Generating Word-of-Mouth Referrals as a Small Business

Cathy's Tuesday TipHow do you turn customers into brand advocates? Are you distinguishing yourself from your competitors and incorporating a wow factor in your customer service efforts? “Wowed” clients are loyal clients and will tell others about their experience. You will not be able to turn every single customer into a brand advocate but they don’t become advocates and send referrals to you without reason. They have to identify with and feel affiliated with your brand. Hope you enjoy Cathy’s Tuesday Tip! ~ Cathy

5 Ways to Generate Word-Of-Mouth as a Small Business

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Humans rely on their network to make decisions about where to go, what to do and what to buy. Ninety-two percent of consumers trust referrals from people they know, and 77 percent of consumers are more likely to buy a new product when learning about it from friends or family. According to Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger, author of the bestseller Contagious, word-of-mouth is 10 times as effective as traditional advertising.

You might be fooled into thinking that word-of-mouth is simple to generate, but it isn’t. Creating a buzz-worthy message that goes viral is not an easy task and, unfortunately, there is no clear-cut formula (much to the dismay of marketers). So, how do you turn customers into brand advocates? How do you fuel conversations that make people want to share your message with their network?

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1. Exceed your customers’ expectations.

According to Entrepreneur, “businesses should be focusing on creating customer service that transforms customers into fans who can’t stop talking about your brand.” But it goes even beyond excellent customer service. Word-of-mouth is triggered when a customer experiences something far beyond what was expected. Hence, you need to delight and please your customers with their entire experience. It’s important to remember that this is not so much about gifts and promotions, but about how you treat and communicate with the people who drive your business growth.

2. Create the WOW factor.

The Missouri Business Development Program states that: “All successful small businesses seem to have an edge. They have found a way to distinguish themselves, to rise above the commercial fray, to put the WOW into their business.” It’s not enough to offer a quality product or service. You need to surprise and delight your customer, not simply satisfy them. How do you do this? By incorporating a WOW factor. Transform a satisfactory experience into a special and memorable experience. For example, if you run a Bed & Breakfast, you can go that extra mile by providing your guests with a handwritten note and a local bottle of wine in their room.

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3. Make it easy for people to leave reviews.

When running a word-of-mouth campaign, the worst thing you can do is make it difficult for customers to communicate with each other about your brand. So, make it as easy as possible for people to leave reviews and recommendations. Make sure you turn on your reviews on your Facebook page. This has to be done manually, before anyone can leave star-reviews. Similar, you should set up your Google My Business and Yelp account, if you haven’t done so yet. Also, allow customers to give feedback directly to you on your website, as you’ll learn a lot from this. For example, 3M ESPE, a manufacturer of dental products, made its review process so simple that the company increased customer review volume by 200 percent in three days.

4. Set goals for word of mouth.

Just as with any other type of marketing strategy, goals like “getting everyone to talk about our product” are too vague to be effective. In your marketing plan, you will want to set certain objectives and measurable goals. For example: “We want X number of new customers through referrals per month”; “ We want to obtain press coverage in three X places per month”; “We want to generate X number of leads per month via word-of-mouth marketing.” Every goal should have time limits and detailed methods for accomplishment.

5. Promote your business through PR.

Public relations is a way to keep your business in the public eye. As a small business, develop relationships with local journalists, newspapers, radio stations and online influencers in your niche. Keep them informed about your company’s latest developments and future plans.

Generating word-of-mouth isn’t easy, but with a little strategic planning, a small business can create a real buzz in their local community. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, you can achieve a lot with creativity even on a small budget. Word-of-mouth is the most powerful form of advertising a small business can have, as each happy customer can steer dozens of new ones their way.

View more of Cathy’s Tuesday Tips, visit our blog.