24 Oct 2014

The Power of Six

MRA’s Managing Director Mike Rigby says the six degrees of separation theory does wonders for word-of-mouth and viral marketing.

Word of mouth is powerful in boosting company growth; influencing perceptions and buying behaviour; building reputation; and creating new markets. According to research it is seen as authoritative and trustworthy compared to other communications, and it can reach where others parts of the marketing mix can’t. But word of mouth is not just something that happens or not.

Contacting customers is simple, but influencing prospects, decision-makers, or, for example, politicians you don’t know or you wouldn’t normally have access to, is difficult.

It’s a small world

Getting to the right person who can say yes to you is easier than it seems. According to the ‘small world’ theory, there are only six degrees of separation 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 the 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 hit 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. If you are not convinced try it for yourself. Very often you don’t need 6 links, 3 or 4 will do – as we can all see with LinkedIn!

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. Techniques such as ‘buzz’ and ‘viral’ marketing work on the same principle, delivering a message to the right people via emails and letting the campaign effectively run itself. It isn’t an entirely predictable sport but viral marketing is now an effective weapon in the marketing mix. A striking advert or short video 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 brand and your company, product or service. The ideal people to do that are customers, and you can enlist non-customers too. But mere customer satisfaction or just being ‘great’ is rarely enough to generate word-of-mouth recommendations. You have to get into the marketing driving seat and put your foot down.

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

For help reaching and influencing customers and prospects contact Mike Rigby on 01453 521621, mike@mra-marketing.com or @wehelp_you_grow. Or follow MRA Marketing on LinkedIn to see the power of six in practice!

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