Word of mouth advertising is the coveted brass handle of marketers. Business owners who achieve this Nirvana of marketing enjoy advertising that provides the best return on investment among any of the marketing methods, strategies, and mediums out there.
Television ads cost thousands or millions and blast your message to an uncaring world. Pay-per-click ads are effective, but still have a per-head cost that requires you to cap your spending. Print ads are ignored and forgotten when the page is turned.
But word of mouth marketing costs very little to implement and it has a viral effect (meaning one person tells two or more) so the cost is greatly diminished. What’s more, word of mouth advertising is also the most effective at getting people to buy because the advertising method is not impartial (like a billboard or a radio) but from a trusted source.
Here are 4 ways that you can build your word of mouth campaign:
- Provide outstanding customer service. You’ve probably heard this one before. And perhaps you sat down (by yourself or with your employees, depending on how big your business is) and brainstormed some ways to improve customer service. Maybe you went to the competition, saw what they were doing and are now trying to emulate that. Unfortunately, if you are only as good as the competition, there is no differentiation; there is no reason to buy from you over the store down the street. The service you provide needs to go above and beyond what your competitors are doing… it literally needs to surprise your customers with how good it is. If you own a flower shop and your competitor walks around the counter after the purchase and opens the door for the customer, you need to walk around the counter, open the door for the customer, take the flowers to the car and shake their hand when they get in the car, then offer them a coupon for hot chocolate on cold days and a lemonade on hot days at a nearby store as well as a coupon for them to come back to you again. That’s the kind of surprise we’re talking about. Don’t just do what your customers would expect as good and courteous service; do WAY more than they’d expect.
- Give a referral card and bonus or contest. Offer a contest of some kind to customers who refer their friends. I’ve seen this done with home repair businesses and autobody repair shops, but I know it happens elsewhere: when your customer leaves, give them a business-card-sized coupon with a special code on it. Each customer gets their own code. When that card shows up again at your store (brought in by a friend who was given the card by your customer) then the code is recorded and some kind of bonus given. Sometimes you might offer cash back, other times you might put each referral into a draw: the more referrals, the greater chance to win.
- Make your business an event, not a place to shop. McDonald’s restaurants do a great job of this with their children’s playroom. And if you have ever been to an IKEA store, you’ll know exactly what I mean. Your store should be a place where people want to go because they have such a good time. It could be something as simple as a clown on the premises for children or a roving cart of refreshments for thirsty shoppers. But maybe it could be more, like a furniture store that offers invitational movie nights to prospects who come to the after-closing event and watch a movie in the store, sitting on the furniture, with deep discounts to people who buy the furniture that night. You can be sure that people will tell their friends about that!
- Be helpful beyond what people expect. At first glance, this might seem to be the same as number one, but it’s slightly different. With this method of building referrals, it’s all about identifying who your niche is and what interests them (perhaps outside of your industry), then helping to inform them about it. It might involve partnerships and affiliate programs to happen, but it will enrich the lives of your customers, and that’s what you want. For example, a baby clothing store should realize that their niche of new moms cares about many other things beyond baby clothes, including health and social needs for both them and their children. They might be able to offer (through partnerships) classes in exercise and nutrition for growing children, or perhaps a cross-selling event with a baby furniture manufacturer.
These 4 activities can be used separately or together to help you build an army of salespeople that you pay very little to sell for you!