Thanks to the Internet, customers are demanding more, questioning more and talking more, which means that organisations which don't deliver or live up to the hype are quickly going to get found out.
Fancy getting the best seat on your next plane journey? Check out Seatguru.com to see a website that compares seats and facilities on airlines around the world.
Thinking of a romantic weekend away and need a hotel? Get the opinions of other romantics at a site like Tripadvisor.
Want the best deal on a new plasma TV? Visit the plethora of comparison sites that will give you technical details, unbiased reviews and ratings along with price comparisons and recommendations of where to buy.
Amazon and Itunes have for a long time encouraged customers to provide reviews and ratings. Customers, and prospective customers now have a wealth of unbiased and objective information to help them make better buying decisions.
Combine this with 24 hour access to the web, Blackberries, web enabled mobile phones and chat rooms, users forums and social networking sites that link millions of like minded consumers, and no wonder that word of mouth is becoming an ever more powerful influence on what customers buy.
According to a recent report in the Sunday Times, people are turning to the internet more and more before they buy. Price comparison sites are providing customers with more choice, more information and more ammunition to use when they go out spending.
In fact, nearly eight out of 10 consumer electronics purchases are now influenced by internet research. The more expensive the product, the more time people spend researching it on the net. On average people spend 12 hours researching online and this jumps to 15 hours for expensive products such as televisions.
Another report by Birmingham Midshires Building Society found that six out of 10 of over 45's use price comparison sites, with nearly three-quarters of those who use the services cutting household bills as a result.
Impartial advice on financial products is also popular, with sites such as Moneyfacts and Moneysupermarket being consulted by 14 per cent of over-45s.
The result? Companies need to recognise that marketing is not about 'the hype' (to be honest, it never was!), but it's about what they do, and what they get noticed doing. Customers will see through the 'packaging' of your brochure, your advertisements, and your website if you don't 'deliver the goods'.
They're more sceptical. They question more. They demand more. Research also indicates they're likely to talk more.
People don't talk much about 'ok', 'not bad', 'same as' or 'acceptable' stuff. They talk, even shout, about stuff that's 'amazing', 'brilliant', 'outstanding' and 'exceptional' (they also do the same about 'poor', 'dull', 'terrible' and 'unacceptable' things).
Word of mouth is a consistently great way of creating more customers, but only if you've got something worth talking about. It's great news for organisations that deliver, bad news for those that do not.
The lessons for organisations in today's crowded and transparent market place? Average means anonymous and anonymity gets you nowhere. Equally, 'Hype' and self-promotion is becoming less effective. It's about getting others to do the talking for you.
Word of mouth (good and bad) has always been a powerful influence. Word of mouse has the potential to be an even stronger one.
The opinions of others are becoming more and more important, particularly of those who like to voice them. Many of these individuals are just 'ordinary people' like you and me. We now have an outlet that can be accessed by millions.
In other words, the power has shifted to us as customers. For example, if you like this article, comment below or forward it on. Equally, if you think it stinks, feel free to say so.
So there's no hiding place anymore, not even for lawyers!