Harnessing the Power of Word of Mouth

Person to person is far and away the most powerful pressure in the marketplace. Yet it is the most unnoticed. Companies have vice presidents associated with sales, advertising and marketing, but there isn’t an one vice president of word of mouth in a corporation in the country.

Why is this? Presumably, because most people think they can’t perform much about word of mouth. Most marketing experts believe that word of mouth can’t be measured. They will believe that it can be influenced, to be sure, by advertising and other marketing media, but can’t be influenced directly.

Word of mouth could be harnessed. It can be directly influenced, leading to – under the right circumstances : a stampede of customers to your items that cannot be stopped by your rivals.

By “word of mouth, ” I mean informal conversations about products and services between people who are independent of the company giving the product or service, in a moderate independent of the company.

In contrast, advertising will be communication of a message originated from the company in media the company possesses or rents. A sales message is a “company line” delivered with a representative of the company.

Word of mouth is much more credible than your most sincere salesman. It’s able to reach more individuals faster than advertising, direct postal mail and even the Internet, because it can spread like wildfire.

Even more important compared to its credibility, reach, speed and ability to break through the clutter is its power to get people to take action. In study after study with almost every category of buyer, word of mouth has been shown to be what is known as the proximal cause of purchase – the most recent thing that happened before purchase. In other words, the purchase trigger. People tend to make major purchases on the advice of reliable peers or experts.

What is the energy behind word of mouth? It is independence. If you ask most people why word of mouth is really powerful, they will tell you that it’s because of its objective, independent “no ax in order to grind” nature. A decision-maker much more likely to get the whole, undistorted truth from an independent third party than from someone who has a vested interest in promoting a point of view.

There is another, more complicated reason word of mouth is so effective. When a person is deliberating about purchasing a product, he reaches a point where he wants to try the product. He wants to get real-world, low-risk encounter. Up until then everything is educational, abstract and somewhat removed from the real world.

Word of mouth is “live, ” not really canned like most company communication. That means it is custom-tailored to the people who are participating in it. There’s no pitch; people are responding to questions, the ones the decision-makers are inquiring.
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