Word of mouth may be one of the more informal elements of the marketing mix, but it's by no means less effective.

In fact, if your company is releasing a new product or service, no formal marketing method meant to increase its exposure can match the power of people talking to each other about it.

When it comes to Internet marketing, one of the ways to kick-start this process is to get your piece of news mentioned on possibly the most effective online mouthpiece around: the industry blog.

When I talk about industry blogs, I don't mean your own company's blog. Without a doubt, your own company's blog (if you have one) is important in communicating with your existing customers or convincing those close to completing the buying cycle to become customers. But in terms of attracting new sales prospects, a qualified referral from an unbiased source can do wonders.

As opposed to a company press release or your own blog, an industry blog talks from the perspective of a respected third party that has nothing to gain from your product's doing well—other than offering something useful to its audience.

Moreover, people are becoming increasingly immune to marketing talk. These days, most of us are able to sense company-driven trumpet blowing a mile away, and we discount the flowery adjectives accordingly.

In contrast, company news mentioned by a leading industry blog will be objective—and from a trusted source—so it's more likely that people would listen.

A popular industry blog is extremely powerful in terms of audience reach and influence, because the authors are usually industry leaders, or "sneezers." In his book Ideavirus, marketing guru Seth Godin defines a "sneezer" as the early adopter in a peer group—people who are likely to brave the unknown and adopt a new trend or fad first.

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Catherine Parker is a search engine marketer and copywriter for Quirk (www.quirk.co.za), a full service e-marketing agency based in Cape Town, South Africa.