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Online marketing is still about ‘word of mouth’

Amongst the search engine noise how do you make it easier for people to remember you and refer you to others? asks Graham Jones, internet psychologist

Whenever I ask business owners where they get their customers from, the whole concept of ‘word of mouth’ is either top of the list, or pretty close to it. Yet in a world where we all seem to go straight to Google to find a supplier, it could seem that word of mouth is less important. However, I think it is becoming more important. Here’s why.

If someone were to search for whatever it is you sell they face a daunting array of potential options when they go to Google. If you were to search for something specific like ‘employment law firm reading berkshire’ Google provides you with 694,000 web pages to choose from. How on earth are you meant to select from that lot?

You could, of course, simply opt for deciding between the first few results. But they may not be what you are looking for – they may only be in the top results because they are really good at search engine optimisation, which is not the same as being the kind of law firm you are really looking for. What people really do is scroll down the list of results until they see a name they recognise. Bingo. Word of mouth.

The more we are surrounded by ‘noise’ of search engine information, social networking postings, blogs and so on, the more we want clarity. Although each of these areas can certainly bring you business, they often are connected with ‘word of mouth’. People read your blog, because someone recommended it to them. People click on your website in a search results page because they recognise the company name having been told about it by a friend. People see your postings on LinkedIn because they have connected with you through the recommendation of a mutual friend. As much as we might like to think that the web is our main marketing tool, you don’t have to look far to see the influence of ‘word of mouth’.

Getting more word of mouth

So if you want more traffic to your website, if you would like more people to read your blog or if you need more connections on social networks, word of mouth is a good place to start. But how do you get more of it?

Crucial to the success of word of mouth is making it easy for people to talk about you. If your company name is long and complex, or if your product names are not snappy and easy to remember, you reduce the chances of word of mouth taking place. I couldn’t possibly remember that my printer is officially the ‘CM749A-N911a’. Thankfully I can remember it is the ‘OfficeJet Pro’. Equally, I couldn’t really recommend an advertising agency to you called ‘Batten Barton Durstine and Osborn’, it is so much easier to pass on ‘BBDO’. Sometimes businesses do not do themselves any favours in the word of mouth stakes, because the names they choose for their products, services or their company are just not easy to remember or use.

That also means you could need to change your domain names or your social networking page names. For instance, Google+ has really complex names, making it difficult for people to find you. Sure they can search for you, but unless you have a really unusual name there is going to be some clicking back and forth, making it less likely people will connect. So much easier to create a redirect and say to people ‘you can get to me at, for instance. They will not be able so easily to pass on the actual address which is And try putting that on a business card…!

Give people something they can use

Talking of business cards, you can also make it easy for people to refer you by providing them with ‘collateral’ they can pass on. Tips cards – I have one with my top five tips for social media, for example – or bookmarks, for instance. Anything that your contact finds useful and which helps them pass on something useful to the people they know. It is all word of mouth.

We can all learn a lesson from the world of affiliate marketing. Online the companies that make the most money out of getting other people to sell their products make it easy for that extended sales force to do their work. So they provide adverts, emails, pop-ups, links and a variety of marketing initiatives all designed to help other people sell their stuff. The companies that spend a great deal of time and effort in producing these materials are the ones that get more affiliates selling more. Ultimately, they have made it easier for them.

Like good affiliate businesses we will all get more word of mouth – which we know is important to us – when we make it easier for people to pass on our names.

What can you do to make it easier for people to mention you and refer you to others?

Visit the Graham Jones website



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