Small Business
Business INSIGHTS e-News for Professional Services
Spreading the Word

Word of mouth marketing makes a resurgenc - and more people than ever are listening.

A Faberge Shampoo television commercial from the 1980s proclaimed: "And she'll tell two friends, and so on, and so on..." Although it's been around for decades, word of mouth marketing (WOMM) is getting new life from social media such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs.

WOMM is like giving a megaphone to your best clients, the ones who sing your praises at chamber of commerce mixers or from soccer-field sidelines. That's the amplified power of WOMM using social media.

WOMM is increasingly showing up in marketing budgets. Private-equity firm Veronhis Suhler Stevenson predicts that public relations and WOMM will be the fastest-growing marketing services through 2015. Unlike advertising, which clients understand is paid for, WOMM (and public relations) is viewed as more credible.

But there is a dark side; some companies have paid for WOMM, particularly on social media sites. Not only is this unethical - a practice the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) calls shilling - it's also illegal. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) mandates that bloggers must disclose that they are being compensated for product or service reviews.

Try these techniques to keep the WOMM buzz going for your firm:

  • Give clients a reason to talk, either verbally or electronically. Good service simply isn't buzz-worthy, but great service certainly is. Unfortunately, poor service also gets clients buzzing, so address client dissatisfaction issues immediately. Often, you can turn disgruntled clients into your biggest WOMM advocates.
  • Empower clients to share their good experiences. Add "Referrals Appreciated" at the bottom of your email signature. If a client provides positive feedback, thank them and encourage them to spread the word - either verbally or in writing.
  • Don't forget the influencers: those who may not be direct clients of your firm but who are in a position to refer your services to others. Influencers, as described in Malcolm Gladwell's 2002 book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, are well-connected individuals who are happy to spread the good word about your firm far and wide. Get the influencers on your side, and tell them how much you appreciate them.


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