Word of mouth marketing is unscientific, unreliable, and can’t be replicated.
Yet, for all that, it’s held an odd pride of place in many B2B sectors. Leaders in small and mid-sized business often expect the world from word of mouth, which they typically hope to generate at industry get-togethers and other events that only happen once a year.
All in all, even your most satisfied customers aren’t the best advocates for your brand – you are.
So, what are the biggest issues with word of mouth?
It Takes Ages to Generate a Single Lead
Research shows that between 2014 and 2015, the average B2B sales cycle grew 32% longer. Many B2B professionals are looking at an average sales cycle time of more than 100 days, with total lead-to-revenue time exceeding 500 days! In that vast and growing span of time, the odds that word of mouth advertising will reach someone at exactly the right moment in the buyer journey are slim indeed.
It Doesn’t Generate Lessons Learned
A repeatable – and improvable – marketing process is essential to sustainably scaling a business. The right marketing mix allows you to step on the gas pedal (or apply the brakes!) as the market responds to your offerings. You have minimal control over word of mouth, so if it’s not working well, there’s nothing you can do about it … and if it is working well, you’ll probably never know why.
It Won’t Support a “Culture of Excellence”
For a company to maintain momentum and continually top itself, every team member must know how to consistently find the best investment of time and energy. Relying too much on word of mouth leaves a gap in your strategic vision even if everything else is going well. That encourages stakeholders to shrug their shoulders and feel success is out of their hands.
It Can Lead to Low-Value Agreements
There’s no telling what quality lead you’ll get from a word of mouth source. Even when the prospect is a good fit, it can hide pitfalls. For example, the prospect may have heard about discounts or other incentives you offered their contact – and now, they want in on the deal. That can exert downward pressure on revenue, like a finder’s fee for your own clients.
Word of mouth marketing can be a potent part of your advertising mix, but it’s only one part. It may even be enough to recruit anchor clients in a company’s early days, but once that base is built, leaders must look for ways to take control of business success. Luckily, today’s technology allows your website to work like a 24-hour sales force, informing and persuading prospects so they make the next move sooner.