5 ways to harness word of mouth marketing

When you’re out there selling your products and services, word of mouth can be one of your most effective marketing tools. Word of mouth marketing is powerful, easy, indirect and usually free, which makes it invaluable to any small business owner.

people with words above them saying 50% off, fabulous service, must try thisMany small businesses are built on client referrals and recommendations, because people trust their networks. Think about a consumer or a business owner making a purchase: Before buying a new product, purchasing from a vendor, investing in equipment or collaborating on a project, people ask for and listen to the opinions of their colleagues, friends, family and other trusted contacts. We value the experiences of people in our circle, and asking for their feedback is one of the most efficient ways to evaluate a purchasing decision.

Before buying, most of us also read something good or bad about a company or product. Add in social media, and these opinions have the power to significantly help or hurt a business. Everyone has increased access and focus to reviews and recommendations today, so word of mouth plays a significant part in the buying process.

Here are five ways to generate word of mouth buzz that could result in more sales and increased business growth.

  1. Exceed expectations.
    If you have a reputation for providing exemplary service and high-quality products on a consistent basis, getting customers to toot your horn will be easy. And if customers are regularly complimented on work you have done or the product you have sold, they will likely respond by pointing people in your direction.
  2. Start slowly.
    If you’re new to marketing, word of mouth is the perfect way to get your feet wet. Start with people you know and trust, not complete strangers. By educating your friends and family about what you do, you can open up a whole new world of potential clients. And you never know who might come your way from a recommendation made by a family member.
  3. Be genuine, respectful and honest.
    This may sound incredibly obvious, but developing honest, meaningful relationships with customers and colleagues makes it easier for people to recommend you. Be willing to return the favor with word of mouth marketing for your colleagues, too. Offer recommendations and make introductions to get the ball rolling. They will remember that and be more likely to spread the word about you.
  4. Start an incentive program.
    While most word of mouth referrals happen naturally, it certainly helps to remind a customer that you are ready and willing to be recommended to others. Give them an added reason to do so. Sometimes, a simple incentive to take action is all that’s needed.
  5. Make it easy.
    You don’t want customers, colleagues or friends to be in a situation where they can recommend you but can’t remember your website address, email address or phone number. Avoid this by regularly sending them extra business cards, printed materials and email messages that can be passed along. Be visible for more effective and frequent referrals.

Word of mouth marketing is easy, inexpensive and effective, and it may be one of the best ways to promote your small business. And you can start using it right now.

For help with marketing, finance, business ideas, management or growing your business, visit your local Small Business & Technology Development Center.

Contributed by Alyssa Gregory through a partnership with US Bank.