In a recent study by Infusionsoft, SMBs far and away said “word of mouth” was their most effective marketing tool. Sixty-two percent cited word-of-mouth as their best marketing tactic—nearly twice as effective as the email, the second-rated tactic (34 percent).
How can you boost word-of-mouth marketing for your small business? Try these 11 ideas.
1. Set goals for word-of-mouth. Just as with any other type of marketing tactic, vague goals like “getting everyone to talk about us” are too nebulous to be useful. Create measurable goals, such as getting X number of new customers through referrals per month, obtaining press coverage in three places per month or generating X number of leads per month via word-of-mouth marketing.
2. Create a system for generating referrals. Offering bonuses, freebies or discounts to customers who give you referrals to other customers is a good way to encourage the practice.
3. Offer customers who are referred special deals. Give new customers discounts or special offers in return for being willing to try your business.
4. Promote your business with PR. Public relations should be ongoing to keep your business in the public eye. Develop relationships with local journalists, members of the media and bloggers, and keep them informed about your company’s latest news, accomplishments and future plans.
5. Get active in the local community. Participating in or sponsoring community events such as fairs, 5K races or sports teams will get your business name out there. If your carpet company’s name is all over the local Little League team’s jerseys, who are the parents going to think of the next time they need carpet?
6. Network with other business owners. Whether you sell B2B or B2C, small business owners in your community can become your customers, or refer their friends and associates to your business.
7. Tap into your personal connections. Spread the word about your business among your friends and family, as well as organizations you belong to for personal reasons. Taking out an ad in the church bulletin or asking your gym if you can leave brochures at the front desk could lead to new business.
8. Hand out extra business cards. Whenever you do business with a new client and know they’re satisfied, give them extra business cards so they can pass them out to friends or colleagues who might need your business’s services.
9. Keep tabs on what customers think. Conducting focus groups, regularly checking your online ratings and reviews, and keeping tabs on social media are all good ways to know what type of word-of-mouth customers are spreading, whether it’s positive or negative.
10. Pay special attention to unhappy customers. Unhappy customers tend to tell exponentially more people about their experiences than happy ones do—so they can do more harm than happy customers do good. But if you can solve an angry customer’s complaint and turn them into a fan of your business, you’ve likely won an advocate for life. Never ignore or minimize a customer’s complaint; go out of your way to find a solution and offer standout service that will win them over.
11. Always ask new customers how they first heard about you. Try to get as specific as possible—if they learned about you from a friend at the gym, which gym? Tracking how customers learn about your company will help you assess how well your word-of-mouth marketing efforts are working so you can focus on the most productive avenues.