All posts by Catherine Bernales

About Catherine Bernales

I'm a super enthusiastic journalist who loves to write, post and comment articles with people from different backgrounds. I love to read, write interviews, create debates and exchange new ideas!

WOM in small companies:
Pass the word and they will boost your business

By Catherine Bernales


Language is the essence of human nature and words are the beats of our world. Human history only started off when people learned to communicate and to create small communities. In order to survive, humans built different kind of commercial social networks. It was in that moment when the first manifestations of marketing emerged. Among them, word of mouth was the most common. Today, this ancient marketing tool has come back into fashion and it is changing the way in which companies market themselves.

In ancient times, Romans or Chinese people commercialised their goods via WOM. Based on simple recommendations, people verbally transmitted their impressions from one person to another. As simple as that, the power of WOM helped link the world. It clearly influenced in the discovery of new lands and continents.

Take the example of Christopher Columbus and the colonisation of America. It was in part, the strong influence of recommendations that encouraged adventurers to set off to new lands.

These days, something similar occurs with WOM. The advent of social media has enabled companies to pass the word online and offline too. This has helped organisations to grow their presence and to advertise their products and services. Particularly, small businesses are taking the best advantage of the WOM to expand their sales and to cover new audiences.

The five truths about WOM

Regarding a survey conducted by Verizon in conjunction with Small Business Trends, 85% of small businesses get customers through word of mouth. For instance, Jessie Hunt, marketing manager at the British Museum, explained in the AMA Conference 2012 that WOM represents the main source for the reason why people decide to come to the British Museum’s exhibitions. “It’s not only a powerful tool, but also unpaid, and therefore credible”.

But how can organisations implement this simple, but successful marketing tool in their promotional strategy?

Andy Sernovitz, the New York Times bestselling author of Word of Mouth Marketing and current CEO at explains that the Five Truths of WOM can allow companies to earn the respect and recommendations of customers.

  • Fist Truth, Talkers. Find people who will talk about you. Think about fans, volunteers, bloggers and influencers.
  • Second Truth, Topics. Give people a reason to talk. Introduce some subjects such as great services, new features, especial offer or cool product.
  • Third Truth, Helps the message spreads further and faster. You can use many resources like “tell-a-friend-form”, blogs, viral emails, handouts, online discussions and coupons.
  • Forth True, Taking part. Join the conversation, be interactive. It is important to reply feedback, join discussion and to use social media as an essential tool.
  • Fifth True, Tracking. It is crucial to measure and to comprehend what people are saying. For this, don’t hesitate to search blogs, read online discussions, listen feedback and use some tracking tools.

Some case studies to share

Currently, a wide variety of small companies are doing great use of WOM. Let’s have a look at some inspiring cases and find out how some of the 5 truths of WOM have been successfully used.

Got what it cakes: Facebook, friends and social media

In 2009 Mandy Miller quit her job as an on-air traffic reporter in North California and decided to set up her own business. At first, she started baking cakes for friends but it was an expensive hobby. Lately she put up a website, but it was not until she came up to social media that her business begun to grow.

Her sister created her a Facebook page Got what it cakes and at the end of her second year her revenues were circa $40,000. Through this social media platform, word of mouth could express virally. She said in a Huffingtonpost interview that “Facebook was a real tipping point for my business. My cakes were already very popular, but Facebook exposed me to the world, to friends of friends and family, to bloggers, party planners, etc. I couldn’t believe that something this powerful, this widespread, could be free! I use my business page as my store-front”.

Stormhoek Vineyards:  Blogging, tracking and listening to feedback


Japie Swanepoel, the author of The E of Marketing, highlighted the case of Stormhoek Vineyards. He considered it as an example of how word of mouth via blogging can grow any business. This small South African winery wanted to increase its presence in the English and French market, and to stay ahead from the competition.

The company decided to contact Hugh Macleod, an influential blogger to market their product in his Gapingvoid blog. Macleod offered to the first 100 bloggers to contact him a free bottle of Stormhoek in exchange of nothing, but to post. They were not required to talk about the wine.

The results were outstanding. Blogger, indeed, posted about the wine and a huge buzz was spread in the industry. That increased sales which were doubled within a year.

Taxi Oviedo: Interactivity, discounts and innovation

taxi oviedo

When Rixar García, from Taxi Oviedo began posting on Twitter, he realised that he could boost his taxi services through word of mouth. He was the first successful taxi driver in Spain who begun to provide his services via social media.

By the end of 2009, he was clear that he wanted to increase his customer portfolio and sales. “You need to spend months and years to make things right. What people see as success is a word of mouth that reflects the steady and continuous work in the right direction” he said in an interview on the ABC Newspaper, Spain.

In a country where only 10% of SME use Twitter, Rixar believes that it is crucial for entrepreneurs to know their business well as Twitter only provides 140 characters, what means that information must be planned.

Foursquare and geo-localisation also helped Taxi Oviedo to became a media boom. He offered discounts to all customers who book and check in his taxi, gaining a major impact in his business.

Remember WOM requires time, a strategic thinking and a planned schedule if you want to build a strong brand. If you master and monitor these 5 recommendations you will definitely increase the number of people talking about your company offline and online.

And don’t forget “When people trust you, they are willing to put their words on the line for you. Please them, inspire them, and they’ll bring their friends to you” (Andy Sernovitz).


General Engagement: THE POWER OF VIDI

General Engagement:


By Catherine Bernales


Susan L. and Emma S. are both marketing consultants. They live in the same city, studied in the same university, but work in different companies. While their jobs seem to be very similar, the truth is that they are quite far from having the same levels of engagement at work.

Susan works in an international company and earns a competitive salary. Her organisation provides her regular training opportunities and promotion prospects. On the contrary, Emma is part of a small team in a young company. She earns an average salary, has low training opportunities and her office is old and a bit cramped. However, her organisation owns a strong corporate culture.

Although Susan’s levels of job satisfaction are apparently much higher than Emma’s, the truth is that they are not. She’s completely discouraged and self-perpetuated in a cycle of low morale. Nevertheless, her lack of motivation represents nothing new these days. In fact, she’s part of the 87% of people who express low workplace engagement at work. Even worth, only 13% of employees in the world are engaged according to the State of the Global Workplace Survey (2013) from Gallup World, a management consultancy.

Conversely, the case of Emma is rather different. She feels completely engaged, with a great disposition to support the company’s culture and enough confident to self-manage. In a nutshell, Emma is totally VIDI.

But what does VIDI means? According to Andrew Leigh, the author of Ethical Leadership Creating and sustaining and ethical business culture, VIDI is a useful approach that affects the levels of general engagement. When employees feel Valued, Involved, Developed and Inspired they are more likely to stay in their organisations and become fully engaged with ethical issues.

Whist it is undeniable that it is hard for leaders to maintain high levels of engagement in their teams, the concept of VIDI offers some practical guidelines for leaders.

Being Valued: Make your employees feel worthwhile and wanted

good job and well done

Showing that you VALUE people means that you understand them. In other words, leaders must learn to convey the message that makes employees valued.

“When I started running my own company I discovered that paying attention to what people says and actively listen to their ideas, reinforce the message that you care about them”, said M. Paz M. Marketing Manager at Webit Communications. She also thought that as she was usually involved in time-consuming tasks, she didn’t have the time to contact her employees frequently. She decided to set up some scheduled visits to her staff. “Not only I saw them more regularly, but I also started to encourage them to contact me for their concerns. In response, I tried to give them positive answers and public credit for contributions”, she said.

But even the simple “how are you feeling today” or using a positive language like “that was really useful”, can make your staff feel needed.

Being involved: Let your employees voice their views

When it comes to make your employees feel INVOLVED don’t hesitate to let them express their views and ideas. They need to feel part of their organisations. For instance, the retailer M&S has a network called the Business Involvement Group (BIG) in which people can communicate their ideas and get feedback. Through this programme, the company informs, involves and have the chance to consults its employees on the issues that affect them.

Similarly, the global communications company, BT, runs a programme which reduces CO2 emissions and protect the environment. They have set up a framework for “Carbon Clubs”, a creative space that give employees the opportunity to brainstorm thoughts and innovative projects. Currently, BT has 130 clubs around the world.

Being developed: Help your employees to fulfil their values

The opportunity to be developed directly influences engagement levels. Leaders should create a personal development plan for their workforce that can emerge from evolved discussions with them. In this line, it is interesting to motivate your employees to follow their own schedules, rather than imposing targets. However, try to make sure that these goes in accordance to your aims and values.

A research from Blessing White has showed that development can certainly reduce the turnover rates. The study named Navigating Ambiguity: Career Research Report 2014, has concluded that employees “need to make the most of their skills, fulfil their values and over time build a career journey that gets them to where they want to be — and where the organization needs them to be. Such skills and experience are developed through on-the-job experience and formal or informal learning”.

 Being inspired: Feel passion of what you really love

These days, unfortunately the majority of employees feel disengaged. Take the example of the UK, in which only 17% of the people are engaged, 57% are not and 26% is actively disengaged (Gallup Survey, 2013).

Based on this, it is clear that the roles of leaders and inspiration have become a crucial matter. Before inspiring others, leaders have to be sincere and recognise how inspired they are. A passionate leader can drive engagement and positively affect people in an emotional way. Thus, it is essential for them to refine their inspiring skills and renew their energy. Although it can be complex, sharing uninspired feelings with close colleagues or taking up outside coaching might be more than helpful. Check these excellent inspiring tips of the founder of Virgin Group, Richard Branson of how to energise your employees and remember: Find what you love…

You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle…” (Steve Jobs)