Why Word of Mouth Doesn’t Work

Why Word of Mouth Doesn’t Work

(and what will get you better clients with bigger budgets in 2017!)

When I ask creative professionals how they market their services, most say, “Word of mouth.” And they say it with pride!

This makes me cringe every time.


Because word of mouth is not a marketing tool!

A marketing tool is something you do. It’s active. You control it.

Word of mouth is the opposite.

It happens to you. It’s passive. And you can’t control it – at all!

In fact, “word of mouth” is nothing more than a euphemism for “taking whatever comes along.”

It’s true that, sometimes, what comes along isn’t all that bad; it may even be really good. But if that’s all you’ve got, if that’s the foundation of your business, you may be in trouble and not even know it – until it dries up.

That means you are at the mercy of whatever — and whoever — comes along, and that forces you to take everything, whether it’s right for you or not, even the clients waving bright red flags in your face.

This is no way to run a serious business.

There is a better way.

You do not have to rely on word of mouth – indeed you can’t afford to run your business that way.

There is a simple alternative: pursue organizations you want to work with, especially the ones with better projects and bigger budgets.


You don’t have to blog. You don’t have to do social media.

You do, however, have to talk to people. But you get to decide which people. You get to choose the best people.

It’s actually as simple as introducing yourself to them, following up and staying in touch, for as long as necessary.

To do that, you need to be in it for the long haul, which means you need the right mindset.

I’ll define the right mindset first by what it is not. With the right mindset, you never say to yourself, ”I don’t want to bug them. Why would they want to work with me? What do I have to offer? They are probably already working with someone else.”

By contrast, with the right mindset, you do say to yourself, “I know I have something of value to offer and I just know it will help the organizations I carefully select because we’re a good fit. The only problem is they don’t know about me — yet.”

The right mindset is characterized by, among other things, generosity; give, give, give should be your mantra.

Give your ideas, your suggestions, your availability – whatever you have to give that your best prospects might benefit from, offer it up – for a price, of course, but don’t hesitate to offer it.

With generosity as your guiding light, the goal of your marketing is to connect with those organizations and those people you’ve carefully selected — not with anybody or everybody – and generously offer them your services, when they need it.

So for 2017, stop taking whatever comes along and commit to changing your mindset and doing what it takes to get the work you really want. Otherwise, you might as well get a job.

Check out these additional resources:
· Download Marketing Mentor’s 10 Point Marketing Checklist at gettalk.at/10pt
· How to Reach Out to Your Ideal Clients (podcast)
· How to Connect the Dots of Your Marketing (podcast)

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2 Comments on "Why Word of Mouth Doesn’t Work"

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Jim Mahannah

No mincing of words, Ilise! Say what you really mean. ;>) Love your style, thanks for sharing!

Bobbi Jo Woods
I totally love this. In the early days of my self-employment, I remember getting stuck with clients who thought I was “affordable” just because So-and-So told them I was – not to say that I wasn’t (some folks viewed my services as reasonable, but most viewed them as valuable and worth every cent) but it just colors your outward image differently in a way that no one really want. Translation of “affordable” often meant “cheap”, which led to potential clients expecting something I’m not. Now, even though I was starting out and definitely eager to roll up my sleeves and… Read more »