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I’ve got great word-of-mouth. Why do anything else?

Companies accustomed to getting enough business from referrals, reviews and word-of-mouth supporting their solid customer service often forget to address the flip side of the coin. What am I leaving on the table by not marketing proactively?

Larger companies such as Costco do just fine without a formal marketing department. The buzz about their legendary customer service is so loud and pervasive so as to perpetuate itself. I can’t recall meeting anyone in recent memory who doesn’t know Costco’s reputation.

In contrast, small businesses often are a well-kept secret—except to the small circle of employees, customers and other stakeholders who sing their praises. Because of this, there can be a tendency to eschew marketing in general—sometimes right down to having no website or much, if any, social media presence.

Here’s the rub:

What business am I not getting because I’m not spreading the word farther and wider? Who won’t know I exist, or how invested I am in consummate customer service? What happens if some day I suddenly don’t have “that next client or customer” ready to roll—and I have to urgently look for new work? At the end of the day, how well did I do with word-of-mouth versus what would have happened by using a marketing “megaphone?”

There are no metrics to address what you left on the table. You can only guess at what might have been.

That said, here are ways to expand your marketing presence, helping drive additional prospects, without over-spending, over-thinking or over-stressing:

  1. Develop a website and at least one social media profile (LinkedIn is the default for businesses in many cases.) In this day and age, none of this is rocket science. Do it yourself if so inclined, or hire someone to help you through the process. From the graphics and production perspective, many user-friendly platforms exist to create a professional look and feel. Content is another matter. (Yes, I freely admit I’m biased.) Canned content or writing that emulates everyone else can be worse than nothing at all. And, it’s important to use good grammar and spelling. Proofread carefully and correct typos. While many don’t pay attention to this, there are still a sizeable number of viewers who do.
  2. Use the above-mentioned platforms to expand your thought leadership influence, along with expert advice articles, blogposts, whitepapers and other documents that show you know what you’re talking about. Properly done, these have the added benefit of providing helpful, useful information that makes you look credible—in stark contrast to blatant sales pitches. The idea is to generate awareness of, and interest in, you and your company (sowing the seeds for subsequent discussion).
  3. Add a microphone to your marketing megaphone. Speaking presentations ranging from webinars, podcasts and videos to live appearances can magnify your thought-leadership presence—and are a perfect complement to the written word.

Besides increasing reach, influence, awareness and interest, pursuing these marketing avenues—as well as considering others—can keep you sharp and motivated. And, they can increase revenues while decreasing downtime awaiting the arrival of the next customer/client.


Ability to “spread the word on steroids” via technologically-fueled social media, online discussion forums and reviews, and in-the-moment media reporting is empowering companies to promote themselves effectively by offering consummate customer service to all stakeholders—including customers, employees, partners and vendors. Sometimes, this can be so powerful that companies thrive without spending oodles of marketing dollars—especially when it comes to advertising and PR.

Mark Lusky is a veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience.

Author of A Wandering Wondering Jew… and co-author of Don’t Get Mad, Get Leverage,  Mark (aka The Happy Curmudgeon) is the owner of a Denver-based marketing communications firm.

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