Marketing used to be simple.  A company placed an ad, sent a piece of direct mail or got listed in the Yellow Pages.  Customers came – and bought.  If the products didn’t live up to the advertised promises, customers might write a complaint letter or complain to their friends, but their audience was limited and for the company it remained “business as usual.”

Today, we talk about things like Social Network Marketing and Customer Relationship Marketing. And on the surface, these seem to be new opportunities to market in the same old ways.  Those who believe that are dead wrong.

Marketing has changed in a fundamental way.

In a 2012 marketing study, 90% of people said they trust word of mouth recommendations from friends, 70% trust recommendations from strangers. Less than half said they trust traditional advertisements.

What does that mean?

When one of your customers has a bad experience at any point in their relationship with your company—whether it is a crabby sales person, a product that doesn’t arrive on time, a bill that has a mistake in it, or any promise made that can’t be met or claim that is exaggerated—they will tell people. They will put it on Yelp, Google and Yahoo. They will Tweet about it, blog about it, and write about it—not only on their Facebook page, but yours. If they are eloquent or popular, their comments may go “viral,” and ultimately have an impact on your bottom line. (Ask United how much that broken guitar cost them!)

By logical extension then, your sales people, your inventory control department, your accounting department and virtually everyone in your company are now a part of your Marketing Department. By doing their jobs right, they are satisfying your customers, and if your customers are satisfied with their experience and give your company a good review, that furthers your marketing efforts.

Once companies understand this, they can begin to work on a concerted, consistent and TRUE message about their products and/or services. They will spread that message on traditional, social and mobile marketing platforms. They will help their employees live up to the promise. They will know about any negative comments and respond appropriately. They will engage with their customers and potential customers in ways that will convince them that this is a company worth telling others about.

Sandy Ketcham is the owner of The Word Pro, a digital marketing company specializing in Website Design, Social Media and Content Marketing. Sandy writes for other companies, becoming their “voice” on blogs, websites, newsletters and print pieces. Her blog can be found at