Is there any form of marketing communications more compelling than word-of-mouth, the enthusiastic and genuine recommendation of a person you like and trust? It's no wonder that virtually every business-to-business marketer prizes this organic, spontaneous, and—perhaps best of all—practically cost-free method of bringing in business.

But some businesses, especially on the B2B side, rely far too heavily on organic word-of-mouth strategies and, specifically, on acquiring new customers primarily through referrals.

Why? Partially, it's a matter of pride—every new customer who comes through your door as a result of an current customer's recommendation is just one more validation that your business is on the right path.

And it's also a matter of convenience—advertising and other forms of marketing communications are expensive, agencies can be difficult to find and manage, and the very nature of mass communications vehicles means that the majority of impressions end up reaching unqualified targets.

Nonetheless, relying on organic word-of-mouth is practically a guaranteed way for a small or medium-sized business to stay small or medium-sized.

Here's why.

1. Word-of-mouth is inherently subjective

True, some business targets may place high value on recommendations they receive from colleagues and referral sources. But many companies, especially in the B2B environment, regard these recommendations as subjective and not fully reliable, especially when not accompanied by more-formal and more-objective measures of quality.

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Michael Antman is principal of the corporate and marketing communications firm McSweeeney & Antman (