By: Dr Lynne McCarthy (PhD), marketing expert
Word-of-mouth marketing is an effective and inexpensive way to ensure new business and build trust with current customers.
Getting a recommendation about your business from a friend or acquaintance can give a potential customer the confidence boost they need [to buy from you].
Small business owners can think of word-of-mouth marketing as free advertising. Large enterprises pour millions into advertising campaigns to influence consumers. Small businesses who often don’t have big budgets to spend on marketing can nonetheless generate buzz through word of mouth.
How can you get customers to not only appreciate you, but promote you as well?
Here are 21 low-cost tactics you can adopt to drive word of mouth marketing for any business.
1. Provide great products and services. Customers will only extol your virtues if they are happy with what they have bought. What you sell and how you sell it, should live up to, or exceed, what your customers expect, based on your ads, sales pitch, and industry standards. Remember, word of mouth works both ways; if customers are unhappy with your company, they will complain loudly and publicly about their bad experience.
2. Provide excellent customer service. The secret here, is to treat your customers and prospects the way you would like to be treated. A few basics to remember, are for instance, smiling at customers when you greet or talk to them. Be polite. Answer their questions. Don’t keep them waiting unnecessarily. Whenever possible have a real person answer the phone. If you must send callers to voice mail, have something in your voice mail announcement that lets them know how soon you will return their call. Then, return their call within 24 hours. If you provide a service, get the service done on time and within their budget. Keep them informed about changes, delays and update them on the status of service delivery.
3. Be kind and friendly. Always greet customers with a warm smile and ask how you may be of assistance. If you know a customer’s name, call them by name. Do this telephonically also. Always show interest in how the caller is doing and how you might make life easier for them.
4. Be concise in your answers to questions, [don’t use] jargon, and if you sell something technical, don’t talk down to the customer or get annoyed if they have trouble understanding what you are saying; rephrase your answer so that the customer better understands. If there’s some industry news or product information that will be helpful to customers, pass it along to them.
5. Thank your customers for their business. Everyone likes to be appreciated, and customers are no exception. Thank them with a handshake, a call or email post-sale, delivery or implementation.
6. Return calls promptly. Don’t let your customer wonder when delivery or service will take place. Keep the client informed with status updates periodically. Should a customer try in vain to reach you, make sure you return their call or email as soon as possible.
7. Don’t ever argue with a customer, even if they complain about your service or product. Apologize (even if you think the customer may be wrong) and solve their problem or offer a replacement or a partial or full refund. By handling problems quickly and efficiently, you and your employees can turn angry customers into fans and advocates.
8. Always be courteous and polite no matter how rude or angry a customer may be. Never raise your voice, be sarcastic, or speak in a demeaning way to customers.
9. Keep in touch with customers and prospects by email. Using email to communicate regularly with customers and prospects who have requested to be on your mailing list, creates brand consistency and keeps you top-of-mind. If you are regularly providing interesting information, newsletters, coupons, or other material customers want, they will brag to their friends, who have similar interests, about the benefits they have derived.
10. Be careful not to spam. Offer clients and prospects the option to OPT-OUT from marketing text or emails. This will also ensure you comply with the POPI act. Also don’t send too many emails, text messages or newsletters as this will be seen as spam.
11. Be personally visible to your market. Join networking groups and industry groups that your customers join or follow and be a regular attendee at meetings and events. Talk to people at meetings to find out what they do and what’s important to them and what challenges they are facing. When you can, give them tips or point them to resources that might be beneficial to them, even though it has nothing to do with your business. Your goal is to be thought of as a thought leader and problem solver.
12. Be active on social media. Set up Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages for your business. Choose the social media channels that are likely to reach your target customers. Then encourage your customers to follow, contribute or share. Run competitions and special promotions to encourage participation in the form of likes, shares and interaction. A social media “share” is a great form of word of mouth about your company. Test paid ads/Google search or promoted post options on Facebook, too.
13. Add social share buttons to your website and email messages. The easier you make it for customers and prospects to share your information and promotions, the more likely it is that they will do so.
14. Get a speaker slot or give lectures at conferences and industry events. Be sure your talk delivers plenty of useful content. Delivering useful, factual information and problem-solving tips about issues common to the audience, will ensure you are top of mind and position you as a thought leader.
15. When people praise you, ask if you can use their comments on your website and/or promotional material. The comments are testimonials about your company’s products and services. Use these clients as case studies.
16. Publicise any publicity you get. If a reporter quotes you, you win an award or you are a speaker at an event, let other people know about it. You can post newspaper clips on your store bulletin board, link to them from your website, and mention the accomplishments in a newsletter. Knowing other people are talking about you will give your customers even more incentive to tell their friends about you.
17. Get involved in your community. Get your hands stuck in CSI (Corporate and Social investment) projects. Whether it’s sponsoring an orphanage and event or doing your bit for Mandela Day, your participation will help you and your business name be remembered.
18. Make your business name and phone number easy to find. Have it painted in big letters on vehicles, against the outside wall, pylons and advertising boards. Give away two business cards to each customer so they can hand them out if someone inquires if they were happy with the job you did; and how to get in touch with you. Make your business phone number visible on every page of your website.
19. Hone in on your networking skills. Join and become active in local business, community, or industry groups that attract your targeted customers. Win respect (and business) by helping others in the group achieve their goals and addressing their needs, wants and problems.
20. Refer business to non-competing businesses. When you refer customers or clients to others, those businesses are more likely to refer business back to you.
21. Thank people who refer business to you. How you thank them will depend on the nature of your business. The thanks may be in the form of a hand-written thank you card, a coupon, a cash reward, or whatever is practical, expected, and ethical for your line of business. Thanking those who help you will make them feel their efforts are appreciated, which will encourage and motivate them to continue doing so, going forward.
About the author: Dr Lynne McCarthy (PhD) has over 20 years international General Management, operations and growth-hack marketing experience. McCarthy has mentored dozens of young entrepreneurs, SMEs & SMMEs in Southern Africa, USA, UAE & Europe. Lynne McCarthy is also the founder of Angels Hands SA non-profit charity (1995) and various online, Ecommerce businesses.
Angels Hands NPO https://www.facebook.com/groups/angelshandsnpo/