Why Word of Mouth Worked Then and Works Now

Posted by Kevin Wessels

The purpose of today’s blog is to introduce you to the most powerful form of marketing that is absolutely free…Word of Mouth!

People talk about ads they see, the experiences they have, and the products they purchase.  If you treat people right and they spread the word about your new products/services in a positive way, you’ll attract the right customers and clients who will sustain your business for a very long time.

And, remember…Word of Mouth is all free advertising for you!

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash


The age of technology has proved to be an amazing benefit in the world of Word of Mouth. With blogs, podcasts, digital marketing, chat forums, social networking, and all the other online mediums available, it’s easier than ever for consumers to share their experiences.

Now, as positive as Word of Mouth can be for your business, the other side of the coin is how negative it can be as well. Bad news travels faster than good news and if you have a less than high-quality product or weak customer service system, then your customers will tell everyone they know to not buy your products and services.

Why Word of Mouth Works

When you get information from a friend via Word of Mouth, you are more likely to trust it and act. On average customers purchase two out of every five recommendations their friends make. Conversely, traditional advertising draws about one response for every thousand ads and most of those are to ask for more information before the customer even considers purchasing.  That’s a HUGE difference.

Let’s expound on some reasons why Word of Mouth works. Some of these are:

  • It’s more personal, relevant, and believable.
  • It saves you time and money – customers make purchasing decisions and referrals more quickly and confidently.
  • The information is custom-tailored to the potential customer because of the friendly relationship of the referrer.
  • It’s customer-driven and customer-focused.
  • It’s self-generating and can take on a life of its own, especially with the information age of the Internet.
  • It becomes part of the product’s description.
  • The source of word of mouth can be important and more effective when coming from an expert.

How to Measure Word of Mouth

There are nine levels you can use to measure the word of mouth circulating around your company, products, and services.  Upon seeing where you are getting negative or weak word of mouth, you can then find ways to correct it.

In the rating framework that follows, it should seem relatively obvious that the negative levels are, well, negative and the positive levels are positive.

Minus 4
This is the worst of the worst and means your product is creating a scandal. Remember, when the popular over-the-counter pain relievers, like Tylenol, were deemed unsafe? Yeah, you don’t want that kind of word of mouth.

Minus 3
Disgruntled customers are going out of their way to convince other consumers from purchasing your products and services. They are boycotting you essentially.

Minus 2
While not outwardly boycotting, when customers are asked about you they will give a negative response.

Minus 1
At this level, people are mildly dissatisfied and while not outwardly talking about it, they will have an opinion if asked. Now they may purchase from you despite their negative feelings.  This admittedly can be a little confusing.

Level 0
This is sort of a neutral place to be. Customers are using your products, but don’t really talk about it. People rarely ask them about it, so they aren’t sharing their opinion with others. This can be a bit of a slippery slope because you don’t want to turn that neutral experience into a negative one. In fact, you should work to make it a positive one.

Plus 1
At this level, we are finally starting to work our way into the positive Word of Mouth about your company, products, and services. Plus 1 signifies that people are generally pleased with your products, but unless asked, they don’t really say anything about them.

Plus 2
When asked, your customers will talk about how much they love your products.

Plus 3
Customers will go out of their way to talk about your products, services, company, and their shopping experience with you. This is most evident when you see how people recommend movies to their friends and family.

Plus 4
Your product is the toast of the town!  There is an obvious buzz going around and your business is the place to be. People are not only talking about your great products and services, but they are talking about their shopping experience, your customer service, and how they perceive the company to help them in the future.  Examples include Tesla and Apple.

Does your firm have a positive or negative Word of Mouth rating?

Where is your Word of Mouth coming from?

Which of your products is being affected by Word of Mouth?

How is your Word of Mouth traveling?

If you found this blog helpful, please share it with a friend or colleague. 

That would be positive Word of Mouth in action and deeply appreciated!