Why Word of Mouth Isn’t Enough (and how to use it)

Word of mouth has always been powerful thanks to the trust consumers place in their coworkers, friends, and family. However, in the digital era, word of mouth has been extended to include online interactions and engagement via social media and social review sites. These are “places” consumers go to learn about brands, products, and how other customers use and experience them. In fact, according to HubSpot, consumers typically have 90 conversations a week regarding different brands. They not only trust brand recommendations from their friends and families (90%), they also trust consumer opinions they find online (70%).

The evolution of word of mouth occurred at the same time as other seismic shifts in how consumers relate to brands. Advertising now bombards them nearly around the clock from numerous marketing channels across multiple devices. Brands cannot rely on word of mouth alone to strengthen and grow the loyalty of your customer base, lift brand awareness, or improve sales. It’s a powerful tactic, but it does have some downsides.

  • Akin to influencer marketing, word of mouth by its nature necessitates independent and authentic reactions. You will never be able to control what’s being said, who’s saying it and when, or who they’re saying it to.
  • Even with more proactive advertising tactics also in play, it takes time to raise awareness about your brand and educate customers about how you can alleviate pain points or add value to their lives. If you aren’t using other marketing techniques and leaning only on word of mouth, it will take even longer.
  • Relying solely on word of mouth means there’s an array of touch points throughout the audience’s day where they simply don’t intersect with your brand. It leaves them open to being influenced by other brands, including your competitors. Any strategy you use to encourage positive word of mouth needs attention and effort to ensure success.
  • Inaccurate information – Word-of-mouth marketing can trigger a release of inaccurate information that’s misleading at best and reputation-damaging at worst. Of course, you can respond to reviews, flag inaccurate or offensive content and do your best to boost your reputation through other means. But if you’re relying solely on word-of-mouth marketing and then something goes amiss, you’ll be in a tight spot.

In short, word of mouth can’t get the job done alone — but it’s nevertheless an important factor to stay on top of and leverage as part of your marketing strategy.

4 Tips to Make Word of Mouth Work for You

1. Take Control with Podcasting and New Media

Word of mouth relies on trust and authenticity, but you don’t have to wait for reviews or commentary to pop up. That’s part of why we recommend endorsements from podcasting personalities — it taps into the connection between podcast personality and the audience, and relies on the trust they’ve already built. You can also use client or customer testimonials in your podcast ads to spread a positive message using real, related voices.

2. Encourage, Collect, and Share Positive Customer Reviews and Testimonials

As with referrals, your larger marketing strategy ought to include a plan for inspiring positive word of mouth. Whenever a customer is happy, prompt them gently to leave a review, rating, or comment. However, be careful about offering some kind of reward as motivation — it’s disingenuous and can backfire on efforts to improve word of mouth.

3. Regularly Monitor Your Online Presence

There’s a lot to be learned about your target audience by perusing reviews and commentary about your business. At the same time, negative reviews noting problems they’ve had with your company need to be addressed in a timely, professional manner. Always be respectful, and avoid wording or tone that could be perceived as condescending. You have the opportunity to turn a negative brand experience into a positive one, and avoid similar negative experiences in the future.

4. Remember — You Can’t Build a Positive out of a Negative

Word of mouth, customer reviews, and ratings are always going to stem from the experiences actually had with your brand. That means that if your customers are constantly running into issues on the path to purchase, they’re not going to have nice things to say. In turn this discourages the next prospect from choosing your brand. In other words: you must offer quality products, reliable services, and solid customer support in order to create positive word of mouth. It’s that simple.

Word of mouth can have a huge impact on the success of your business, but you can’t rely solely on word of mouth to thrive (or even survive). Positive word of mouth needs to be encouraged and amplified, especially through mass reach media like radio advertising. Your online reputation must be monitored, and negative reviews need responses that earn customers back. Most of all, you can’t generate positive word of mouth if your customers aren’t having positive experiences. Be sure they’re receiving the best you can offer. Bear these tips in mind, and word of mouth can work for you and support your overall marketing efforts.