Word of mouth advertising has been around for ages. It may be the oldest form of advertising. It is certainly the oldest form of unpaid advertising. But it can just as well be a form of paid advertising.
When a company gives out free samples in hopes that people will talk about them, that’s “paying” them to talk. Isn’t it?
It may not be a direct form of payment, but it certainly is offering an incentive. And as long as you aren’t requiring the recipients of your freebies to say good things – as long as you allow them to say whatever they want – then it is considered ethical. But have you considered encouraging your employees to be your spokespeople?
I’m talking about a tactic that isn’t discussed much. Think about who you have working for you. Do they Twitter? Do they have Facebook friends? Maybe you should consider letting your receptionist take a tour of the inside of your plant. Or perhaps you can give free samples to your truck drivers and see what happens.
There’s really just one rule where this kind of word-of-mouth encouragement comes into play. Be sure you are touching the people most likely to talk. If you manufacture women’s perfume, for instance, and you give free samples to your shipping employees, 90% of whom are single men, then you may not get much in the way of results. On the other hand, if your shipping department is 80% female and 90% of the remaining employees are married men whose wives fit your target demographics then that would be a good investment.
So who do you encourage to spread news about your company by word of mouth?