Marketing strategy

Why word of mouth is the best marketing strategy

Marketing is all about tools, shiny objects and data. However, word of mouth remains the most powerful strategy.

Did you jump on the TikTok bandwagon after hearing how quickly and easily people were gaining followers, views, and likes? Do you believe recent iOS updates ruined Facebook Ads performance forever?

If a new platform or a Big Tech update is the determining factor in your marketing success, then you’ve misunderstood what marketing really is.

Marketers are constantly looking for a silver bullet, the one thing that will open the floodgates to endless leads, customers, and sales. The research is endless and keeps marketers searching for cutting-edge solutions to age-old problems.

Does such a powerful tactic simply not exist or is it hidden in plain sight, and have modern marketers ignored it?

Marketing continues to evolve at an increasingly rapid pace. This is a good thing because people inevitably become immune to the tactic of the day that necessitates the evolution of marketing. Yet modern marketers seem to have forgotten one important detail: Marketing is about people. Despite the evolution of marketing, the people it is created for remain the same.

The key to all marketing

Marketing is about people. Not algorithms. Not the platforms. No technology, tools or tricks.

It’s such an unexciting and oft-repeated obvious that it immediately makes marketers’ eyes gleam. Yet this simple truth is the key to all marketing, including the most effective marketing tactic: word of mouth.

The difference between ordinary and extraordinary marketing can be summed up in one question: are people talking about it? If people aren’t talking about you, your marketing has failed.

Going viral, the holy grail of marketing, is not about racking up millions of views and driving massive engagement. It’s the result, not the catalyst. Going viral is the natural conclusion when people find your idea, message, and experience so compelling that they can’t help but tell others about it.

Your marketing will only reach its full potential if it captures people’s attention and compels them to tell others about it.

Related Article: Marketing’s Growing Gap Between Strategy and Execution

Marketing for people

Buddy was one of many dogs my mother rescued over the years. Despite his old age, his health problems and his surgery, she liked him. He passed away a few days after my mother ordered special dog food for him from, a popular online pet retailer. No longer needing the food, she emailed them to explain what had happened with Buddy and ask to return her order.

Chewy didn’t want the food back. They told him to donate it to a pet shelter so another dog owner could benefit from it. A thoughtful answer but nothing necessarily worth talking about.

However, a few days later, a bouquet of flowers arrived at my mother’s house. It was a gift from Chewy with a handwritten note that read, “We’re sorry to hear about Buddy. Please enjoy these flowers and know that we are thinking of you.”

That’s what it’s about.

My mother called everyone she knew to tell them what had happened. And the people she told, myself included (case in point here), have shared the story over and over again. How could you not?

Surprisingly, it wasn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario. A quick search reveals that this is standard operating procedure for Chewy and has built them a brand reputation with extremely loyal customers.

This viral marketing was not by accident. It was by design.

Related Article: Empathy at Scale: The Secret to Building Genuine Connections with Customers

Viral by design

Although it is the oldest book marketing tactic, word of mouth is still the most effective.

When other people do your marketing for you, it travels faster and farther. Because it is shared by peers, it is more reliable and credible. Word of mouth marketing also costs nothing and can multiply the results of any paid marketing initiative.

How do you get people to spread the word and do your marketing for you?

It’s simple, but not easy. There are only three steps:

  1. Start with a idea that people want to believe.
  2. Make a message that people want to repeat.
  3. Created a live that people need to tell others about.

Chewy did these three things in a way that made telling others about them inevitable. The idea that a pet is a member of the family and not just an animal is a core belief of pet parents. The message that their pet was loved, valued and will be missed is what they will tell others.

And the surprise and pleasure of receiving flowers along with a handwritten note to brighten their day in a difficult time is an experience that makes sharing irresistible. With a little thought and effort, even the simplest touchpoint in the customer journey can be transformed into powerful marketing moments.

The only constant in marketing is change

The volatile and ever-changing marketing landscape is filled with shiny objects, each with exaggerated promises of how they will unlock new levels of performance through artificial intelligence or algorithms.

Tools and technology can scale your marketing efforts, but the first step is to create something worth talking about. The most powerful marketing gives people an idea, a message, and an experience that they can share with other people. When people spread your message for you, it’s more trustworthy and travels farther and faster.

Marketing is about people and that will never change, which is why word of mouth marketing is the most powerful tactic in all of marketing.