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A survey recently completed by Alignable asked 7,500 American business owners about the most effective strategy to acquire more paying customers. An incredible 85% of them named WOM as their No. 1 customer-generating method.

What is WOM? It’s “Word-Of-Mouth” marketing. It’s when one ordinary person tells a friend or family about an excellent product they should buy or a cool shop they should visit. 

The reason word of mouth is so powerful is not difficult to understand. We live in a society where we are bombarded with thousands of media advertising messages daily. We see ads on the internet, on our smartphones, on TV, hear them on the radio — even billboards on the side of highways scream out at us as we drive by.

The problem is that everyone has developed a kind of “herd immunity” to all this advertising noise. People also know that all advertising is basically “a pitch” and something that is not to be trusted. In general, people have adopted a baseline attitude about advertising which says: “Take everything with a grain of salt.”

But word-of-mouth marketing is the ultimate “fix” for this “herd advertising resistance.” That’s because when you get a recommendation from a trusted friend, the inner editor or mental gatekeeper that guards against ad pitches has been disabled. If your best friend or spouse tells you a product is great and that you should buy it — you probably will.

The key, then, for business owners is to take a proactive approach to develop WOM campaigns — word-of-mouth generation strategies that get people on the street talking about your product or service.

How can this be done? As it happens, a number of effective WOM promotion methods have been worked out over the decades by clever marketing experts. 

For example, a restaurant owner can create a special experience for customers by wowing them with an unexpectedly positive experience. The manager might come over to a table and announce to all seated: “Your meal is 100% free tonight just because we love your business!”

Will everyone at the table go home and tell their friends and family about what happened that night? It’s highly likely — and a percentage of those who hear the story will most likely go eat at the restaurant. Thus, a WOM campaign is born.