Ask someone how they selected a hospital or a physician. Chances are they'll say that they talked with a friend, relative or someone else and got their opinion about hospitals or doctors. The same applies for law firms and attorneys. This is the use of word of mouth as a means of getting information for decision making.
Very few will say they selected a hospital by going to the hospital web site. Very few will say they selected a hospital based on billboards along the Interstate. Very few will mention TV ads or ads in the newspaper. Word of mouth is dominant as a trusted source of information.
What does this mean for marketers? If you think it means that marketers should push their organizations into social media to get new customers and keep existing customers, then maybe you need to think again. Word of mouth refers primarily to face to face interactions, with two or more people talking about a hospital or doctor or anything else in the marketplace. It is a lot harder to work with word of mouth than it is to set up a Facebook site or to order billboards, magazine ads, newspaper ads, brochures, and TV ads from the ad agency.
How do we study word of mouth? How do we measure it? How can we influence word of mouth in our community? These are issues we're working on now at Metromark. If you have ideas about word of mouth or questions, please email Emerson or call +1-803-256-8694.