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Why Word-of-Mouth Works Wonders
by Michel Fortin
Viral marketing is the process of implementing means through which the knowledge of your existence self-propagates. Like a virus, your visibility spreads throughout a network of people who refer you to each other. Unlike unsolicited ads (such as "spam"), which stops once it reaches its destination (and the reason spammers must keep spamming in order to remain successful), viral marketing continues to spread almost effortlessly since the people who refer you to others know each other. In addition, those who get to know you or know about you through third party referrals grant you a higher level of confidence, credibility, and loyalty.
Word-of-mouth advertising is crucial in the offline world. Online, referral or network marketing (as they are commonly known) is vital. The key to marketing success in the offline world is "location, location, location." The Internet is no different. In other words, your marketing success depends highly on the number of locations you appear -- places on which your site, link, company, or product name exist. In essence, it is to be in as many places as possible, talked about by as many people as possible, and seen by as many eyeballs as possible.
Remember an old dictum a mentor of mine once told me, which is: "Implication is far more powerful than specification." In other words, if you tell people you're the best, that you're the leader in your field, or that your product is the best solution to their needs, your self-serving promotional bias makes it all suspect. Your statement is rarely believable at face value. And if you do make such claims, you will have your work cut out for you in order to prove them.
However, if someone other than you says to another that you are indeed the best or that you do have the solution to their problems, how much more believable will that person's statement be? The answer is definitely more. Accordingly, referrals and networking systems are not only important because they create an awareness of your business (or for creating traffic in the online world), but also important to the degree to which third party marketing indirectly communicates greater credibility, superiority, and value of the products or services you offer.
In his new book (which I highly recommend) "The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding," Al Ries stresses the importance of leadership and how that leadership is communicated. According to Ries, people never buy the best -- they only think that they do. They usually buy the leader (or what they perceive as being the best). And that perception is often molded by what they are told and by what others do, not by what is fact or by what is being advertised.
Coke, for example, outsells Pepsi. But according to Ries, taste tests reveal that Pepsi is the better tasting brand. So, why does Coke still beat Pepsi in sales? It is not because it is the leader in the marketplace or promoted itself as such but because it is known as the leader.
Coke was the first cola "in the mind" of the marketplace and thus the one most talked about, even to this day. When a person is introduced to cola for the first time, he or she is often told to try Coke. People in restaurants still refer to the word "coke" as the generic name for colas, even when only Pepsi is served. Why is that? While other colas are bombarding them with marketing messages, people have heard of Coke first and most likely from other people.
Consequently, if your business or web site is unique, focuses on a niche, or is the first in some category, the knowledge of your existence will spread almost naturally. But creating systems and using specific tools that will leverage the spreading of that message helps to multiply your marketing punch exponentially. Such tools stimulate word-of-mouth advertising, which is more effective than general advertising. For along with communicating your existence to the world, word-of-mouth advertising helps to cast that aura of leadership and superiority.
Networking systems, for example, include strategic marketing alliances, joint ventures, and affiliate programs. Online, they are often called referral traffic generators. And unlike the more traditional traffic generators such as banners and search engines, these specific tools are much more effective since they are used by third parties and not by the original advertiser.
In fact, referral traffic generators are key ingredients of online success. A great example is a referral service like the one recently launched by my associates at "Internet Marketing Challenge" (the publishers of the "Chronicles" ezine of which I am the editor). This service is based on this viral marketing concept (please visit http://SuccessDoctor.com/http://www.successdoctor.com/referral.htm).
Nevertheless, if you received a call, letter, or email from someone you know referring you to a particular company, how much more credible will that referral be when compared to a blatant advertisement coming from the company itself? You got it# Much more.
About the Author
Michel Fortin is a consultant dedicated to helping businesses turn into powerful magnets. Visit http://SuccessDoctor.com to receive a free copy of his book, "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning." He is also the editor of the "Internet Marketing Chronicles" ezine delivered weekly to 90,000 subscribers -- subscribe free at http://SuccessDoctor.com/IMC/.
Tags: Sales and Marketing