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Cashing in on word-of-mouth marketing

If you long for the latest designer labels, or covet a new car, but don't have the cash to buy them, help could be at hand - as long as you have the gift of the gab.

Big-name firms have cottoned on to the fact that while they spend millions on traditional advertising on TV, radio and in magazines, personal recommendations are often the most valuable sales boosters.

So they enlist companies to hand out all manner of freebies, in exchange for good 'word-of-mouth' publicity.

"We send products out to people," explained Sharyn Smith, of free marketing company Soup. "We have a large database of people that we've recruited that want to get involved in products."

You could get your hands on anything from a lipstick to a holiday or even a car - as long as you talk about it to your friends.

"You yourself may have been referred to a nice wine by a friend," said Sharryn. "Now we may have sent it to them, or they may have bought it at a shop... it doesn't really matter."

And that is the point - instead of the in-your-face tactics of traditional marketing, word-of-mouth advertising is so subtle, you may not even notice you're being sold to.

"People themselves are becoming more cynical of advertising messages.
Advertisers are finding it hard to cut through, so word-of-mouth marketing gives them something credible that is going to work for them."

Some would question the ethics of using people's friendships to sell products, but Sharryn disagrees.

"We are not making anyone do anything, it is really about involving them in the process, making them feel part of the product they have helped develop," she said.

The real winners are those who get the free products. To get on the list you need to register with one of the companies which works in word-of-mouth advertising.

Piers Hogarth is the founder of Yooster, another word-of-mouth marketing company looking to give you free products. But you do need to be the right kind of person.

"What we do as part of that signing up process we profile you demographically and psychographically," he explained.

And if you fit the bill, a world of freebies awaits.

'''For more information, visit the Soup or Yooster websites.'''