Word of mouth is the Golden Ticket, the Lotto Jackpot and the Holy Grail all rolled into one righteous package that in its purest form costs absolutely nothing.
We live in an overcommunicated society where the citizen is inundated with a relentless stream of messages, advertisements, commands and images. Processing it all is impossible, and it ceases to be communication—people simply tune it out.
Standing out is an epic feat of ultra-brilliance.
But one form of communication stands miles above and light-years ahead of any advertising, digital or otherwise—and it’s as old as humankind.
L. Ron Hubbard wrote in his article of 10 October 1982, “WORD OF MOUTH”:
“The keynote in any promotion is word of mouth.
“You can talk all you want about paid ads and radio ads and every other kind of ad but sooner or later a property gets into word of mouth or it doesn’t. In other words people start telling each other about it.
“That happens to be the senior publicity on any item. Something people do not talk about can be advertised and publicized until you are black in the face and it won’t sell.”
There are essentially two types of word of mouth these days:
- People talking to one another directly.
- People talking and sharing on social media, writing positive reviews, etc.
While both are desirable, the first one is preferable, since it involves a two-way communication.
To get positive word of mouth, you’d of course deliver a high-quality product and superior service, deliver on one’s promises and surpass them.
Word of mouth can develop on its own (organic), and you can deliberately cause it (proactive). The following are a few examples of accelerating word of mouth through targeted action:
Dettol is a liquid antiseptic cleaner popular in big cities in China, but little used in the smaller cities that make up 80 percent of China’s urban population. With the price of advertising being so high as to not be an option, Dettol sent nearly 50,000 small spray bottles of their product to 4,000 mothers, encouraging them to use one and share ten.1
Brand awareness for Dettol increased by 5X and sales nearly doubled.
Before you dismiss the Dettol campaign as merely “freebies,” keep in mind that their targeted approach cost them a fraction of what a traditional media campaign would have cost to reach the same number of people—and was vastly more effective.
If you remember 2014, then you remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It was a fundraising campaign to find treatments and a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Its origins have been disputed, but it is fairly clear that the Ice Bucket Challenge originated with ONE person challenging ONE other person to dump ice water on themselves and/or donate for ALS research.2
The key to the ALS challenge was that each person nominated or challenged someone else to do the same thing, and so on, until it went viral.
The campaign became the world’s largest global social media phenomenon. More than 17 million people uploaded challenge videos to Facebook, including countless celebrities—watched by 440 million people a total of 10 billion times—and $115 million was raised for ALS research.3
Vente-privee.com is a French e-commerce company founded by CEO Jacques-Antoine Granjon in 2001. Granjon had already been in the surplus-clothing business since 1985 and built vente-privee.com as the pioneer of the online flash-sale business model. With zero dollars for advertising, they started telling people who in turn told others—basically old-school word of mouth.4
Their success was not overnight, and was not built by VC infusion of cash. The company’s bootstrapping and diligence eventually spawned countless imitators, and as of 2014 vente-privee.com had over 22 million members in Europe, 1,800 employees, and $1.89 billion in annual revenue.
Zappos was co-founded by CEO Tony Hsieh in 1999 and built into a massive online retailer of shoes and clothing.
Zappos creates word of mouth by taking customer goodwill to the next level, rather than spending tons of cash on advertising. Many companies speak of “core values,” but Hsieh had Zappos’s core values infused into the fabric of its DNA. All employees, including executives, do a six-week “rank and file” with the Customer Loyalty Team (CLT).
Zappos’s massive CLT is legendary for going above and beyond to make sure customers are ecstatic. They’re known for doing things like overnighting shoes for a wedding the next day, sending flowers and hand-delivering items.
Zappos was acquired by Amazon in 2009 for $1.2 billion. It has about 1,500 employees and makes $2 billion annually.
Word of mouth is pure gold for a business. There is no overnight injection for word of mouth. It is hard won by delivering an exemplary product with exceptional service, friendliness and attention to detail.
Through innovative methods, word of mouth can be exponentially expanded.
By Prosperity Editor
- Dougherty, Jim. “9 Word-of-Mouth Campaigns That Rocked.” Cision.com. Cision, 23 Mar. 2015. Web. 1 Feb. 2017.
- Jade, Zahara. “Examples of Successful Word-of-Mouth Marketing Campaigns.” HireInfluence.com.HireInfluence, 10 Oct. 2016. Web. 1 Feb. 2017.
- ALSA.org. Rep. Web. 1 Feb. 2017.
- Koenig, Neil. “The Flash Sales Website That Grew by Word of Mouth.” BBC.com. BBC News. BBC, 15 July 2014. Web. 1 Feb. 2017.
- Pontefract, Dan. “What Is Happening at Zappos?” Forbes.com. Forbes Media, 11 May 2015. Web. 1 Feb. 2017.
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