Have you jumped on the TikTok bandwagon after hearing how quickly and easily people were gaining followers, views and likes? Do you believe the hype that the recent iOS updates have ruined Facebook ad performance forever?
If a new platform or an update from Big Tech is the determinant factor to the success of your marketing, then you’ve misunderstood what marketing is really about.
Marketers are constantly searching for a silver bullet, the one thing that will open the floodgates to endless leads, customers and sales. The search is never-ending and spurs marketers to chase cutting-edge solutions to age-old problems.
Does a tactic so powerful simply not exist or is it hidden in plain sight, and modern marketers have overlooked it?
Marketing keeps changing at an increasing rate of speed. That’s a good thing because people inevitably become immune to the tactic du jour which makes the evolution of marketing necessary. Yet modern marketers seem to have forgotten one important detail: marketing is about people. Despite how much marketing changes, the people it is created for remain the same.
Marketing is about people. Not algorithms. Not platforms. Not technology, tools or tricks.
It’s an obviosity so unexciting and oft repeated that it immediately makes marketers' eyes glaze over. Yet this simple truth is the key to all marketing, including the single 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, isn’t about amassing millions of views and earning massive engagement. That’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.
Your marketing will only reach its full potential if it captures people’s attention and compels them to tell others.
Buddy was one of the many dogs my mom rescued over the years. Despite his old age, health issues and surgery, she loved him well. He passed away a few days after my mom had ordered special dog food for him from Chewy.com, a popular online pet retailer. No longer needing the food, she emailed them to explain what had happened with Buddy and to request to return her order.
Chewy didn’t want the food back. They told her to donate it to a pet shelter so that another dog owner could benefit. A thoughtful response but nothing necessarily worth talking about.
However, a few days later, a bouquet of flowers arrived at my mom’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're thinking of you."
This is what marketing is about.
My mom called everyone she knew to tell them what happened. And the people she told, myself included (case in point here), have shared the story time and again. How could you not?
Surprisingly, this wasn’t a one-off scenario. A quick search reveals that this is standard operating procedure for Chewy and has built them a hallmark reputation with extremely loyal customers.
This viral marketing wasn’t by accident. It was by design.
Related Article: Empathy at Scale: The Secret to Building Real Connections with Customers
Despite being the oldest marketing tactic in the book, word of mouth is still the most effective.
When other people do your marketing for you, it travels faster and farther. Because it’s being shared by peers, it’s more trustworthy and believable. 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 just three steps:
Chewy did all three of these in a way that made telling others inevitable. The idea that a pet is a family member 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 delight of receiving flowers accompanied with a handwritten note to brighten their day during a difficult time is an experience that makes sharing about it irresistible. With a little thought and effort, even the simplest touchpoint in the customer journey can be transformed into powerful marketing moments.
The volatile and ever-changing landscape of marketing is filled with shiny objects, each with overblown promises of how they will unlock new levels of performance with artificial intelligence or algorithms.
Tools and technologies can scale your marketing efforts, but the first step is to create something worth talking about. The most powerful marketing equips people with an idea, message and 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 single most powerful tactic in all of marketing.