Want to get customers through your door - without actually having to lift a finger to get them there?
Maybe you don’t have time for marketing your business. Maybe the last thing you want to do at the end of a busy day is post ads on Facebook or post an update on your website.
If that sounds familiar, then you might be the perfect candidate for word of mouth marketing.
Get our FREE guide on How to Master Word-of-Mouth Marketing here!
Word of mouth marketing (WOMM) is a type of marketing strategy that uses previous customers to help bring in new clients. At first glance, the idea seems pretty simple: Provide a product or service that’s so great, your happy customer will immediately run out and tell his or her social circles about your business.
When someone whose opinion you value recommends a product or service to you, you’re more likely to take up that recommendation because you trust that person.
In reality, word of mouth marketing can be tricky to master, precisely because you’re relying on customers to take it upon themselves to recommend you to others. A customer might recommend you without even thinking twice about it, while another customer might need a lot of extra attention to feel confident recommending your business.
Fortunately, there are key strategies you can use to make it much more likely that your happy customers will recommend your business (and we’ll show them to you!). But first, let’s take a look at why word of mouth marketing is so effective in the first place.
The reason why word of mouth marketing works is simple: in the eyes of your customer, getting a recommendation from someone he or she knows invokes a feeling of trust that he or she wouldn’t otherwise get from you.
Here’s the deal: When someone whose opinion you value recommends a product or service to you, you’re more likely to take up that recommendation because you trust that person. The relationship you’ve built with him or her has social equity that transfers to the recommended product or service.
When compared to other products or services, you’re probably much more likely to try the one that was recommended to you by someone you trust.
The key word here is trust.
When customers first approach your business, they don’t really know anything about you, so that all-important trust isn’t there.
But if they’re approaching you based on the recommendation of someone they know and trust, they already have a good feeling about your business.
It’s almost as if that trust transfers straight to you!
Truthfully, any small business can benefit from a word of mouth marketing strategy. But there are certain signs it may be time to start getting your clientele to spread the word about your services.
These signs include:
Whether you’re paying for Facebook advertising or you’re leaving flyers in prospective customers’ mailboxes, those marketing costs may be adding up.
And if those costs are starting to get too high, you should consider investing in word of mouth marketing strategies (more on those in a bit!).
Are you only landing customers through your advertising efforts? Do people mention that they haven’t heard of your small business before?
If that’s the case, focus on spreading awareness of your business, including what it does. While we’ll discuss what some of those strategies look like in a bit, it doesn’t hurt to start looking for ways to get friends, family members, and past customers to talk about your business a little bit more.
This is the plight of so many small business owners: their days are eaten up by busy schedules, project planning, managing employees and vendors, and more. So there’s very little time at the end of the day to focus on delivering a good marketing strategy.
That’s where word of mouth marketing can really help out. Instead of constantly investing your sweat and time into finding new customers, they’ve already found you.
That means you can spend less time looking for new projects, and more time making money!
If your small business’s social media channels seem more like ghost towns, that lack of engagement may signify that not enough people are talking about you or sharing your posts.
Now that we’ve identified just a few of the signs that you need to start investing in word of mouth, let’s take a closer look at the exact strategies you can use to start effortlessly bringing in more customers.
So now that you know why word of mouth marketing works, what’s the best way you can actually build some serious buzz about your business?
Not all word of mouth marketing will come from past customers who are recommending your services. Some will come from folks who happen to remember your company’s name because they saw it on a hoodie at the grocery store or on your truck while you were driving by.
This is the absolute bare minimum must-do for word of mouth marketing. You could promise all the discounts, bonuses, and extra incentives in the world, but if you’re providing a subpar product or service to your customers, they’re not going to recommend you to their social networks.
Maybe there’s a client who lives outside of your scope of work, but you make the extra trip. Or maybe your client hired you to power wash his patio deck, and you throw in some free staining to bring out his deck’s natural luster.
The point here is that going the extra mile in an unexpected way will absolutely wow your customers - and that translates into some serious word of mouth recommendations.
Unless you’re one of those wunderkind businesses that can literally do everything and anything really well, try to focus on a few specialties so you can get really good at them. When you blow people out of the water with your work, they won’t be able to resist passing on your name to the rest of their social networks.
Don’t be shy about asking your customers for reviews, especially if you know you’ve done a good job. Make it a seamless part of finishing out a project. For example, you can provide your customers with a business card with all the links to the sites where they can leave you reviews.
You may even want to provide your customers with a small discount on a future project if they leave you an online review.
If you want customers to recommend you to people within their social networks, give them a little extra incentive for doing so by setting up a paid program.
This program should provide monetary rewards for customers who make referrals to your business. You don’t have to pay out of pocket for these referrals (although you certainly can); a paid program can be as simple as offering a discount on their next service.
A few examples of easy-to-implement referral programs can include:
The goal here is to make your referral program so enticing that it’ll seriously motivate your customers to start recommending your business.
Almost every community has their own Facebook group - have you joined yours and posted about your business yet?
If you haven’t, you’re missing out on an opportunity to start spreading the news about your small business. Whip up a post introducing your business to the group, including what you specialize in and the locations you serve.
If you’re offering any discounts or deals, don’t forget to mention those as well (in fact, you may even want to create a special discount for customers who came to you through the FB group).
You should also consider investing some time into location-based social media platforms like NextDoor. Follow the same strategies you’d use in your town’s FB group to make the most of your town’s NextDoor forum.
For more social media-based WOM strategies, scroll to the top of this page and download our FREE guide!
We talk about this a lot in our free Word of Mouth Marketing guide, but it’s worth repeating here: Don’t be afraid to ask your customers to recommend you!
That’s why so much of word of mouth marketing focuses on delivering stellar service - because once you get to the point where you ask for recommendations, your customers will be happy to oblige.
Asking doesn’t have to be a big deal. Place a reminder on your invoice, send out a follow-up email, or call your customer a few weeks later to see if they’d be willing to recommend your services to anyone else.
You’d be surprised at how quickly your clientele base builds from there!
There’s an important cornerstone for any good word of mouth marketing program - and that’s having business insurance.
Here’s why: Your customers want to make sure they’re recommending the best businesses to their friends and family members. And it’s not just about how good you are at your work - it’s about how serious you are about client safety.
Think about it this way. If you’re required to have business insurance - but you don’t - you’re making it really hard for your customers to recommend you in good faith.
That’s because if you cause an accident or damage property during your work - or even make a clerical error - you’d have to pay up for it out of your own pocket.
And if that happens, you can bet that your customer’s relationship with whoever they referred could be seriously strained. No one wants to take that chance!
If you do carry business insurance - and you should! - you’re just making it that much easier for a customer to feel confident about recommending you to others.
Fortunately, we make getting business insurance incredibly easy. Whether you need a policy or just want to check to see if there are cheaper policies out there, our free tool makes it easy to compare insurance quotes from the nation’s top insurers.
Word of mouth marketing might feel like it’s impossible to control and influence, but it’s really not. It’s more about making sure you bring your A-game to every interaction with a customer, as well as making it as easy as possible for that customer to recommend you.
When you’re able to tie these two steps together, you’ll be building word of mouth business at a lightning-fast pace.
I love writing about the small business experience because I happen to be a small business owner - I've had a freelance copywriting business for over 10 years. In addition to that, I also head up the content strategy here at Simply Business. Reach out if you have a great idea for an article or just want to say hi!
Mariah writes on a number of topics such as small business planning, contractor insurance, and business licenses.
This content is for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, or financial advice. Please obtain expert advice from industry specific professionals who may better understand your business’s needs. Read our full disclaimer
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