I’m in a quandary. As word-of-mouth marketing has become the most powerful and important marketing method on the planet, the less I like the term. Word-of mouth stems out of the Latin phrase “vivo voce” meaning the passing of information using oral communication. Adding “advertising” or “marketing” to the phrase implies that a product or service is being discussed. But, word-of-mouth now goes way beyond just oral communication and does not necessarily need to include buzz, reviews, or the active discussion of a product or service. It simply is normal communication, and all communication is marketing or advertising something.
If you tell a friend you spent a fun weekend in Vermont it will probably lead to further conversation about why it was fun. Where you went, what you ate, what you saw, what you did with your time, these are all stories and discussions that advertise and create buzz around Vermont and specific places and experiences in Vermont. If you see a friend overflowing with joy and laughter technically they are advertising joy and laughter. If you want some of that chances are you are going to want to discuss where it is coming from – word of mouth. But, we need a better term when business is involved.
We’ve got buzz marketing, conversational marketing, influencers, testimonials, referrals, etc. but many of these are now too specific or not natural and trustworthy enough to constitute the type of natural, unsolicited word of mouth marketing I think should be obsessed over by businesses.
I think the key here is friends. Friends trust friends. Friends emulate friends. Friends talk honestly with each other. We’ve got B2B (business to business) marketing and B2C (business to consumer) I’d like to propose B2F2F (business to friend to friend) marketing. In this way we can focus on businesses creating experiences and products that strengthen relationships and create friends that will talk naturally with other friends.
I’ve talked about my simplified view of the three stages of effective marketing. The concept of creating service and experiences for friends fits right in with those stages. Your business needs more friends right now – customers and money will naturally follow. What are you going to do about it? What are you going to change, improve, or create that strengthens relationships with “friends” instead of just advertising for more customers. You can buy customers but you need to earn friends. The good news is that once earned these friends also become long term customers as well as the most powerful and lowest cost marketing force available.