We hear it all the time. Zero-cost marketing! Shoestring marketing! Zero-outlay marketing! Promote your business for nothing at all! And on it goes.
But the purveyors of these theories often fail to mention the amount of time that goes into the learning, planning, execution and measurement of the tactics they promote.
There’s no doubt all of us smaller business operators need to contain outgoings as much as possible, and so try to do as much as we can ourselves.
But equally, there are those who are wasting time trying to learn and master tasks that are much better and faster performed by somebody else.
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However, there is one genuinely zero cost marketing tactic that we all know and adore.
The genuine article
It is of course ‘word-of-mouth’ — now accompanied by its younger sibling ‘word-of-mouse’.
So what’s so new about that? It’s been with us since the dawn of business hasn’t it?
Well that’s essentially correct. Word-of-mouth has been the mainstay of marketing since business began as people spread the word of a great experience they’ve had with product or service. Or conversely, what a bad experience they may have had.
But it’s now several times more effective thanks to the digital world.
In the past, word-of-mouth travelled at snails’ pace. It proliferated via the communications methods of yore — telephone, dinner parties, catchups and even good old mail.
If it were very good, you might even crack the old word-of-mouth holy grail — print and broadcast media.
Mostly it was very effective, but slow to get out to your market. So slow that it may not get to them until they have already purchased from a competitor.
The first sign that word-of-mouth could be spread much faster happened back in the 1980s. Now you could spread the word of a great (or poor) experience to as many people as your hosting service could manage.
In the case of broadcast email, that could literally be up to millions!
But then along came social media.
Brave new word-of-mouth
If email provided word-of-mouth marketing on steroids, social media would be its wonder drug.
Now customers could share their experience in real-time with as many people as could be-friend them. Many thousands more could be reached via special interest groups, which are multiplying in both number and the number of members that join them.
If you used more than one social network, that number would multiply again.
What social media has created is a global, real-time word-of-mouth machine.
So how can we harness it for no cost at all? Surely there is some time required to generate it.
Well yes and no.
No, because word-of-mouth will indeed generate itself freely the moment you have a ‘postworthy’ customer experience, good or bad.
Simply by providing a remarkable customer experience, word-of-mouth will make its own way into the world and this will be heard by other prospective customers to provide a qualified lead or sale.
And yes, because you can harness word-of-mouth by investing in its proliferation.
From spending time asking if customers will spread the word of their great experience, to asking for testimonials that you can share, to creating an ad campaign around it; there are many ways of ensuring your positive word-of-mouth goes well beyond what your happy customer is capable of reaching.
Fundamentally you can increase your completely time- and cost-free positive word-of-mouth by making sure you provide the best customer experience you can.
The equation is simple: the more customers you delight, the greater the positive word-of-mouth.
But you already knew that right?