Why you can’t rely on word of mouth marketing

Word of mouth marketing

Last week I was having a conversation with a potential client. When I asked them how they were planning on marketing their services in the future they gave me an answer that I thought was downright crazy. They told me that their business won’t need marketing, they’ll get business through word of mouth marketing and that’s all they need. My first thought was that they’re crazy. My second, was come on man really! Word-of-mouth is a form of marketing. It’s just not one that you should count on for your business growth. What I finally came to realize was that they just didn’t really understand what marketing is and why relying on word of mouth marketing alone is so dangerous for a business.

So what is marketing

If you search online for the definition of marketing you’ll find a ton of answers. The Oxford Dictionary defines marketing as “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.” I think if you really want to over-simplify it marketing is what you do to help grow your business and keep your clients/customers informed.

A few goals every business owner should have is to do research and find out all about your ideal audience. Find out what their needs are and how you can solve them. Put together a working strategy of how you can solve those pains.

Why word of mouth alone is dangerous

When I hear someone say word of mouth marketing is all you need, a voice inside my head tells me to NEVER play poker with them. If they handle their business without a strategy then surely they play poker without a strategy as well. I’ll never be able to figure them out and that would frustrate me.

Once upon a time, mom and pop businesses thrived on word of mouth and handshake deals. In today’s digital age, relying on word-of-mouth is kind of lazy and dangerous. You are pretty much relying on someone else to get business for you. If your business was a car it would be equivalent to driving on a highway asking the person riding in the backseat to steer for you.

If you believe word-of-mouth alone is enough ask yourself:

  • You may have enough business right now but what happens if there is a disruption and you need more work fast? Word of mouth works slow.
  • What happens if the relationship sours with a customer or if they find something they think is better? Can you survive not having a word of mouth sales force or will you have to scramble for a new strategy?

A lot of small business owners easily forget that Marketing is not about you. It’s about the needs of your customers. Once you figure out the needs and pains of your customers your marketing strategy will dictate how you will let them know you offer a great solution for them. Some will use tools such as Google Ads or print, while others will try to build a following on Social Media and marketing to a specific community.

So where do you need to start?

If you already have a handle on your branding then go back to your research. If you don’t have it, pick 5 clients and ask these specific questions:

  • Are you clear on what your ideal audience thinks about your services?
  • How (and when) do they use your services?
  • Why do they use your services (as opposed to DIY)?
  • What problems do they have with your industry?

If you don’t know these answers, get clear on them. And I don’t mean what YOU think their answers are. You need the actual answers. Call some clients and straight up ask them. If you’re not sure how to do this I lay out a simple way to approach clients and get the answer in THIS ARTICLE. If you don’t get these answers, you’ll spend lots of time and money doing things that may or may not work. That is no good for your business and won’t help your customers.

If you are not quite there yet and need some help on focusing your branding and brand strategy first, reach out to us and we can give you a hand to make your marketing strategy more effective.

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