By |Published On: November 12, 2014|

In a recent poll, over one thousand local business owners ranked word-of-mouth referrals (64%) and social media (18%) as the most effective ways they acquire new customers.

One of the survey participants made this comment:

Customers who have great experiences are more than happy to tell their friends and family.

Yet, Ivan Misner, author of 16 books on word-of-mouth marketing, says otherwise:

… if you expect happy customers to talk about you a lot, think again.

Perception verses Reality

The scary thing about studies like these is that they don’t necessarily reflect reality. Every business owner wants to believe he does such a great job that “everybody knows me” and “I get all my business through word-of-mouth.” If only there were a study on how consumers actually find local businesses.

Oh, wait! There is.

Marketing research firm Burke Inc. interviewed over 8,000 individuals during a 12-month period. The study found that consumers use Yellow Pages and search engines the most to find local businesses, outpacing other local media including social networks, magazines, newspapers, and promotional circulars/emails.

In fact, when asked “what sources did you use in the past year to find a local business?” consumers placed social media in ninth place (out of 10 choices). Word-of-mouth didn’t even make the list.

The study also found that:

  • 74 percent of U.S. adults used a print Yellow Pages directory to find a local business in the past year, and 76 percent used a search engine
  • Consumers consult two to three sources of local Information, demonstrating that an integrated advertising approach is best for local businesses

Their conclusion? Yellow Pages and search engines are firmly established as the go-to sources for consumers shopping locally.

Word-Of-Mouth Doesn’t Just “Happen”

Dave Balter, author of The Word of Mouth Manual, says that “Word of mouth doesn’t replace great advertising, it just helps great advertising perform better.”

That’s certainly true for McDonalds, America’s most popular fast-food restaurant. They have enough brand equity to coast on word-of-mouth for the next decade or three. Yet they spend an estimated $2 billion annually on advertising.

Passively relying on others to talk about you is not the most effective way to acquire new customers. But active, intentional, and deliberate word-of-mouth marketing, combined with online and offline marketing and advertising, can be a boon for your business.


Word-of-mouth not quite getting the job done? Contact us to get found where today’s consumers ore looking—print, Internet and mobile.


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