If word-of-mouth advertising isn't included in your marketing plan, it should be. That's the message of longtime pulpit-pounders on the subject Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba, authors of Creating Customer Evangelists.
They assert that the cacophony of sales messages out there is deafening and desensitizing. McConnell and Huba's solution is to encourage customer evangelism, or word-of-mouth advertising. It's the simple idea of getting people to talk to others about your product or service, and before you know it, buzz is created.
Godfrey Harris, a national management consultant from Los Angeles and author of Don't Take Our Word for It: Everything You Need to Know About Making Word of Mouth Advertising Work for You, offers ideas and examples you can extrapolate from. One of my favorites is finding a way to send money back to your customers, because "they won't stop talking about it." It's a favorite because it happened to me. I bought a new car and, a week later, received an unexpected check for $20, which they described as an extra rebate for some reason that escapes me now. But Harris is right--I couldn't stop talking about it.
The message is this: Build an ad if you must, but building customer goodwill can pay off even more.
Jerry Fisher is a freelance advertising copywriter and author of Creating Successful Small Business Advertising.