Word of mouth is vital to any small local business that hopes to grow. For a fortunate few, it just happens naturally. But word of mouth can also be planned, executed and nurtured as a specific marketing method. Attending to the basics is important. Word of mouth comes from having happy customers, so that’s still Job #1.
Here are seven steps to getting your word of mouth (WOM) effort underway:
1. Target the talkers. Makes sense, right? It is word of mouth, after all, so you need to aim your efforts at the people who like to talk about the great products, services and businesses they use. They are your customers, of course. Remember, these might include people who have a recommendation when somebody asks them for one – even if they aren’t naturally talkative or write reviews.
2. Develop a pitch line that’s interesting and easy for people to share. The “interesting” part is vital. Avoid being boring at all costs. Who wants to share something boring? Ask yourself, honestly, why a customer would want to talk about you? Forget your brand statement or product brochure. Try not to think like a marketing person. This is consumer-to-consumer, so your story line should sound like one person telling another about something great they’ve discovered. Boil it down to one sentence. Maybe two.
3. Be amazing. There’s no way around this. If you want people to spread the word about you, you have to deliver something exceptional. So in addition to being interesting, you’ll need to deliver customer service that’s above-and-beyond – and make sure everyone who works for you does the same. Your products and packaging — including your store, office and website — should look great. If you and your employees are excited and energized about what you do, it will spread to your customers.
4. Put it in motion. You already have lots of ways to do this. For example, your business profile, website, newsletter, brochure, emails and social media pages should include “tell-a-friend” forms or functions. Consider using postcard mailings, coupons, stickers, buttons and QR codes. When you make it easy for people to share, they are much more likely to do so.
5. Create continuous reasons to talk. You can create word of mouth opportunities with special sales, great new features or something fun, such as a contest or event. Think distinctive: Do something others aren’t. Establish a unique personality for your business that includes certain colors, shapes, a stand-out design or maybe even a mascot. These things make it easier for people to remember you.
6. Connect to the conversation. Having a presence online – specifically in social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+ — is a great way to join and facilitate conversations about your business. The best and most simple thing you can do is simply ask questions. You’ll be surprised at how willing consumers are to provide feedback when they’re asked what they think. Ask some questions about your business and its products and services. But you can also ask broader questions to get more acquainted with your customers’ goals, needs and tastes. Posting comments on blogs or having your own blog can also help.
7. Show appreciation. This step too often gets overlooked. When you hear about someone who has recommended your business, say thanks. Send lots of thank you notes. Keep in mind that people like feeling like they are part of an “insider” group, so share information about things you may be planning or thinking about, and ask for feedback. When you gain new clients, customers or prospects, ask them how they heard about you so you know whom to thank. Reply to emails, Facebook messages and blog comments as quickly as possible. This will in turn generate even more WOM.
SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship.