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Ways to Supercharge Word-of-Mouth Advertising for Your Business

Date: February 09, 2009

Have you noticed that some small companies hardly spend anything on marketing, yet still thrive? There is only one way to accomplish this: strong, positive word-of-mouth among customers.

For some companies, this happens naturally. Other companies have to work at it a bit—at least enough to get the word-of-mouth ball rolling. Once it is rolling, the momentum is likely to continue as long as your customers feel that your products and services offer value.

Even companies that have long-standing, positive word-of-mouth among customers can benefit from an occasional campaign to encourage customers to talk about them.

Direct ways to boost positive word-of-mouth:

  • Establish an ongoing campaign that rewards customers for recommending others. Traditionally, such campaigns have offered discounts as an incentive. With the often-drastic discounts being offered by some retailers today, a 10 percent or even 15 percent discount for referral may not seem like much. But for customers who are going to do business with you anyway, a 15 percent discount will be significant.
  • Put up signs offering the 15 percent. Print a flyer announcing it, and put it in the hands of every person who walks through your door.
  • Be sure to designate how long the discount will be available. Will it be for just one purchase, or for all purchases during the month? This decision should be based on the dollar amount of your average sale. If the products you sell aren't very expensive—or if customers normally shop with you frequently during any given month—consider offering the discount for a period of time. If your products are expensive, discounting a one-time purchase may be attractive enough.
  • Near the end of every sales presentation, your employees should say: "Please recommend us to others." These simple words, when said to hundreds or thousands of people, will spontaneously generate increased business.
  • Hassle-free shopping is greatly valued by customers these days. In fact, positive word-of-mouth is extremely difficult to generate by companies that do not offer a smooth and satisfying shopping experience. Ask customers for suggestions on how you can improve. Provide a suggestion box and pen and paper so customers can anonymously make suggestions and air complaints.

Value: The ultimate source of word-of-mouth
Ultimately, customers will talk positively about you to others if they feel they received unusual value when shopping with you. Value, of course, does not mean only low prices. Value is the ideal combination of economy and quality. If you feel that your company provides this in services and products, mentioning it should be an integral part of every interaction between customer and employee. If you're not certain that your company provides great value, it's time to reconsider the key mix of price and quality you're offering.

When you point out to customers exactly how much value they're receiving—or have received in previous purchases—your suggestion to them about referring you to others will have greater weight.

Eliminate negative word-of-mouth
When talking about generating word-of-mouth among customers, it's important to mention the old adage: pleased customers tell you and others, while displeased customers tell only others. To avoid negative word-of-mouth, it is vital to nip in the bud any potential dissatisfaction among customers.

Recently, there was a sign at a store checkout counter of a large electronics store saying something to the effect of: "If you have been dissatisfied for any reason, don't leave without speaking to our manager." This attitude is an excellent approach to minimizing negative word-of-mouth.

Employees should continually be aware of the potential for negative feelings in departing customers. Employees at checkout counters often ask: "Did you find everything you were looking for?" The real question should be: "Was your shopping experience today completely satisfactory?"

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