I don’t need advertising, marketing or public relations, I get plenty of business leads from “word-of-mouth (WOM).”

WOM advertising is an organic way that individual consumers share their experiences with a company. The plethora of online options for reviews magnifies this exponentially. Yet the greatest influence is on those in the customer’s immediate vicinity: friends and family. 

This statement above, while probably true, doesn’t address the fact that these may not be the “right” or “best” leads for your business. Attracting new clients or customers only from word-of-mouth may not truly be helping your business grow and could be ultimately detrimental. Here’s why:

WOM only touches a small group of people: While you may have a good, steady client base, they may be living in close proximity to your business, therefore, touching only those in their neighborhood or social circles. That is a fairly shallow pool of prospects and you aren’t using your resources to seek out potential clients that might have the ability to do even more business with you.

Data gathering is difficult: How do you know if a new product or service is a hit? WOM makes discerning this information difficult and can stunt the development of your innovations.

You have no control: Even if you have a website and social media, WOM gives you no control over the message and the speed of its dissemination. Building relationships takes time, developing brand champions who share a message (in the way you want) takes even more. Creating and sharing your own messages reaches potential consumers at lightning speed.

Worst case scenario: If you have positive WOM, you are likely, at some point, to have negative WOM. You might not be aware of it at all. You can’t manage a crisis you can’t track and that one unhappy customer can wreak havoc with a business solely relying on WOM.

The best solution is to support your WOM with strategic marketing, advertising messages, strong community relations programs and a mechanism to receive customer feedback directly. This will make sure your messages are getting out to your potential customers and clients.


Mary Louise VanNatta, APR, CAE, is the CEO of VanNatta Public Relations, a PR, event planning, and consulting firm in Salem, Oregon. PRSalem.com


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