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Introduction to Word of Mouth Marketing for CDFIs

29 Apr

This is the first post in an extensive series of about the very important topic of word of mouth (WOM) marketing for CDFIs.  In this series of posts, we will discuss what word of mouth is, how to develop buzzworthiness, remarkability and WOM-friendliness, and generally getting other people to do your CDFI marketing for you–for free!

[Word of Mouth Marketing a topic near and dear to our hearts here at CBC. In fact, a few years ago we created a separate brand for our WOM work here at CBC, and we called it PSST!]  

word of mouth marketing for CDFIs

What is Word of Mouth for CDFIs?

The Word of Mouth Marketing Association defines word of mouth quite simply:

Someone sharing something interesting with someone else

And it’s indeed really that simple. But while it’s simple, it’s not necessarily easy to create. For CDFIs, word of mouth is several things:

  • Existing borrowers telling prospective borrowers about you
  • Foundations telling their peers about you
  • A bank sending you a lead to a potential borrower
  • Employees telling their friends about you
  • Government policy makers spreading your message
  • And more–anytime someone is spreading your message on your behalf!

OK, Then What is Word of Mouth Marketing for CDFIs?

If we understand the definition of word of mouth, then what is word of mouth marketing as it relates to CDFIs?  We like to define word of mouth marketing as Andy Sernovitz (sort of considered the father of the formalized word of mouth marketing industry) has defined it:

Giving people giving people a reason to talk about you, and making it easier for that conversation to take place.

So what does that mean for CDFIs? It means several things:

  • Making our ‘WHY’, vision and mission compelling and clear
  • Communicating our story in a way that is “sticky” and memorable–making it easy for others to retell it
  • Creating experiences for borrowers, employees, partners, investors and more that they cannot stop talking about
  • Joining the conversation that you’ve sparked
  • And more

Make no mistake: word of mouth marketing is a discipline all its own–it has its own “science” and techniques that make it work. It’s not about “being nice to people,” or “doing something silly so it will go viral.” Instead, it’s about strategically identifying what things others will find impossible to keep to themselves, and then giving them this share-worthy message in an easily sharable format.

Why is Word of Mouth So Important for CDFIs?

To be honest, word of mouth is incredibly important for any company or organization. Yet, most of these organizations are really not very good at it. Financial institutions and CDFIs specifically are no exception. But the good news is word of mouth marketing can be learned.

CDFIs have important stories to tell, and important missions to fulfill. With that in mind, CDFIs deserve word of mouth arguably more than any other type of organization. Yet, word of mouth is not granted by a higher power to the most deserving; it’s a reward for those organizations who earn it. Word of mouth is “earned media.”

Speaking of “earned media,” one of the benefits of word of mouth is that it doesn’t cost a lot of money; it does, however, cost a lot of energy and hard work. This is a good situation for CDFIs, who often don’t have a ton of money to work with–but the trade-off is investing greater energy in becoming buzz worthy.

Word of mouth is also more powerful than traditional marketing. Why? Because people trust and believe the recommendations and referrals they get from their friends and colleagues far more than they trust and believe paid marketing messages! Reflect on your experiences as a consumer and you will quickly realize how true this is. If your best friends tells you “Chez Delish is amazing!” it carries a lot more weight than if you see an ad from Chez Delish that says “we are amazing!”

There are many benefits of word of mouth marketing, and we will continue to explore them throughout this series.

What Are the Elements of Word of Mouth Marketing for CDFIs?

To make this series of posts about WOM for CDFIs as clear and helpful as possible, we will organize our posts around the “5 T’s” that Andy Sernovitz explains in his great book, Word of Mouth Marketing. These 5 T’s provide a simple, clear and cumulative framework for understanding how word of mouth works. Here is a quick preview:

Talkers: who will be most likely to talk about us (when given something worth talking about)?

Topics: what will these Talkers find so interesting that they can’t keep it to themselves?

Tools:  what can we do to make sure the Talkers are able to share the Topics easily?

Taking Part: once we’ve spurred word of mouth with our Talkers about our Topics, how can we join the conversation?

Tracking: now that there is WOM about our CDFI, how can we keep track of it and measure its impact on our business?

Recommended WOM Reading for CDFIs

Upcoming posts will be published one at a time starting in the very near future! In the meantime, if you are already intrigued by word of mouth marketing for your CDFI (and we hope you are!), here is some excellent recommended reading and resources you can explore to get a head start! Also, of course you can always contact us to chat about helping spark word of mouth marketing at your CDFI.

Word of mouth marketing for CDFIsWord of Mouth Marketing, by Andy Sernovitz

 Purple Cow, by Seth Godin

Free Prize Inside, by Seth Godin

 Likeable Business, by Dave Kerpen

Made to StickMade to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath


Word of Mouth Marketing Association