Marketing

How to generate great word-of-mouth marketing to accelerate your business growth

Fi Bendall /

You don’t get great word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing without providing great service and products to your customers. And you also don’t get it without giving your customers the chance to express their satisfaction with your work.

So how do you encourage the type of WOM referrals that will drive customer acquisition, sales and business growth?

Ask and you shall receive

Nothing comes to those who don’t ask. Few people will volunteer to recommend a business even if they have received exemplary service. They might tell a friend if prompted, but they usually won’t just pop on to your website or Facebook page and say how great they think your business is.

That means you need to ask happy customers if they’d like to leave a comment or make a referral. Don’t pester customers, but always make sure to keep your social media channels open and receptive to positive feedback.

A further step is to conduct “exit interviews” with satisfied customers where you can ask what they liked about their experience and whether they would recommend it to friends. These can easily be turned into case studies you can feature on social media and your website. Get really creative and shoot little interview videos. (As a courtesy, always ask the person if they are okay with their comments being used in this way.)

Too many of us are afraid to talk ourselves up and we shy away from asking others to do it for us as well. But if you know you’re doing great work, there’s nothing wrong with having that validated by customers.

Stay in touch with regular customers

Whether it is through your email marketing or social media channels, it’s always worth keeping in touch with your regular customers. A gentle reminder to “make sure to tell your friends about us” can help encourage customers to share the love about your business.

When you build a regular relationship with customers, which is what social media can be so good for, you increase the stickiness and trust between you and your customers. There’s a bond that forms the basis for great WOM. Value your good customers and they will come through for you.

Check for mentions

If you have a decent marketing budget you might already have an agency looking after a lot of these things, but there are plenty of low-cost tools out there that can help you DIY this aspect of your marketing.

Tools like Hootsuite can help you keep up with brand conversations and social mentions that might be relevant to your business. You can even do something as simple as setting up Google Alerts for your business name, which may bring up mentions on blogs and in places you might not have thought to look.

Find your advocates

Understand who your biggest fans are and why they love what you do. These people form what your advocates or recommendation army. Drill down into the reasons why these people stay loyal to your business and become advocates. This is an illuminating method by which to clarify and sharpen your offering.

This group will probably be about 5-10% of your customer base (depending on your product/service, industry and some other factors) and they will be the customers who go in to bat for you.

The passion and enthusiasm they can communicate to others about your business is WOM gold.

What drives the majority of purchasing decisions is when someone turns to you and says, “X product/service is great because of this and this and that, you should pick up the phone and call them!”

This is what true brand advocates and influencers can do. Look at the people who you have the deepest relationship with, and who are engaging the most with things like your social media accounts, and develop relationships. Identify these kinds of advocates and develop influencer marketing around them. This is the turbo-charged engine that will drive your WOM marketing.

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Fi Bendall

Fi Bendall is chief executive of The Bendalls Group and a Westpac/AFR 2015 100 Women of Influence, who was described by CEO Magazine as 'The CEO's Secret Weapon'. An expert and pioneer in digital strategy, she has over 23 years’ experience in the digital and tech sectors.

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  • Jacky Barker

    Great article but you have not mentioned how your advocates can work with local media and hyperlocal sites to spread the word. Local is so important and hyperlocal sites are gaining traction. See inthecove.com.au