I didn’t mean to turn a hobby into a profitable side hustle. For those who know me, I enjoy creating art in the form of cakes and decorated cookies, and like every good millennial, I snap a couple of pics on my iPhone and send it off into the social sphere (also known as Instagram).

The cake that started it all was a simple cake I made my mother in law for her birthday. It was the first cake that I made from scratch, and it garnered a lot of attention because it was probably better than most people’s first attempt at making a cake. Suddenly, my inbox and texts were swarming with messages from people wanting to order a cake from me. I didn’t know what to do, so I said yes to a lot of people and built a social media portfolio of my creations.

Word gets around…

I started to take confectionary commissions and every time that I posted a photo of a completed project, I would have people messaging me about placing an order. What I found to be most interesting was when the messages were from strangers – referrals. I didn’t realize word of mouth was such a powerful marketing tool until I had people coming to my page asking to order, having never seen or tasted my product. All it took was a good review or recommendation from a trusted source to trust a business they loved.

“I didn’t realize word of mouth was such a powerful marketing tool until I had people coming to my page asking to order, having never seen or tasted my product.”

Photo by @cubanmarthastewart

What is Word of Mouth Marketing?

Word of Mouth Marketing, or WOMM, is known as social and online media’s spread of information, quite literally through word of mouth. According to Founder & CEO of Veeqo, Matt Warren, word of mouth can be organic or amplified. Organic WOMM is essentially what kickstarted my sales, thanks to people who shared my content and product, either because they personally tried it, loved how it looked, or were personally invested in me. Amplified WOMM occurs when a campaign is launched in support of existing WOMM. A great example of this is a newsletter, a sale on the product that garnered support via word of mouth, or even a blog post with a cake recipe or DIY decorating instructions. Social networks, online communities, and blogs have become a gateway for WOMM and are just a few tools that can be used to enhance a word of mouth campaign.

How can I help businesses through word of mouth,” you ask? Easy. If you’re on social media, this doesn’t cost you a cent, and it includes sharing a post, liking or commenting on a post, or writing a positive review. If you’re a business owner or are trying to sell a product on social media, asking your audience to engage with your content is crucial as it increases your reach and chances of exposure (the Instagram algorithm needs a post of its own). Ask a compelling question to provoke a response from your audience, or post links on your profile that lead to your website or blog.

It’s okay to run your mouth!

Should marketing communication be conducted solely by word of mouth? The truth is, it depends – but it’s probably best to cover your bases if you’re looking for exposure. To kick start the word of mouth communication, I had to market my product by posting an image of the product and allowing opportunities for engagement in the post. I once recall asking (to my detriment) if my audience would prefer bacon roses over flowers on Valentine’s Day, and I had people flooding  my inbox with requests for bacon bouquets. So maybe don’t be like me and ask rhetorical questions unless you’re prepared for people to take them seriously (whoops). Definitely take the time to talk to your audience – your potential clients – and start to build trust of your own.

The most important takeaway about Word of Mouth Marketing is that trust is the driving force behind a referral. If you have an appealing product and someone willing to recommend it, you can potentially build a community that supports your work, and that’s worth its weight in gold.

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