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The Power Of Six

More than two thousand years ago Archimedes said: "Give me a lever long enough, and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world." More recently evidence is piling up that word of mouth is equally powerful in bossting company growth; influencing perceptions and buying behaviour; building reputation; and creating new markets. According to research it is seen as authoratative and trustworthy compared to other communications.

It can also reach where other parts of the marketing mix cannot. Contacting customers is simple, but what if you want to influence non-customers or specifiers, including those you don't know? You need to if you want to grow. What about polititicians or members of the Government? Or people who could make a difference: Prime Minister Blair or Gordon Brown, Lord Rothermere, owner of the Daily Mail, President Bush or a leading figure in the Chinese Government? Could you do it if you needed to?

It's a Small World

Getting to the right person is easier than it seems. According to the 'small world' theory, there are only six degrees of seperation between anyone on the planet through a chain of acquaintances. The number of acquaintances grows exponentially with the number of links in the chain, so only a small number of links is required to reach anyone on Earth. In 1967, American social psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted a postal experiment to test the theory, randomly selecting people from across the US to send postcards to specific targets. The sender knew the recipients name, occupation and general location, and had to send the card to a person they knew who they thought was most likely to know the target personally. That person would do the same, and so on, until it reached the target. According to Milgram, 80% of the successfully delivered postcards were delivered after four or fewer steps. Almost all were delivered in fewer than six steps.

The theory that everyone is connected through a chain of acquaintances lends itself perfectly to word-of-mouth marketing.

But word-of-mouth is not restricted to verbal communications. Tecdhniques such as 'buzz' and 'viral' marketing work on the same principle, delivering a message to the right people via email and letting the campaign effectively run itself. A good advert can also be a talking point, and an important part of a coordinated word-of-mouth campaign.

Talking Points

The key to word-of-mouth marketing is to get people talking about your company, product or service. The ideal people to do that are customers. But mere customer satisfaction is rarely enough to generate word-of-mouth recommendations.

Are you giving your customers something to talk about? Is your message simple and clear? Get it right and your next campaign could take on a life of its own.

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