I wear a lot of hats around here — a necessity for the majority owner — and sometimes keeping my roles straight and free of conflict twists me up like a pretzel.

As a reporter, I’m trained to spot fallacies in thinking, a skill that, when I’m working as a sales rep, is often not as appreciated as it is in my journalism.

Case in point: When I’m speaking to business owners and event planners about their marketing plans and they use the phrase “word of mouth,” as in: “I think we’re gonna word-of-mouth this one,” I cannot help but roll my eyes.

This is Marketing 101: Word of mouth does not just materialize; it must have a genesis, whether it be a social media campaign, a press release or, most effective, an actual marketing campaign.[pullquote]Some word-of-mouth marketing is negative, as in, “That place sucks.”[/pullquote]

Consider this: According to a 2013 Columbia University study, most Americans know about 600 people. So even if everyone you know is aware of your event or business, you’re talking about 600 or so people who might be busy that night, or can’t be counted on to frequent your business regularly, or might not even be interested in what you’re doing enough so that they are willing to spend money on it.

Another fact: With word of mouth, one cannot control the message that’s being spread about your thing. People get dates and times and services confused. They forget names and locations. And often they are not all that into your product, which means that some word-of-mouth marketing is negative, as in, “That place sucks.”

Most small businesses work with miniscule budgets, and for those that do not understand how important marketing is, it’s easy to jettison the costs of getting the word out and hope that people will just start talking about it.

And sometimes that works, especially if there’s something like free beer involved.

But business owners who have been in the game long enough know there’s no such thing as free beer. And for most of us, there’s no such thing as effective word-of-mouth marketing.

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