How to Use Word of Mouth Advertising for Small Businesses
Word of Mouth Advertising: An unpaid form of promotion in which satisfied customers tell other people how much they like a business, product or service.
Are you doing everything you can to convince customers to speak positively about your small business? By some estimates, a whopping 85% of small businesses acquire most of their customers through word of mouth. Further, 90% of people trust suggestions from family and friends.
Clearly, business owners would be wise to focus some of their marketing efforts on this cost-effective technique. Even with newer advertising methods like social media marketing and paid media, nothing quite beats old fashion word of mouth grassroots marketing.
Read on to find out more about five of the most successful techniques that you can try out with your own small business.
1. Focus on customer service first
Customers are more likely to recommend a business to their friends and family when they're treated well. If you're the business owner and you handle most customer-facing activities, you can easily focus on customer service yourself. However, if you have employees, things become more complicated.
Staff members will often follow upper management's lead, so it's vital that you focus on delivering a fantastic customer experience before any customer problems arise. Don't only use customer service as a conflict resolution tool, because employees will follow your example. And, when you see staff treating customers well, acknowledge their successes. Employees want to feel appreciated, and praise and recognition is a powerful motivator.
Another option is to outsource customer service activities, like phone answering. Virtual assistants are a cost-effective solution that allows you to deliver excellent customer service, without the price tag of a part- or full-time employee. They free up time for you to work on other areas of the business, too.
2. Show customers that you care
Sometimes, the smallest gestures have the largest impact on a customer's perception of your business.
For example, some hotels offer their guests milk and cookies before bedtime. One guest who stayed at a hotel like this was so excited about this small (but meaningful and memorable) treat that she mentioned it on social media and immediately texted her husband about it. That's the sort of positive word of mouth marketing that does wonders for a business.
3. Go above and beyond to thrill your customers
Going above and beyond what's expected is one tried-and-true way to cultivate a raving brand fan base for your company.
In the previous cookie example, the customer loved the homey touch of warm cookies and milk. It was one way to make staying at a hotel feel more personal, potentially alleviating the stress that can come with being away from home in an unfamiliar place. It showed that the business really did care about the people occupying their rooms.
So, how can you show your customers that you truly care about them? Start thinking about small ways you can delight your customers or how you can make their lives easier and more convenient, to begin with.
4. Ask for referrals
Perhaps the easiest way to generate word of mouth advertising is this: simply ask your customers for referrals.
People are generally happy to give referrals for businesses that they love, but they often forget as they go about their busy lives. All you have to do is send a follow-up email saying “If you loved us, we'd appreciate it if you gave us the opportunity to treat your friends and family the same. Feel free to send them our way!"
5. Ask customers to review your business
Another easy option is to ask that customers leave testimonials on review aggregator websites like Yelp, or LinkedIn if that's a more appropriate venue for your services.
They might not be directly advocating your brand to a friend or family member, but another potential customer could easily be swayed by reading about a positive experience.
Never stop trying to generate word of mouth for your business
Word of mouth advertising is something that you will have to consciously work to acquire via your own actions and the actions of any employees.
It's a low-cost method of acquiring new customers and it's wildly effective, but only if you put in the legwork to wow customers and request their feedback.