Marketing Forum Speaker: Word of Mouth is Consumer-to-Consumer Marketing

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ON THE ATLANTIC OCEAN ABOARD THE NORWEGIAN DAWN -- Word of mouth marketing rewards good companies.

That was a key takeaway from a workshop that took place aboard this ship at the Marketing and eMarketing Forums 2006.

Rick Murray, executive vice president and general manager of public relations agency Edelman and Andy Sernovitz, CEO of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, led that workshop.

Formed 18 months ago, the workshop has 300 company members, including Kimberly-Clark Corp., Dell Inc. and Walt Disney Co.

Word of mouth marketing is basically the act of encouraging end users or evangelists to spread good news about your company's products and services.

Why word of mouth? Because it is effective.

One study said "word of mouth is influencing 80 percent of all purchases, a staggering number, and McKinsey says it is affecting 67 percent of the United States economy," said Mr. Murray, who directs Edeleman's word of mouth marketing initiatives.

What makes it so popular? Mr. Murray said that since people are inundated with so many messages everyday from companies, they want to turn to real people for decision-making.

"Word of mouth marketing is driven from the fact that credible messages today come from people like us," Mr. Sernovitz said.

According to Edelman's Annual Trust Barometer, "a person like me" is now the most trusted source of information - more than a doctor, an academic, or your pastor, Mr. Murray said.

"Word of mouth is giving people a reason to talk about your products, and making it easier for that conversation to take place," Mr. Sernovitz said. "It's coming up with a cool new product, offering a remarkable experience or offering great customer service. It's a tool that rewards companies that do good stuff, more than companies that do marketing better."

Basically, "it is c-to-c marketing," Mr. Sernovitz said. "It is not b-to-c or b-to-b."

Word of mouth marketing can be done online, such as with blogs, customer reviews, online advertising or online public relations or offline, such as with free sampling, grassroots marketing or events.

Roughly 80 percent of word of mouth marketing starts offline, Mr. Murray claims.

When engaging in word of mouth marketing, Mr. Sernovitz said, " always be honest, always tell the truth, and always treat people well. If you do, you will have happy customers telling people great things about your company. Word of mouth marketing rewards great companies."

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