Why “Word of Mouth” Is Not a Marketing Strategy


On Word of Mouth – a Rant

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

This makes me cringe every time!


Photo by Jason Rosewell, Unsplash

Why? 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 don’t control it—at all! In fact, “word of mouth” is nothing more than a euphemism for taking whatever comes along.

Does it sound good now? In your personal relationships, do you take whoever comes along? (I hope not.) Then why should you do so in your business relationships?

Now, sometimes what comes along isn’t all that bad; it may sometimes even be really good. But if that’s all you’ve got, if that’s the foundation of your business, I think you’re in trouble.

That means you are at the mercy of whatever and whomever comes along, no matter what it is, no matter when it comes, 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. You don’t have to rely on word of mouth—indeed, you can’t.

Here’s the alternative: decide whom you want to work with and pursue them.

How? Also very simple: introduce yourself to them, follow up and stay in touch.

What to Say When Walking the Fine Line of Follow-up When You Really Want the Project

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.

And that takes a certain mindset, the right mindset.

Here’s the wrong mindset, which I come across too often. “I don’t want to bug them. Why would they want to work with me? What do I have to offer? They are already working with someone else.”

Can you hear the whining? It’s inherent in that mindset.

The right mindset, sounds like this, “I have something of value to offer and I just know it will help company X, which I’ve carefully selected because we’re a good fit. The only problem is they don’t know about me—yet.”

This mindset is characterized by generosity, what you want to give them (i.e. your services). You have to trust, and be confident in, the fact that you have something of value to offer to them.

The goal of your marketing is to connect with those companies and those people — not with anybody or everybody – so you can generously offer them your services.

And to do that you must stop relying on word of mouth.

More on that in this video:



Learn more about marketing your business, being your own boss, and getting and working with clients in Ilise Benun’s online course, How to Start Your Own Freelance Business, from HOW Design University.