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Is Word-of-Mouth Marketing Enough? 🤷‍♀️The Pros and Cons

Is Word of Mouth Marketing Enough?
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When you run a business, one of the most important questions you will have to answer is this: How do you get people to buy from you?

Running a business takes so much time and effort! You have to think about how many products to produce, consider the accounting, make sure you record the numbers, get raw materials, manage your employees, make sure they get paid and do the work. And maybe you have a family to take care of, or even a 9 to 5! 

Of course, you would consider the marketing option that takes the least time. 

Will the Option that takes the Least Time Yield the Profit you want?

Is it going to be enough for you?

Is it going to achieve the kind of profits you are targeting? 

Scratch that.

Is it going to be enough for your business to survive?

Word of mouth marketing may seem like the path with least resistance.

Like most people, you’ll probably start by telling the people you know, those closest to you: your family, friends, neighbors, gym partners, and the network of people around you is likely who you’ll go to first to tell them about what you’re doing (and possibly even to get them to buy from you).

It works for other companies.

Word of Mouth Marketing is a Great Place to Start

Networking within your local market doesn’t need much input. You can start off without business cards, flyers, and ads by simply networking with people you see. It doesn’t always have to cost you a lot.

All you need to do is walk, tell people you meet, and encourage them to buy from you and tell their friends as well.

For businesses that have a broad market (like plumbing, handyman services, or the like), you can get a surprising amount of business from networking. It might even cause you to ponder: “Is word of mouth marketing enough?”

And, if you’ve ever pondered this question, this article will answer it once and for all.

We’ll discuss:

  • What is word of mouth marketing?
  • How does it work?
  • The pros and cons
  • And, our final verdict: Is it enough? Yes or no.

What is word-of-mouth marketing?

First, if you’ve never heard of “word of mouth marketing”, let me explain what it is.

It’s likely you’ve heard comments like:

“You should try the pizza from XYZ. We ordered from them last night and the kids loved it!” 

Or

“Have you tried ABC sunscreen? That’s the one I use for my skin. It doesn’t leave that annoying cast,”

You have probably heard variations of such. A friend, a neighbor, maybe recommending something that they believe is the best product you could ever try.

Word of mouth marketing is where people recommend products or services to other people that they know. They share their experiences and may influence the other person to make a purchase or not.

Is word-of-mouth marketing traditional? 

It occurs naturally in conversation and often influences the listener’s choice when they make their purchase. You have probably purchased a product someone you know told you they had tried it and loved it.

Let’s backtrack a little to a world before the internet. How did people know which stores to go to and which not to go to?

Good Word of Mouth vs. Bad Word of Mouth

There’s a couple of bakeries, for instance, all close to each other with only a street between them. Chances are, one of them would be a favorite and the others would have moderate traffic.

If you were visiting the town and asked around, everyone would tell you the best to go to and why. They would tell you not to go to the one on block seven because the baker there is rude and doesn’t always welcome people to their shop.

Maybe you would also hear about how one time, a neighbor, let’s call her “Chloe”, bought a loaf of bread there to find that it was stale. They would tell you to go to the one at the corner street for fresh, tasty bread. 

This is traditional word-of-mouth marketing, and it happens today as well.

But of course, with the internet and social media, we have a new kind of word-of-mouth marketing. 

Word-of-mouth on social media

“I just had hands-down the best coffee in town, guys!”

Think of that time you saw such a post on Instagram, followed by a lovely photo of coffee and a tag of the place where they got the coffee from. 

People make their recommendations online now, and we often find ourselves deciding on products based on these recommendations, among other things.

As a business owner, you could also post about your business online, tell your followers about it, and ask them to buy from you.

So why is word-of-mouth marketing important?

Word of mouth marketing is a powerful tool for many businesses. And here are a few reasons why it’s important:

1. It is genuine and authentic.

When someone recommends your product or service, it’s because they genuinely like the product or want others to buy from you. 

2. People trust their friends and family.

A study showed that 83% of people trust recommendations from friends and family. And this applies to you too.

If you were already shopping around for a laptop and a friend recommends a specific brand to you, telling you their great experience with it, you would probably buy the laptop they recommend over something you saw advertised online somewhere.

3. It’s free of charge!

You don’t have to pay anyone to do it; people recommend products they like just because they liked it. And when you tell friends and family to buy from you, it doesn’t cost a cent.

How effective is word-of-mouth marketing? 

The big question remains: Can you rely on word of mouth as the only form of marketing? Can you talk to your friends and family about your product, and wait for them to tell their friends and so on, and make good money?

Let’s look at a few reasons why this may not be the best idea.

1. It limits your reach.

Making sales is all about the numbers.

  • How many people know about your product?
  • Out of those, how many are interested?
  • And who wants to make a purchase?
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When you only depend on the people you have spoken to, your neighbors and friends, it limits the number of sales you could make. 

Friends and family may not be your target audience. If you’re providing dog-sitting services, for instance, and your immediate neighbors don’t have dogs, you wouldn’t expect them to buy from you or tell others about it.

And, even if they could share about your business, they may not know people who need the services. They don’t relate to your business, and they are not your target audience.

2. Misinformation could end up defining your brand.

Imagine that. Something you delivered through a third-party delivery system broke on the way, and now this client thinks this is who you are, so they tell everyone else about this bad experience.

Or you get into conflict with one person and they decide to spread misleading information about your service, damaging your reputation. 

You can’t control what people say about your brand. Word of mouth takes away your ability to control the narrative.

You are at the mercy of other people’s opinions of your services or products. You have an idea of your brand, and what makes you unique. But not everyone understands this.

3. You can’t measure it.

How many people spoke about your brand today? How many of your clients purchased it after hearing about it from one of your friends?

If you can’t measure the progress, it becomes pretty hard to improve.

What’s the alternative to word-of-mouth marketing? 

The good news is…there are other alternatives. 

Social media marketing

You pinpoint the best platform for you to reach your target audience, whether that’s Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or Linkedin, or any other of the sites available.

You then engage with an audience, seek to grow it, and create a community of people with similar interests.

Content marketing

You can also create content in your niche to educate, entertain, or inform people about different topics within the niche. You could create blog posts or videos to generate interest in your product and eventually get people to purchase from you.

It also lets you rank on search engines so more people can find you when they search for something similar to what you provide.

Email Marketing

You could also market to people by adding them to a subscriber list and sending occasional content that’s meant to encourage them to make a purchase.

There are a ton of ways to market your products or services. We have only covered a few that work really well.

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Should you Abandon word of mouth marketing if it’s not enough to reach your goals?

“All my clients come from word of mouth. Should I really abandon it?” You might ask. 

Our answer is “no”.

Don’t abandon word-of-mouth marketing. When you next get a chance to sell your product or service to someone you think would be genuinely interested, don’t let the opportunity slip from you. Take it!

Remember, people trust recommendations from friends and family, so your focus needs to be on making it possible for friends and family to recommend your product!

Mix it up with the Marketing

You can use a mix of the marketing options we mentioned before. For example, you could create a social media page for your business and encourage a community of people who have used your products to interact there. 

You can create incentives for people to share your posts, like a free consultation for others who recommend your product. 

Sometimes, it is as simple as adding sharing buttons to your website and creating calls to action that ask people to share your content with their networks.

Is word-of-mouth earned media? 

If you said, “yes” to this, then you are right! 

For word-of-mouth marketing to work for you, you need to earn it. 

No one will recommend a product to a friend when they had a bad experience with it. Unless they have some weird motive. Hahaha.

At least no one we know. 

And people will only recommend what they know of. Brands they can identify with.

So apart from having a genuinely great product, you also have to put your business in front of a large number of relevant people to get them talking about it.

You will need to put in the work. Find out which kind of platform will work best for you, and start to market your business. 

How to earn word-of-mouth

How do you get people to talk about you? Here is a list of tips to get you going.

1. Grow your audience

Create content that gets people following you, and keep updated about your business. Get your content to rank high on search engines to get a larger audience.

2. Encourage engagement

Ask questions, create contests, or give people a place to talk about challenges they are facing and what they would want within your niche. Once you can get a conversation going, people are more likely to continue the conversation with their friends and share your content.

3. Be consistent

You will need to post content regularly and consistently to remain in people’s minds. People will share what they remember. However, take care not to come on too strong either. No one wants too many posts from a business anyway. They might just block, unfollow and unsubscribe if you end up taking too much of their time. 

Final Takeaway

Word of mouth marketing is not going to die out any time soon. It is one of those forms of marketing that will be here long after new ones have been discovered.

However, in itself, it is just not enough for your business to succeed. You can’t just tell a bunch of people about your business and see good results.

You need to go out there and intentionally put your business in front of people so that they can recommend it to their friends and family. If you’d like more ideas for how to get exposure and sales online, check out the Startup Entrepreneur’s Toolkit and learn the 4 phases to make consistent sales online.

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Hey there! I'm Leah Ngari.

Hey there! I'm Leah Ngari.

I am an International Business student that's very passionate about helping others. I joined the How to Entrepreneur team in 2021 and my goal is to help entrepreneurs and business people grow by informing and educating them through written content.
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