Just as the right word in the right place can work wonders, the wrong word in the wrong place can wreak havoc. For instance, word-of-mouth marketing can be very risky if the message being spread is inconsistent with your other marketing messages.
One example of this might be if the word-of-mouth message is that your company is set up for professional or business clients only, but your newspaper ads are aimed at the general public. "Consumers can smell that stuff a mile away, and it makes your paid advertising totally ineffective," warns Cafferky. "And if it is effective, it brings in new customers only to make them upset."
You can also make a mistake by relying too much on word-of-mouth. As powerful as it is, it's not the only solution to most businesses' marketing needs. Some products and services need to be marketed through the standard advertising channels. "Distributors won't touch some products unless you show you have an advertising budget," says Cafferky.
Perhaps the biggest mistake may be to ignore word-of-mouth marketing entirely. Even in a well-crafted traditional marketing campaign, what people say about your product or service can have an effect. Negative word-of-mouth can be devastating, says Raphel; the best way to fight it is with positive word-of-mouth.
The mainstream marketing community may not have embraced word-of-mouth marketing, but there are numerous marketing experts who have recognized its value. Benun suggests the writings of Jay Conrad Levinson, author of the Guerrilla Marketing series (Houghton Mifflin) and a regular Entrepreneur columnist. Raphel also recommends the books of master marketers such as Stanley Marcus and David Ogilvy.
One thing all expert marketers realize is that although it may be called word-of-mouth, this form of marketing gets its real strength because that's not its real source. Word-of-mouth carries a special freight of honesty and conviction because, unlike any other marketing message, says Anderson, "word-of-mouth is speaking from the heart."