Scorched Earth Word of Mouth Marketing

Over my 20+ years of developing a word-of-mouth marketing business and coaching networkers, I have noticed some very different styles of networking. One of these styles results in the ground smoking wherever these networkers tread. I call this “Scorched Earth” Word-of-Mouth Marketing.

I’d like to address this style, because it is very important to AVOID this type of networking in the cultivating a successful business networking model.

So, just what are the hallmarks of a Scorched Earth Word-of-Mouth Marketer?

Moves from networking group to networking group, constantly dissatisfied with the quality/quantity of referrals he gets from each. The Scorched Earth Word-of-Mouth Marketer doesn’t stay in one place long enough to build the type of relationships it takes to really capitalize on networking. It’s like planting a tree in one spot, not being satisfied with the tree’s growth, uprooting it and expecting it to grow faster in another spot. When the growth isn’t happening fast enough, it’s uprooted again and replanted. Each time that tree is uprooted, it takes longer to build itself back up to even where it was before being moved. A serious networker understands that in order for that tree to grow a bumper crop, it needs to be cared for right where it is.

Talks more than listens. If you meet someone who talks on and on about her services, what she can provide for you, how she can help you increase your bottom line, etc… and does not seem genuinely interested in your business, what you do, and what you need, chances are you have just met a Scorched Earth Word-of-Mouth Marketer! A serious networker will want to learn all about you, what your goals are professionally and how she can play a part in helping you accomplish those goals.

Doesn’t “honor the event,” or networks at inappropriate opportunities. There is something to be said about constantly looking for the opportunity to develop a business relationship, but a serious networker is always aware of how that networking comes across. You’ve seen the Scorched Earth Word-of-Mouth Marketer, for example, passing out business cards at a funeral. The key to networking at all times it to do in a way that is appropriate. While it can be entirely appropriate to begin a relationship at an event, such as a funeral, going around looking for an opportunity to pass out business cards is not the right way to do that!

Thinks that being highly visible ought to make business flow his way. In my book, Business by Referral, I talk about the VCP factor. Visibility, Credibility and Profitability …the more you are seen in the business community (visibility), the more you become know and trusted (credible). As people begin to trust you and refer you to others, the more business you start to see coming in (profitability).

Scorched Earth word-of-mouth marketing does not work, because building your business through word-of-mouth is about cultivating relationships with people who get to know you and trust you. People do business with people they have confidence in. One of the most important things I've learned in the past two decades is this: It's not what you know, or who you know, it's how well you know them that counts. If you go into this process understanding this one key point, you will have a better opportunity to build your business through word-of-mouth.

Called the father of modern networking, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author and Founder of BNI (, the world’s largest business networking organization. His latest book, Truth or Delusion can be viewed at Dr. Misner is also the Sr. Partner for the Referral Institute, an international referral training company ( He can be reached at .


Dr. Ivan Misner is the Founder & Chairman of BNI, the world's largest business networking organization. BNI was founded in 1985. The organization has over 5,800 chapters throughout every populated continent of the world. Last year alone, BNI generated 6.5 million referrals resulting in $2.8 billion dollars worth of business for its members.

Dr. Misner's Ph.D. is from the University of Southern California. He is a New York Ti...

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