Word of Mouth Marketing for Small Local Businesses

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Why word-of-mouth marketing?

We all trust recommendations from friends and family far more than we trust advertising. So you build your business on repeat customers who are friends of previous customers. Over time, your customer base gets to to know like and trust you. If you’re lucky, they’ll eventually become raving fans who tell all their friends about you. They tell people about your business in the real world and online.

Word of mouth marketing is our first choice when looking for a new product or service.
To find a new service provider we ask friends and family first.

This is not a quick fix solution.

The journey from stranger to customer then to repeat customer and eventually to raving fan takes time and effort on your part.

Relationships take a long time to build.

Word of mouth marketing grows from the attitude, behavior and skill of you and your staff, it’s all about building relationships and strong connections with your customers over time.

You’re asking a stranger to put her neck on the line for you.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes, would you recommend your sister, or your best friend use a business you hardly know? What if it all goes wrong and the business you recommended does a lousy job, or they send a different set of staff who are not as skilled, well organized or polite as the workers that did your job?

How much commitment have you earned so far?

Only ask for commitment that matches the level of trust you’ve earned at this stage of your relationship with the customer.

What level of favor will the customer feel comfortable with?

  1. Online reviews and social media.
  2. Tell your friends and family about us.
  3. Request a testimonial for our website.
  4. Can we use you as a case study for the portfolio section of our website?

Just ask. In a nice polite way.

Once you’re confident that you’ve earned the level of commitment you’re asking for, ask your customer in a nice polite way, if they’d be willing to help you spread the word about your business.

Don’t bully customers.

We live in the world of social media. If you pressurize or bully your customers, they might turn to Facebook or twitter to vent their frustration. This is a lose-lose situation for everyone. Especially if their post or tweet goes viral in your community. So, tread carefully, be respectful and don’t ask for more commitment than you’ve earned so far.

Level one.

Online reviews and social media.

After you’ve completed a job for a customer explain how useful it is for you when a customer leaves an online review on Google or Yelp etc. Tell them they can be completely honest so there is no risk to them.

If they leave a review, thank them. Respond to the comments they made in their review. If they raised any issues in their comment, find out what the problem is and if possible, fix it. If you can’t fix the problem, explain so everybody will understand, why you can’t fix the problem. Everyone can see online reviews about your business, so always be calm and respectful, even if the customer is not.

Respond to every review, even if you just say thank you.

Level two.

Leave some cards to tell a friend.

If the customer is happy with your work whether or not they’ve given you an online review, you could ask them to tell their friends about your business. Leave the customer a few cards and ask if they will pass the cards on to any friends and family who might need work doing.

Level three.

Ask for a testimonial.

Your customer has got to know, like, and trust you. Ask if they’d be willing to give you a testimonial. Testimonials are make more effective word of mouth marketing if they include a name, job title, photo and state the outcome the customer got. A testimonial is a big commitment for the customer, she really is putting her reputation on the line by vouching for you. So tread carefully. Do not make your customer feel uncomfortable or pressured, or she might shop elsewhere next time.

Try to get testimonials that state a specific benefit, for instance.

I’ve had my car MOTd at ABC garage for the last three years. The price was always as quoted, and my car ready on time. The staff are polite, professional, and friendly too.

Frank West

In an ideal world the person giving the testimonial would let you use their full name, their job title if appropriate and their head and shoulders photo. In the real-world Mrs Smith is OK. Be grateful for what you can get.

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