In my last post, “Identifying Your ‘Mouths’”, I outlined the importance of knowing who’s most likely to tell others about your business.
Word-of-Mouth (“WoM”) happens when these people — consumers, business owners, and other local leaders — put their reputation on the line and tell others about you and your business.
So how do you motivate them to do that?
Start by building strong relationships
WoM is built on a foundation of strong relationships. Think quality first, not just quantity. People aren’t going to talk about you if they don’t know you well.
Remember, by recommending you they are putting their reputation on the line. So they need to trust you first. Investing in that relationship will pay off in spades.
As Viktor Nagornny, owner of Project Army in Brooklyn, NY, explains, “We encourage all our clients to sign up for our monthly services. This relationship keeps growing and they are eager to share their success with others and refer others to us. It is safe for them to do so because we have an active relationship with them, they are not afraid to refer people to us. They want to get credit (look good) for recommending us to their friends or even their clients when we do a good job for them. That’s a big reason why I’m in the process of phasing out any a la carte work for “strangers”. We focus on nurturing and building relationships. I stopped chasing transactions and it’s been wonderful.”
Lynn Magnan, a business consultant in Concord, North Carolina, also offers some great advice. “Build relationships with people you currently conduct business with. It’s a simple philosophy often missed in today’s business world. Also, nurture those relationships: Pick up the phone and call them, send birthday and thank you cards. Little actions go a long way.”
Next, give your fans words worth sharing
Once you have strong relationships, it’s your job to make it as easy as possible for your network to share information (Words) about yourself, your business, your expertise, and the experiences you’re providing. So you need to regularly share what you’re doing with others.
What should you share? Start by thinking about what you yourself like to share for the businesses you support. I personally share information and ideas that make me look smart and informed.
A favorite ‘Word’ that I like to share is when my wine store guy tips me off to a great wine my friends don’t know about, and when he shares his knowledge about the wine maker or their vineyard it’s even more likely I will talk about it with others. It’s one thing to walk into a get-together with a bottle of wine, and something totally different to do so with a story that goes with the bottle.
Nurturing customer mouths
Email marketing is the most cost-effective way to nurture your customer relationships on an ongoing basis. By using a great provider like Constant Contact you’ll be set up for email marketing success.
Useful content that shares your expertise with your customers has the greatest engagement and word-of-mouth impact. What Words can you share with your customers that will have them talking about you on Friday night when they are out with their friends?
And always remember to reward your customers who refer business to you to keep the relationship strong.
Anita Perry, a yoga instructor in Leominster, Mass., says, “The old saying ‘what comes around goes around’ applies not only in relationships but also in business. I make sure that I show gratitude to my students always but especially when they bring friends to class.”
Nurturing local business mouths
Local business relationships need to be nurtured too. By actively communicating you stay top-of-mind with others.
Others can’t share what they don’t know so be sure to share the Words you want others talking about. Share interesting information about featured products and services you offer, the activities you are doing to promote your business, or insights from your profession.
Locals I recommend
And of course, be equally proactive about sharing the words of other local businesses.
Local business owners carry a lot of clout when it comes to recommending others nearby. You’re part consumer / part business owner, and your customers look to you for advice on other local businesses they should support.
As Lisa Paden, owner of a gift basket company in O’Fallon, Missouri, points out, “Referrals are great for our businesses. Being able to share a referral with another business builds trust and lasting relationships. You can never go wrong with helping someone else. I love having an arsenal of people in different fields to be able to refer to as I’m networking and even with my own clients. In my field of business I pride myself on building lasting relationships with my clients and making sure I can get them what they need.”
Local recommendations made easy!
Recommending other local businesses on Alignable, the small business network, creates a public endorsement that generates word-of-mouth for your business. The more you do it for others the more it will happen for you!
About the author: Eric Groves is the co-founder and CEO of Alignable, the local business network where small businesses and organizations connect and collaborate with others nearby. Eric is a local marketing expert and enthusiast who spent 10 years as an executive at Constant Contact. He authored The Constant Contact Guide to Email Marketing and believes that local businesses are always stronger together.