The more things change, the more they are the same or, as the Bible says, “There is nothing new under the sun,” a truism that word-of-mouth advertising exemplifies.
Word-of-mouth has been and remains the best marketing. But these days, more people are talking, more are listening, and their conversations go far beyond the back fence or the local coffee shop.
Social media are a megaphone for word-of-mouth marketing and a boon to small businesses and start ups. Inexpensive and far-reaching, social media bring impressive results. Yet small businesses haven’t got the message, according to recent research. Most are keeping silent when they should be joining the conversation.
Take auto parts. Guys and gals who like to tinker with cars used to hang out around someone’s clunker, talking about the best way to rebuild or repair it. The conversations that took place under a tree as a group of guys pondered a squeaky fan belt or a T-bird with no get-up-and-go now take place online. Chevy, Ford, Toyota, and specific models and years of those manufacturers all have forums where users who like to tinker, rebuild or do their own oil changes talk about gizmos and ask questions of their fellow tinkerers.
These are pals who share a love of ‘72 Camrys or off-roading; they don’t want advertisements. They want recommendations and anecdotes from others with intimate knowledge of that make and model. But now those recommendations can come to a guy in Tennessee, from a guy in California or even France. Bigger megaphone, same old concept: word of mouth.
Tap that and you tap a gold mine.
For her client Fumoto Qwik Valv, Lauren Fairbanks, partner in Stunt & Gimmicks marketing company, joined the car-guy conversation. Qwik Valves were sent to 50 forum moderators and 33 regular posters for honest feedback. The invitation to review the product made clear that good reviews, bad reviews, and suggestions for improvement were equally welcome. Not an ad, a request for opinions.
It’s only been three months since the products went out and reviews are still rolling in but check out any auto forum and you’re now likely to find a thread about Qwik Valve.
“It was great for the company because it makes it look very human and the fact that it is willing to put its reputation on the line made people realize the company is secure that the product is good and that the company is willing to take note of what customers have to say.”
Stunt & Gimmicks monitored reviews and comments, and added responses where appropriate. The next step is to become a preferred product on the forums, which will mean ongoing sales, not just an uptick when a review comes out. With that proof of market, QwikValve can ask for placement in brick-and-mortar stores.
While forums work for Qwik Valv, it may not work for your business. Your goals and your market have to align with any media you choose. If, like car buffs, your market swaps stories, how-tos and questions, the right forums may be just what you need. But, as with every other social medium, go where your market is.
This case study was done in conjunction with an online marketing survey, which gathered extensive data and benchmarks about how small businesses and nonprofits use online marketing and whether they are seeing results. For the executive summary, visit Ditch Digital Dabbling: How Small Businesses + Nonprofits Can Master Online Marketing.