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 WordofMouth.org 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).


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