will always be a good thing to have. But on its own there will be limitations in terms of reach and longevity of message. If you have a good mix of marketing activity, it will ensure you don’t rely too heavily on this one area.

Print will give you credibility and the opportunity to be in-front of your customers for longer. What has your experience been of using print?


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