Promoting Word-of-Mouth Success
Most small businesses recognize the importance of word of mouth as a promotional tool, but not all understand the best ways to foster it. The power of favorable recommendations or reviews from satisfied customers is hard to match with advertising or social media, provided you can inspire customers to say nice things about your company.
The factors that trigger favorable word of mouth are somewhat obvious: provide outstanding service and exceptional value, and people are more likely to describe your company favorably.
Unfortunately, one unhappy customer will be more motivated to share his or her dissatisfaction (and get a wider audience) than a dozen happy ones. By providing solid reasons for people to continue to do business with your company, you increase the chances you’ll get favorable referrals and recommendations.
Creating Good Impressions
Along with outstanding service, your company’s website can provide an effective foundation for engaging with customers and talking about your company, your industry and your products and services -- not in a promotional way, but in a way that helps customers address problems or that they’ll find interesting.
For instance, if you own a restaurant, sharing recipes or entertaining tips on a company blog increases your chances of reaching people who share your interest in food and, if they live locally, who will be more likely to try your restaurant.
If you’re a professional services firm, you can blog about industry issues or provide advice to people. Some small business owners may be hesitant to offer free advice online, if time and advice is their main product, but the word of mouth benefits of being able to demonstrate your knowledge to potential customers is far more powerful than worrying about helping someone without being paid. Good content is a magnet drawing customers closer.
Similarly, talking to prospects and customers on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook can provide another outlet for people to form a favorable opinion of you and your company. One of the paradoxes of social media is that the more you talk about other people (and the less you talk about yourself), the more likely people are to promote you in return.
Asking for Favorable Mentions
Another important way to inspire customers to say nice things about your business is to ask them to do it. Consumer reviews on sites such as yellowpages.com carry increasing weight with sophisticated consumers, so including a subtle suggestion that satisfied customers consider posting favorable reviews can be helpful in influencing your online profile and search engine results.
If a local newspaper or influential blog is compiling a "best of" list within your city, letting customers know and inviting them to vote for you can also provide word-of-mouth benefits.
Similarly, it’s a helpful idea to invite customers to register for your email or physical mailing lists so you can send them discount offers or other interesting news about your business while building your client base.
In addition, don’t overlook traditional real-world efforts such as notes thanking people for being customers or discounts for frequent customers. Gestures like these can demonstrate that your company is pleased to serve its customers, and make them feel appreciated enough to describe you favorably to others.