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How to Leverage Word-of-Mouth Marketing (Even If You Don't Sell iPods)

by Terri Whitesel  |  
September 20, 2005

Word-of-mouth, or WOM, has become the buzzword in many marketing and advertising circles. WOMMA (the Word-of-Mouth Marketing Association) defines WOM as "the act of individuals providing marketing information to other people."

Whether you are working in the B2C or B2B space, having your customers tell their friends, family and work colleagues about your product or service is what we all hope to achieve (and translate) into new leads, new customers, increased sales and improved brand awareness.

Organic WOM

iPod, Jones Soda, Starbucks—WOM endorsement for these products spread like wildfire across the US and the globe, achieving brand success and bottom-line results for each of their corporations. Then and today, little if any advertising is done for Jones Soda and Starbucks. It's not necessary: Their customers pledge their loyalty daily as they order their favorite latte or submit their suggestions for a new soda name and flavor.

While iPod certainly has great advertising, its loyal followers were hooked on the product first—the advertising became the manifestation of iPod's audience's reaction to a great product. One can almost feel the customer experience coming alive in their commercials.

What drove the powerful organic WOM in these brands so quickly? Each of the companies delivered a superior product and customer experience. Each company's leadership had a vision that penetrated their entire organization. These ingredients led to high volumes of organic WOM activity. This type of market buzz can't be orchestrated, and it can't be faked—true organic WOM requires vision, leadership, product superiority, creativity, a sense of timing and, yes, even a little bit of luck.

But what about the rest of us? Can we leverage WOM or build more awareness and create positive referrals for our product and services? The answer, of course, is yes; and you can increase your success rate using WOM techniques if you design your programs with women in mind.

A Natural Fit for Women

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Terri Whitesel is the founder and chief translator of Interpret-Her, LLC. Reach her at

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