Word-of-mouth marketing has been around… well kind of forever!! From the days that people used the bartering system, there were people who traded quality product and those who tried to get by trading the scraps. Villagers would warn their friends “Don’t barter with the man who lives in hut #2. Walk an extra mile to the man who lives in hut #10 and you’ll receive a better quality and a fairer trade.” The man in hut #10 wasn’t planning to launch a WOMM campaign about how awesome he was. It happened naturally because he took the time to care about his customers and give them a product that was of good quality.
Fast-forward to today and the nation being overwhelmed by paid marketing messages. Think WOMM has disappeared or gone away? Wrong, it is alive and well and it still has the same volume of influence on our purchases. However now, that influence reaches a wider network of friends and family because of the internet. We tend to support products and companies that have supported our families and our friends. We often do so without realizing that word-of-mouth marketing is hanging out in the background. Examples:
In college, I had a dear friend Happy Mercado who at the time worked for Sweet Leaf Tea. I hadn’t heard of the company until he worked for them. However, once he told me about how much he loved his job and how well they treated him I became a regular drinker due to my connection with him. To this day, when I run to the grocery store for lunch I will still pick up a bottle of half-and-half because it reminds me of the great times he and I had gallivanting around Austin, Texas and enjoying what I will always remember as some of the best days of my life.
Now as an adult, I have a friend who is an amazing and passionate event planner that puts her all into the projects she works on. She was recently let go from her job without warning or explanation in what appears to possibly have been a disrespectful manner. That establishment will never get my business because of the way they treated her. That is word-of-mouth marketing as well. Unplanned, unfettered, and unexpected.
Companies, both large and small, need to realize that WOMM isn’t always something you plan and control. WOMM is the way you treat people. It’s the emotions that you inflict on someone else in a way that causes them to share how your company made them feel with the world. With technology touching as many people as it currently does, treating employees or customers well can introduce your company to hundreds of thousands of people that you couldn’t possibly reach with paid marketing. It can also drive them just as far away.
All of this to say, at the end of the day companies are just people and people connect to each other. While business may be business, the way you conduct run your organization and treat people creates word-of-mouth marketing that you will never be able to control. It is an extremely powerful channel of marketing for your business and will affect you without your active participation. It’s best to follow my rule of thumb, act like you grandma is watching and treat people with respect. You’ll get rewarded for it in the end.