Can a Business Rely on Word of Mouth Alone?

It depends.

While monitoring my web traffic to I noticed quite a bit of traffic coming from the search phrase “Can a business rely on word of mouth alone?”  While I’ve addressed similar topics before, I’ve never really answered this particular question so let’s take a look.

You asked…

“Can a business rely on word of mouth alone?”

It depends….on what you expect to get out of your business.

So I will ask you….

How much money do you want to make? 
This number will determine the volume of business your company needs to be doing to equal the amount of money you want to make.  But don’t forget about all of your expenses too.  When you calculate your cost of doing business with your salary desires… ask yourself. Do I personally know enough people to hire me and then trust their circle of friends to hire me to in order to reach that number?

How quick do you need to make that money?
Relying on word of mouth puts the growth of your business in someone else’s court. You have to wait for them to talk about your company and refer you to a friend.  You’re not marketing on your time.  Are you okay with waiting around for buzz to build?

What’s your wow factor?  
Let’s be honest. Not every app is Instagram, and not every undergarment is Spanx.  Stories of overnight world wide expansion due to social media sharing or celebrity shout outs simply do not happen to every business.   And that is OK!   There will always be companies that benefit tremendously from word of mouth buzz, but the thing to remember is that will not happen to every business… but it does not discredit the need and unique role of every other business.  There’s no shame in running a regular ole photography business or day spa in your local community that makes great money for you and your staff.  Those companies that do experience that overnight organic popularity do so because of their wow factor.  They were first, or they created a solution to a problem no one else had before and not every business does that.  If you’re waiting on Oprah to call to put your on her “O-list” to finally make it big… ask yourself.. why would she call me over my competitor? If you have a wow factor like no other.. then keep at it. If not, then stop waiting around for the recognition and start marketing.

How much competition do you have?
Tide, Coca-Cola, Walmart, Macy’s…. these are all brands that everyone knows and they continue to use traditional advertising to promote their companies.  Why? To remain at the forefront of the consumers mind.  There is SO MUCH competition for these companies and they want to be certain that when you are walking the malls and grocery store aisles… you remember their brand over all the other competitors on the same shelf.

Are you the only photographer or day spa in town?  It’s not likely.  So to keep your business top of mind… advertise.