Sure enough, we needed more body work done recently (what can I say...three kids and a minivan = recurring fender benders and dingers). This time I wanted a word-of-mouth referral from somebody I trusted. I was pointed in the direction of a place I've never heard of, and was told they are excellent.
And guess what? They are. The guy told me he's been in business fifteen years and has never done any advertising. He's built his business one customer at a time through word-of-mouth by simply doing great work and treating his customers with honesty and respect.
Ironically, I never mentioned having work done before, but he noticed it and proceeded to show me where the previous company had cut corners and done shoddy work. It was plain as day. They had suckered me.
Meanwhile, this experience was fantastic. Great communication. The work was done right. And not only will I return to him the next time (unfortunately I'm sure there will be a next time), I will happily refer anybody who needs body work to him.
This process reminded me that while marketing rabbit may get out of the gate faster, the word-of-mouth tortoise will always win in the long run.