Word of Mouth marketing, now without the Mouth part

Bruce WilsonFor old school marketers, “word of mouth” requires mouths. For the rest of us, not so much.

Last night I enjoyed attending a networking event hosted by a local product design firm specializing in medical equipment. While there I met quite a few friendly folks from materials fabrication companies–sheet metal, plastics, and such. The reactions I evoked after saying that I provide social media marketing for small to medium-sized businesses were telling.

The first fellow I spoke to said “We could never use that social media marketing stuff. We do all our marketing by word of mouth.”

The last guy I talked with said “This would be great for us. We do all our marketing by word of mouth. We just haven’t done anything with it yet.”

This actually fits my business model to a T. Because while there are many high profile examples of companies that are successfully using social media to promote their companies, there are many more who haven’t figured it out and haven’t yet gotten a clue about where to begin.

Companies that do most of their business promotion over the internet (like Amazon) and companies marketing ubiquitous consumer brands (think Coke) by this time have well-developed social media marketing strategies. Like the last guy I talked to, they know that “word of mouth” today includes customers telling their friends — and their friends’ friends — what they like and don’t like using Facebook, Twitter, and a myriad of other internet connections. These companies are making the most of that kind of “word of mouth” by making it easy for their customers to hear about them regularly and pass on good messages about their products to potential customers.

On the other end of the spectrum, many small to medium sized companies that are not primarily internet-based haven’t come to grips with the power of social media to increase their business. In these financially difficult times, where the low cost of “word of mouth marketing” makes it more attractive than ever, they probably should at least take a look at it. But many think like the first guy I talked to: word of mouth means literally words coming out of mouths. Perhaps they believe thathey can’t connect to their customers on the internet because they don’t sell much on the internet.

Marketing that seemed straightforward in the past, like YellowPages and print ads, is not nearly as focused and flexible as what we have today. Even for businesses that aren’t primarily web-based or global consumer brands, it’s time to understand and consider the “word of mouth” opportunities presented by the rising tide of social media online.

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