It is not difficult to be impressed when you hear somebody grew their business through word-of-mouth. Besides, if a company can simply depend on customer recommendations to sustain or even scale, it is a clear sign that its product or service is very good. While word-of-mouth marketing, can be very effective, not to mention cheap or even free, it has its limits. Sure, it could help an entrepreneur launch their practice or earn a small retailer those important first sales, but it is not likely that this tactic alone is going to give reliable, sustainable business stream. Established organizations have to generate consistent revenue.
This does not mean however that you have to live without word-of-mouth marketing strategy, especially if it is producing results. Instead, it is important to understand when word-of-mouth alone is least effective as well as how you can boost your business through results by including it among a more holistic strategy. Before delving into why as well as when word-of-mouth marketing is not always enough, it would be good to cover a few basics.
What Word-of-Mouth Marketing Is
Word-of-mouth marketing is a term used to refer to any kind of recommendation a satisfied customer gives to a prospective customer. This could be written on an online review or oral like a casual conversation. Since buyers are more likely to trust other buyer experiences than messages shared by a company, word-of-mouth is among the most reliable tools for getting credibility and growing brand recognition.
Some word of mouth examples are customer reviews on third-party sites such as Google, Yelp, Capterra and G2. Another example would be recommendations through social media conversations. Blog posts which list and link to one or more products or services are also forms of word-of-mouth marketing. Finally, another example of word-of-mouth marketing are satisfied customers who share their positive experiences with personal contacts.
Always remember, the active element in the success of marketing through word-of-mouth is authenticity. For example, 91 percent of 18 to 34 year olds and 79 percent of 35 to 54 year olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations based on data by BrightLocal. However, as soon as it’s obvious that a reviewer was paid for their feedback, trust levels began to dip.
The Drawbacks of Word-of-Mouth Marketing
Word-of-mouth has a lot of benefits and is a vital part of a comprehensive marketing strategy. However, it also has a few disadvantages, which is why it often performs best when tied to other efforts. One of its drawbacks is that it could take a long time. Successful marketing requires the correct message in the right time at the right place. While word-of-mouth could deliver the right message at the right place, it is not always at the right time.
Word-of-mouth marketing also limits your reach. While it is almost impossible to earn a conversion rate of 100 percent with any single marketing tactic, it is very tricky with word-of-mouth marketing. You will always be limited to the number of satisfied customers who are willing to evangelize your offering. Word-of-mouth marketing can spread misinformation. Word-of-mouth marketing could trigger a release of inaccurate information that is misleading at best and damages your reputation at worst.
Word-of-mouth marketing is also not targeted and difficult to measure. A positive review could go semi-viral, earning you lots of incoming traffic from highly qualified buyers, or it could land on deaf ears. A recommendation could reach precisely the kind of buyers most likely to benefit from your product or service, or it could be shared to a network of people in a wholly different industry or role than your ideal buyers.
Word-of-mouth marketing is not enough when you are a well-established brand, you need to produce revenue fast, you need to prove the effectiveness of your marketing efforts, you have a complex set of services or products or you are trying to enter a new market. As soon as you have achieved a certain level of brand recognition, word-of-mouth could get your name in the short list, but it will not make the sale. Also, when you need to get revenue fast, word-of-mouth marketing will not be enough because this type of marketing takes time.