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  • Writer's pictureChandler Lyles

The Oldest Form of Advertising is the Most Effective | Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

Some days in business are bad. Nothing you can do to avoid it. It just happens. I had one of those days back in 2014.

Late fall in Central Kentucky means gray weather every day as far as the eye can see.

My first business started as a pop-up BBQ restaurant in that area. Good weather was essential for people to come out and see us. We would partner with local breweries and set up a tent in their parking lot at night. The whole thing was both a physical and mental grind.

This particular day we were trying out a new location and the weather wasn’t cooperating. Intermittent bands of rain hammered us all night long. I wanted to pack it up and go home but I didn't want to let our brewery partners down no matter how inconvenient it was for us. So, I sat huddled under the tent with my team watching the clock tick.

Halfway through service, a young couple walks up to our tent and I begrudgingly put on my best "Customer Service While Cold" face. We struck up a conversation and I learned that they recently moved to Lexington (KY).

I'm not sure why but I asked the couple if they had the chance to try an Ale-8-One yet. It’s a regional soda brand that has a cult following in the state of Kentucky. It's a local tradition and I insisted that they have one.

I grabbed a couple of Ale-8's and welcomed them to the community with a quick toast. They enjoyed their drinks and kept chatting with us while they waited on their food.

I didn't expect anything positive to come out of that day but it did. That couple became lifelong fans of our BBQ. They returned time and time again, asked us to cater a few of their parties, and even brought friends with them to eat.

They became marketing machines for our business. Word-of-mouth marketing is the oldest form of advertising. It's also the first form of marketing your business has to get right if you want to ever see a profit.

Why is word-of-mouth advertising important?

We have to understand the power that our customer's personal stories have over our business. A business's brand is the story someone tells themselves and others about your business. A brand's size grows or shrinks depending on the number of people telling the same story. Positive or negative.

Humans are social animals. We survive by depending on the wisdom of our social networks. Back in the day, that meant having the tribe show us the strongest hunting spots or the best berry patches.

Today we need those networks to help us cut through the marketing noise. How much noise? Forbes predicts that the average American sees between 4,000 and 10,000 ads per day. That is way too much information for one person to actually process. That is why most lazy marketing strategies rely on obnoxious volume.

The strategy of pounding the consumer in the face over and over again until they buy is easy and widely used. The problem with this marketing philosophy is that it's expensive and forgettable.

According to Nielson, 92% of customers trust the opinions of their friends and family more than any other form of advertising. How can we create these moments for our own customers? Create positive emotions.

Emotion, at the end of the day, is triggered by a story you experienced. If you feel happy, sad, or angry then you're probably in the middle of a story. The question now is, what story is your customer experiencing with your brand?

3 Ways to Create Positive Emotions

1. Create a product or service worth talking about.

In his book, "Purple Cow," Seth Godin argues for businesses to create remarkable products that the right people want to seek out. Something remarkable is worth talking about. This form of marketing is the art of building things worth noticing right into your product or service.

As Walt Disney said, “Do what you do so well, that people can’t resist telling others about you.” Ask yourself, "Is this product we've made worth talking about?"

2. Facilitate remarkable moments.

Potential magic moments are everywhere. All you have to do is be intentional about looking for them. Catering someone's wedding? Buy them a wedding gift and sneak it into the other gifts with an amazingly heartfelt thank you note. See a customer with a flat tire in the parking lot? Help them change it. Meet someone who has just moved to the area? Offer them a shared experience that only locals know about.

Is your team empowered to make magical moments happen?

3. Commit to fanatical consistency.

It isn't enough to deliver this remarkable moment one day and forget about it the next. We have to strive for excellence every single day. That is where the magic really happens because you never miss an opportunity.

Had I shut down the popup that night because I wanted to go home, I doubt I would've been able to create new lifetime customers. I would guess that $3 worth of Ale-8s resulted in a couple of thousand dollars in sales over the next six years. How is that for an ROI?

Connecting the real world with the digital one.

You may be asking yourself, how does word-of-mouth marketing benefit my digital advertising efforts? Seasoned marketers know the benefit of having a well-rounded marketing plan. One tactic feeds into the next.

I've seen hundreds of social media posts over my years tagging friends with some variation of the line, "This is that place I was telling you about."

We've all been in plenty of conversations where someone says something and then it immediately gets Googled by everyone else in the conversation.

Marketing tactics don't happen in a vacuum. Each tactic feeds the next and ultimately brings more business to your doorstep. Want some help building out your marketing plan? Schedule a discovery call and we'll see what we can do to help!



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