Word of Mouth Techniques for Small Businesses
In marketing, positive word of mouth is the gold standard. In fact, according to a Nielsen survey on global trust in advertising, consumers rated “recommendations from people I know” as the most trusted form of advertising from among 19 marketing tactics, and a whopping 92 percent of respondents said they trust recommendations from friends and family.
Essentially, word of mouth marketing involves getting your customers to do your advertising for you by talking positively about your business to others. While this will likely happen organically over time if you do a great job, there are things you can do to bolster word of mouth and encourage customers to speak up about your business, including the following:
1. Deliver an amazing customer experience
You could have the best product or service in the world, but if the experience you provide your customers with is subpar, they probably aren’t going to write home about you. However, if you make providing an incredible customer experience along with a great product or service a core part of your business, that will get people talking.
Focusing on the small details can make a big difference. For example, make sure your customers are greeted by a friendly, smiling employee when they enter your store, or provide customers with a beverage and snack to enjoy during their appointment. Going a small step or two beyond the average experience will make you memorable, differentiate your business from competitors, and make people want to recommend you.
2. Focus on relationships
It may sound basic, but people enjoy helping others who they know and like, so make an effort to build meaningful relationships with those you come in contact with, both inside and outside of your business. Show genuine interest in getting to know others better by asking them questions and listening to what they say, try to find common ground that you can both connect on, and offer your assistance to them when appropriate, because in many cases, a relationship can lead to a referral.
3. Do something unexpected
After your final engagement with a customer, secure a positive, long lasting impression of your business in their mind by providing them with something unexpected and unpaid to show your appreciation. For example, it could be a goodie bag, a free upgrade, or a discount to use on a future purchase. Not only does this encourage repeat business from that customer, it also increases the chances they will remember you and recommend you to someone else.
4. Be thankful
A genuine thank you can go a long way. Rather than sending out a mass templated email, take a few minutes each day to write and send a handwritten thank you note to a customer. It doesn’t need to be a novel; simply write a few lines letting them know how much you appreciate them and their business.
5. Ask customers to share
Some customers will tell others about your business on their own, but in many cases, there are several more customers who would be willing to spread the word about your company if you simply asked them to. You don’t need to be pushy about it; as you interact with customers, just tell them how much you would appreciate it if they let their family, friends, and colleagues know about your business.
6. Offer incentives
If you really want to start generating word of mouth for your business, provide some type of valuable incentive to customers who tell others in their network about you. You might offer cash, gift cards, store credit, or discounts on future purchases. When a desirable incentive is up for grabs, it encourages customers to share and shows them how much you appreciate their referrals.
7. Make the referral process simple
You’ll miss out on valuable recommendations if your referral process is difficult or time consuming, so you need to make sure it’s quick and simple for customers to refer someone to your business. Consider creating a short online referral form that’s easily accessible on your website or providing printed referral cards that customers can take from your store.
8. Hold an event or a seminar
While putting on an event or a seminar will likely involve time and effort on your part, it can result in a significant amount of word of mouth for your business if done correctly. Choose something that your target customers are interested in and then deliver an event that’s worth their time. Remember to market your event and encourage clients and target customers to attend.
9. Strive to get positive publicity
When others see your business doing good things in the community on the news or on social media, it shows your company in a positive light and will likely generate favorable conversation about you. It will also put your business on the forefront of people’s minds, which can lead them to choose your company next time they are in need of the product or service you offer.
10. Stay proactive online
While some conversations about your business will happen in person, several others will happen online. Start by setting up profiles for your company on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook if you haven’t already. Be active on social media and engage with customers and potential customers. Keep an eye on what’s being said on these platforms and respond to people who are talking about your brand, both positively and negatively.
In addition to fostering your reputation on social media, monitor the reviews your business receives on platforms such as Google, Yelp, and Best Company. Reply to positive reviews by thanking the reviewer and letting them know how much you appreciate their business. Respond to negative reviews by genuinely apologizing and offering to do what you can to fix the issue. Although no company likes to receive negative reviews, putting in the effort to address and remedy them will show the customers and others who read the reviews that you care, which ultimately reflects positively on your brand.
Bio: Sarah Hancock is the Chief Editor of Best Company’s business loans blog. She frequently writes about business-related topics and has contributed to Forbes, Reader’s Digest, Yahoo, Ladders, MyCorporation, Fit Small Business, and several other publications.