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January 05, 2004

Comments

Ben McConnell

As Reicheld's article makes clear with some excellent data, companies with strong growth tend to outpace their competitors when they also have widespread word of mouth.

Taken a step further, one could argue that customer evangelism isn't part of the marketing plan... it IS the marketing plan.

P&G, the originator of brand management and big-buck marketing campaigns, is moving toward the customer evangelism model.

"The mass-marketing model is dead," says James Stengel, P&G's global marketing officer in the current issue of Forbes. "[Recruiting teens to schill for us] is the future."

The only limitation is belief.

Jennifer Rice

Absolutely agree. How can we generate word of mouth if we have no customers? I'm not advocating an "if we build it they will come" strategy (although there are examples of companies that built their business on word of mouth, like Starbucks)

Wayne Hurlbert

The emphasis on "customer evangelism" has merit, but is really a repackaging of "word of mouth" advertising in a new wrapper.

I have often heard business people say they intend to build their customer base by word of mouth. That is fine, as word of mouth is tremendous testimonial to the company's products and services, but the limitations must be realized.

Without those first "mouths", there is no "word" being spread. The need for marketing, as a holistic entity still exists, to establish that initial critical mass of customers.

To depend upon only one part of a marketing strategy, in this case word of mouth, is not the best solution.

brett

It seems logical that companies whose customers promote them would be profitable. But there are a number of counter-examples: companies that were/are adored by their customers, and still lagged. Prime among them is Apple, which of course is a special case and faces other business challenges. But there are others, of which ReplayTV is one. That company had an excellent product, way ahead of its time, an incredibly loyal customer base that constantly evangelized its product, and still went into bankruptcy. So what happened? I think it failed from a "real" marketing standpoint; i.e. its customers weren't enough to get the message out, and it had essentially no other marketing. By contrast, TiVo, which had the same functionality (although inferior until recently), did rather well, though not as well as some had hoped. Why? Probably because it was more visible nationally; it had TV spots, a DirecTV deal, and pop-culture street cred (which probably followed the other two). TiVo even has entered the lingo, a la Google or Kleenex. So why am I going to TiVo the football game and not Replay it?

David

Great summation!
"You need only one question to determine the status -- promoter, passively satisfied, or detractor -- of a customer."
One could establish a consulting practice on that basis.

Great articles! They realy get me thinking.

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