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Is word of mouth marketing cheap?

by Molly Flatt on 31 July 2009

A few days ago I spoke to Ben Cooper of Retail Week for his article on how highly targeted and low-cost marketing techniques are attracting recession-hit retailers. Word of mouth and social media are often cited as cheap marketing options, but as I emphasised to Ben, their high comparative value is more important than their low cost.

It’s dangerous to think of WOM as a quick-n-easy fix; it reqiures the same investment and long-term commitment as any effective marketing approach. The difference is that with WOM most of that investment is in time, human resource and creativity, rather than flash digital builds or content production costs. But the great economic advantage of WOM is that it’s so scalable. Rather than trying to do lots badly with little cash, companies can focus on engaging with two or three advocates in a really deep way, or at least invest in ongoing listening so they’re benefitting from that collective intelligence about their brand.

A while back Bob Troia published a smashing post about how WOM ROI resembles an S-curve, not the linear model of traditional marketing, and therefore requires more investment to reap its more impressive and lasting returns. It’s worth another look.

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