Why word-of-mouth marketing is better than ever

Much of what I know about marketing I learned at my parents’ knees. When I was a young girl, my parents owned a growing manufacturing business. They had owned a bowling alley, where my dad, who was very dedicated to keeping a clean establishment, invented a lane cleaner that was destined to revolutionize the bowling world. He kept the lanes so clean that after a statewide women’s bowling tournament in the early 1940s, the ladies went back to their hometowns and insisted the owners of their favorite bowling alleys find out how to reproduce his results.

As word traveled throughout the state — and far beyond — by word of mouth, my father was overwhelmed with requests for the products he was using to keep the lanes in such good condition. It didn’t take long before my folks knew they had a tiger by the tail, and after realizing how good this product and the systems that went with it could be for the industry, their new business was launched.

Back then, with the available marketing channels more limited, my mother and father drove across the country to visit as many bowling establishments as they could, while also relying on word of mouth to get their message out. And as it turned out, the word usually got out to their customers ahead of every stop they made.

Today, even with marketing messages coming at us from all directions, word-of-mouth marketing can be the most powerful and trusted way to get the word out about a product. That’s because the message comes from a real customer — someone people know and trust. Instead of live customer and prospect visits, social networks are now used to increase brand awareness of products and services. Many companies now use social media, including Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., to encourage customers and prospects to “like” their page, thus enhancing their word-of-mouth marketing efforts.

Word-of-mouth marketing is cost effective because it spreads information through social and business networks with a minimum investment. And it can happen anywhere and everywhere. In fact, the more groups and networks a satisfied customer is active in, the greater the opportunity for that person to promote a product and/or an organization.

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My friend Elaine Beaubien, an Edgewood College marketing professor, talks about the Madison area being a small town, in the sense that when a company performs well, everyone knows it — and when a company performs poorly, everyone knows that too. Today’s social media marketing takes that theory and multiplies it many times over — with the speed of a mouse click.

I remember many cross-country trips in my father’s Buick. We traveled in comfort, and I learned U.S. geography by visiting many states each summer when school was out. We no longer have to use trains, planes, and automobiles to get the word out. Getting the word out about our recent business relocation was pretty darn easy. A few posts in social media platforms and a hope that word would spread were very helpful.

My mother and father, building their business today, would be able to use their travel time for fun instead of work. Although knowing them like I did, I know they loved every moment they spent meeting and making new friends along their business development journey. 

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