Businesses: add ‘word of mouth’ to your marketing plan


By Juliet Wright. Jessie Eby contributed to this blog.

Para la versión en español, oprima aquí.

Have you ever raved to your friends and family about an experience you had with a business? Or have you ever been swayed to try a new business due to a friend's recommendation? If so, you’ve participated in one of the oldest forms of advertising: word of mouth marketing.

Word of mouth marketing has always played a pivotal role in marketing for businesses, especially in smaller rural communities where word travels fast. We know and trust our neighbors; their words carry weight. With the dawn of social media, customer reviews (negative and positive alike) are amplified and can reach a much larger audience. Now more than ever, it’s important to consider how word of mouth marketing plays into your marketing plan.

Trusted Advertising

When we get a suggestion from a trusted friend or family member, it carries more weight than paid advertising. Why? Because we know that person isn’t being paid to sell us something, they’re simply sharing a genuine recommendation. Word of mouth marketing is powerful because it means that your current customers are vouching for your products or services, which brings a certain level of authenticity to potential customers. When clients experience something truly amazing, they become your biggest advocates, sharing their positive reviews with others and helping to grow your business in a meaningful way.

On the flip side, word of mouth marketing can have potentially disastrous effects if your business isn’t meeting your customer’s expectations. A negative review will travel further faster than a positive one and could be hard to reverse. Think about it—if your friend receives terrible service at a restaurant and the food is only mediocre, how likely are you to make a reservation there?

Is word of mouth marketing important for my business?

If you’re reading this and you own a business, it’s safe to assume that word of mouth marketing is important for your business. Word of mouth marketing can make or break any business, but it’s essential in industries where customer relationships are crucial and customer service is part of the experience. Most businesses have at least a certain degree of customer service to them, but if your business doesn’t focus on selling a tangible product and you rely on repeat customers, you probably fall into this camp. 

How can I leverage word of mouth marketing for my business?

The tricky thing about word of mouth marketing is that you can’t control it—which, in essence, is why it’s so impactful to your potential customers. Instead, your main focus should be on what you can control: the customer experience. Strive to provide a great product and an outstanding experience for your patrons. People love to talk and share the things they’re passionate about, so give them something great to talk about. What would you want your customers to tell their friends about your business? Consider how you can give them an experience you would want them to share with their friends.

Examine the customer experience

To do this well, you should go through your customer’s journey with your business with a fine-tooth comb. Ask a trusted friend to test run your business, and walk through it step by step, paying close attention to any potential snags in your system. Is it easy for your customer to find your business and begin the process of working with you? Is your staff courteous and helpful? Does your product or service meet (or ideally, exceed) the needs of your customer? What does your payment process look like? Mapping out the customer journey and paying close attention to each step can help you alleviate any pain points your customer might experience. It also allows you to highlight any instances where you could go above and beyond the customer’s expectations, allowing your business to shine.

Encourage your customers to spread the word

Once you’ve examined your products and services to the best of your ability, you can fan the sparks of word of mouth marketing by encouraging your customers to leave a review or engage with and share your business on social media. A referral program is a great way to subtly encourage word of mouth marketing among your patrons. It can be especially effective if you can offer your customers an incentive for referring their friends (i.e. a discount on future purchases, a small gift, an upgraded service, etc.). Your customers will feel good about referring their friends to a business that they know and trust and get rewarded for doing so as a bonus.

Word of mouth marketing with other forms of advertising

Although word of mouth marketing is incredibly effective, it shouldn’t be your only kind of advertising. Other forms of marketing are important for reaching new audiences who have yet to hear of your business. When used together, traditional advertising and word of mouth marketing can keep a steady stream of customers coming through your doors.

For marketing assistance for your business, contact our staff at or 402.870.1521.