Why Word Of Mouth Marketing is Harder Than You Think

word of mouth marketing

It’s a simple enough concept, isn’t it?

If you create a product or service that’s good enough, those first customers will tell others, who will tell others who will tell others and so on.

It’s called word of mouth marketing and it’s both cheap and effective.

Word of mouth is less expensive than hiring someone to write a blog about your product or service or spending your precious time to do it yourself.

It’s certainly less expensive than producing a Super Bowl commercial about your company or taking out an ad in the New York Times.

It’s more effective because people are often referred by people they trust.

This could be a friend, a family member or a favorite respected blogger whom you did not pay to write about you.  No, this blogger wrote about you just because he or she likes what you do.

Small Business Deals

The trouble is, it’s not so easy to get these referrals as it might at first appear.


Well, one reason might be the risk the person who enjoyed your product or service is taking, says marketer and author Seth Godin.

In a recent post on his blog, Godin explains:

Being really good is merely the first step. In order to earn word of mouth, you need to make it safe, fun and worthwhile to overcome the social hurdles to spread the word.”

For example, what if that friend or family member your customer refers to you has a bad experience? Godin adds.

Sure, the customer who sampled your product or service enjoyed it. But is it really worth the risk that someone else important in his or her life will not?

Then there’s the opposite possibility, says Godin.

What if the the person your customer refers to you doesn’t pay or behaves inappropriately? Will that affects your original customer’s relationship with you?

There’s also the concern that referring too many people to your favorite restaurant will make it harder for you to get a table … or affect the quality of the food.

And don’t forget that blogger.

Godin says those interested in referring others to your product or service may also have trouble if what you do is too difficult to explain … or understand.

And they may be worried others believe they received a “kickback” for helping to spread the word.

So does this mean that getting those all-important referrals from ecstatic customers is impossible? Hardly! But it should give you an idea of the obstacles you will need to overcome.

Word of Mouth photo via Shutterstock 5 Comments ▼

Shawn Hessinger Shawn Hessinger is the Executive Editor for Small Business Trends and a professional journalist with more than 20 years experience in traditional and digital media for trade publications and news sites. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and has served as a beat reporter, columnist, editorial writer, bureau chief and managing editor for the Berks Mont Newspapers.

5 Reactions
  1. It’s tough because aside from providing great products, you also have to go another mile in pleasing your customer. You should go beyond your competition for people to start recommending you to their family and friends.

  2. It’s a cheap way to grow a business but it will be a slow grow and you will run out of referrals unless your business is the repeat type of business. I used BNI for 4 years to help grow my business but you need to keep changing groups to keep the momentum going

  3. I feel word of mouth marketing is a tough job. but when we talk about the facts people are often referred by people they trust as you said and the probability of getting referrals from customers is impossible too. Though it is not expensive one but hiring a marketing guy / content marketer is easy one

  4. Word of mouth is a primitive and loyal marketing tool. But your word can only reach so far without the help of others. Take your business to the next level with SMS and mobile marketing tools. Going mobile will bring a rapid ROI and drive traffic to your business. Check out this blog to learn more: http://www.avidmobile.com/blog/mobile-marketing-amp-up-your-business.php

  5. Word of mouth is a holy grail of advertising, but as far as I see companies quite often miss the opportunity to take advantage of. Facts prove that word of mouth marketing has an essential part in customer’s purchase decision and the really interesting thing is that online word of mouth marketing is becoming bigger and bigger. Thanks to private messaging.