5 Word-of-Mouth Tips from Small Business Owners

Over the past few months I’ve shared a series of tips for how to generate more word-of-mouth (WOM) for your business.

Today’s post is dedicated to sharing the very best word-of-mouth tips from the people who know it best: your fellow small business owners.

All of these tips were contributed by members of Alignable, the free social network for small business owners.

Generating word-of-mouth for your business starts with providing great service for your customers. But how can you proactively generate and make WOM work for you?

Here’s how WOM has worked for other business owners just like you.

Tip #1: Thank those who refer you

There are two primary ways to thank people who refer business to you. The first is to make sure that every time you receive a new customer through an existing customer or nearby local business owner, you actively reach out and thank that person.

Sharon Michaelowicz, from Long Island Bookkeeping Solutions in Bay Shore, New York, says, “For those who refer us, we always follow up with a letter of appreciation and a small gift. Showing our gratitude helps to have them refer us again and again!”

Maria Munguia from personal tailor Jam Designs in Austin, Texas, echoes that: “When a new customer calls me and tells me who recommended them, I write their name down and next time they come in I give them 10 percent off. They’re so happy and surprised!”

Others offer these types of rewards up front in the form of a referral reward. Jeanneth Lopez of Rio Rancho Cleaning in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, offers existing customers a $20 referral fee which they can apply as a discount on their next service.

No matter how you do it, thanking people for their referrals encourages them to keep you top of mind.

Tip #2: Track your word-of-mouth efforts

Of course, rewarding those who refer customers to you requires knowing that it happened. And tracking how many customers you’re getting through word-of-mouth can help you understand the concrete effects of your efforts.

Pat Hellmandollar of Savvy Salon and Day Spa in Cornelius, North Carolina, uses software that “has the capacity to track advertising sources such as internet, coupon, friend/relative, etc. The “word of mouth” is by far the best, outranking the other sources of advertising about 4 to 1.”

You don’t need to use sophisticated software: simply remember to ask customers where they heard about you, and write it down. This will help you identify how your WOM is spreading, and who’s helping it happen.

Tip #3: Make your word-of-mouth shareable

Professional copywriter Kristine M. Smith says, “I regularly request that my word-of-mouth advocates turn their talk into written testimonials for placement on my website. It’s free advertising that is believable, traceable and verifiable.”

Asking your fans to write down their endorsement also makes it easier to amplify over social media.

“Our satisfied customers frequently talk about the products and services provided via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. It’s the best feeling — to have happy customers, and our clients putting the word out there about their experience!” says Tracy Thomas of Stellar Marketing and Business Solutions in Wellington, Florida.

Tip #4: Make it easy to spread the word in the “real world” too

If a customer loves you, make sure to supply them with extra business cards or other materials about your business so they can tell others.

Teri Evans from Yards N Yarn in Ocala, Florida, gives her biggest fans flyers they can leave at their church or post in their community center. Maria from Jam Designs gives every new client a business card for themselves and one for a friend.

Tip #5: Network with other businesses

Randy Holston of the Village Thrift Shop in Pemberton, New Jersey, relies heavily on business networking to generate word-of-mouth.

“We reach out to other businesses. We take time to actually visit their shops and make inquiries as to what they offer. We applaud and encourage their continued investment into the community where they operate. If someone comes to us looking for any good or service we don’t have or provide we refer them to our network fellows and we let them know that we sent them. Not because we are looking for anything in return, but to let them know we support them and we wish them well. Anything we can do to help you grow your business we do because it has been greatly reciprocated.”

Keep in mind that providing referrals to your customers is a benefit in and of itself. As Peg Doyle from Wellness and You in Westwood, Massachsetts, points out, “I’m very committed to recommending businesses I know and trust to my clients — I feel like that’s just another way to take care of them and be sure they get into the right hands for their needs.”

Other business owners are talking to local customers every single day. Make sure they know about you, and that you know about them, so together you can keep it local!

How can you work at word-of-mouth?

As you can see, effective word-of-mouth is about more than just providing a great customer experience. These simple tips can help you make the most of this powerful source of marketing!

Have you tried anything to boost word-of-mouth that we didn’t mention? Leave us a comment to let us know what’s worked well 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.

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