Word of mouth marketing
Community service organizations after a single marketing strategy they can employ
tomorrow can look no further than word of mouth marketing.
Word of mouth marketing is about people passing on information about you to each
other. Since people lived in caves they have wanted to share valuable information with
others and warn them away from risky situations. Word of mouth is the most credible
promotion your organisation can ever aspire to and it is becoming more and more
important as we become weary with the constant and invasive advertising we face each
Organic word of mouth involves the range of genuine conversations people have. They
share information on what to buy, what to wear, where to work and countless other
topics with friends, family, classmates, workmates and team mates. These organic
conversations multiply as word of mouth spreads and more and more people hear about
your good work.
Organic word of mouth is stimulated by:
• Providing quality services and continually improving them.
• Listening to people and acting on their concerns.
• Introducing something new eg a new program, faster turn around times for services
Organisations use amplified word of mouth when they deliberately set out to create
positive talk about their products or services. They recruit key influencers with the
specific purpose of having them start conversations within their networks. And they
accelerate word of mouth by going online where, from a keyboard or mobile phone, they
can reach out to many people. (Social media has put word of mouth marketing on
steroids by carrying conversations beyond the traditional circles of friends and family).
Amplified word of mouth marketing can be encouraged by:
• Creating an online community where people can swap ideas and experiences, eg a
chat room for clients, carers , families
• Finding and encouraging advocates, happy clients and influential groups to actively
promote your organisation.
• Giving them information they can share
• Using advertising or media coverage to get conversations started.
Both types of word of mouth marketing require topics, talkers, tools and tracking to
• At its most fundamental, community service organizations must have a worthwhile
topic and provide services that offer value. People spread positive word of mouth
when they believe something has benefit, but use the same word of mouth to punish
poor performance. Reputation is everything.
• Word of mouth is about people so you need to know who you want to reach and
where they gather in the online and offline world.
• Identify, recruit and maintain relationships with key influencers who can help you
connect with different groups of people.
• Provide them with simple messages, stories and pass-on tools so they find it easy to
spread the word.
• Use as many channels as possible to keep the conversation about you going. Use
organic word of mouth in face to face meetings, speak to groups and hold events.
Use amplified word of mouth by going online to either create your own
conversations or join those of others. Viral marketing is the process of engaging in
online conversations with the intent of spreading them to as widely as possible.
• Track the results of word of mouth by encouraging feedback from people you talk
and using digital tools to track online conversations.
Key influencers are essential to word of mouth unless of course you have a topic which
spreads like wildfire (which most community service organizations don’t).
Approach them, convince them that what you have is of value to the people they know,
and invite them to carry your information into their networks. This is best achieved by
initially meeting face to face, explaining your organisation and answering questions. If
they agree to help, follow up by establishing where and how they can support and what
you will do to support them.
Word of mouth relies on real conversations so these key influencers will need simple
topics in simple language to relay your information. Here your case studies, stories of
success with clients and verbal pictures of the great work done by your staff and
volunteers will be invaluable.
Conversations must be continually refreshed because people will not pass stale
information on to others. Take regular opportunities to provide updates on what your
organisation is doing and over the course of the year invite them along for site visits and
to your events, seminars etc.
Simple ideas to pass along your information are:
• Simply ask people to share your information. Ask people to tell others who could
benefit about your services and continually (and nicely) remind them to do so. Ask
clients to tell their families, families to tell friends, volunteers to tell others etc. Never
assume people automatically talk about you.
• Use emails to communicate new information. But keep the content brief, fresh and
interesting. You can attach short presentations or links to online videos. Again ask
people to forward your emails to friends and others.
• Never leave a meeting without providing a hand-out, brochure etc to others.
• Post videos on YouTube and images on photo sharing sites and email out the links.
• Join in industry conversations by attending, speaking at and asking questions at
conferences and seminars.
• Contribute to online discussions about your topic in other people’s blogs, chat rooms
and list servers.
Checklist - Measure Word of Mouth Marketing
Word of Mouth Tactic Test
Receptionist Always ask people inquiring about your
services how did you hear about us?
Conversations with potential clients Do they show interest in your service?
Do they take up your services?
Conversations with carers, hidden carers Do they show interest in your service?
etc, families. Do their loved ones or friends inquire
about your services?
Conversations with key influencers Do they agree to help you?
(referring individuals and organizations) Observe their influence. Are people
coming to you because they have referred
Do they help you communicate? Provide
access to their website, display your
information in their surgeries, offices etc.
Do they continue to maintain interest as
you supply fresh information?
Viral marketing Create two versions of an email you ask
(email) people to forward, and see which one
gets the most results.
On-line tracking tools Use a Google search to see what people
are saying about you on-line.
Check comments and mentions on blogs
dealing with your issue.
Do people post comments on YouTube
video? Your blog?
Ask for feedback on your website.
Direct Mail Check for people who inquire about your
services who were not originally sent a
letter, brochure etc? They may have
learned of you through word of mouth.