It's a misconception that word of mouth marketing is always an effective tool for promoting products and services.
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Small businesses often rely on word of mouth advertising as an accessible and inexpensive marketing device. Unfortunately, there are some instances in which small companies may actually damage their prospects by encouraging word of mouth promotion.
As a rule, word of mouth marketing works best when you have a solid product or service that provides observable benefits to a broad range of consumers. Products that are struggling to define their value-added components or make it difficult to discern their benefits usually aren't good candidates for word of mouth campaigns.
Here are a handful of scenarios in which word of mouth marketing just isn't your best advertising strategy.
- Products that lack consensus. If customers are largely split on your product's value or effectiveness, you should avoid word of mouth marketing initiatives. Although some customers will give glowing reviews about your products, others will supply their friends and acquaintances with negative information. Focus on achieving deeper and wider customer satisfaction before you encourage word of mouth promotion.
- Products that can't be tried out. Word of mouth marketing works best with products that can be tried out. If it is difficult or impossible for key influencers to "test drive" your products or services, you may be challenged to execute strategies that instigate consumer driven conversations.
- Inferior products or services. Common sense dictates that if you are not confident in the quality of your products or services, the last thing you want to do is to encourage word of mouth advertising. If you miss judge the quality of your products, the result will be large numbers of customers who advise their friends and acquaintances to steer clear of your company.
- Products based on personal taste. Vanilla or chocolate? Products that are based largely on personal preferences aren't viable word of mouth prospects. Unless you can provide a rational basis for choosing your product over a competitor's, word of mouth will have limited effectiveness.
- Saturated (nothing new) products. If you have something new to share about your product or service, word of mouth advertising can be your best friend. But if you've been offering the same product or service for the past 20 years, don't expect dramatic results from word of mouth marketing no matter how much effort you put into it.