As a new business, your reputation is vital to your future growth and ability to gain new customers. Maintaining a positive customer experience at every touchpoint can help build a positive reputation. Along with that, entrepreneurs should also remember that customers risk their own reputation and credibility by making recommendations to their friends, family members and co-workers. By recommending your business to someone else, your customer is essentially vouching for your work.
That’s why customers are so protective about making business referrals: As soon as they make a recommendation, they’re inextricably linked with your business. And if you end up providing subpar services or products, they’re the ones who will have made a bad recommendation.
Half the battle is keeping this critical concept around word-of-mouth marketing in mind as you conduct your business.
According to a flash poll by Alignable, 85 percent of small business owners surveyed say word-of-mouth referrals are the best way to acquire local customers.
By providing a positive experience for every customer, you’ll be more likely to gain customer loyalty and build valuable relationships.
Now that you know how much customers put on the line when they recommend you, what can you do to increase word-of-mouth buzz about your startup?
Deliver a great product or service
This is the most basic requirement for success in word-of-mouth marketing. You could give out all the discounts in the world, but if you’re providing a subpar product or service to your customers, they’re not going to recommend you to their networks.
How can you tell if you’re delivering the kind of product or service that’s keeping your customers happy?
- Are they coming back for more? If you have repeat customers, there’s a strong chance you’re providing them with a good experience. Take a look at your acquisition rates (new customers) versus retention rates (repeat customers). If you find that you’re not getting many repeat clients, look into why that might be. It could be the nature of your industry, but you should be completely certain before you come to that conclusion.
- Are you getting good reviews? Even if you’re not actively seeking out reviews from customers, you should still check to see what’s out there. Do a quick Google search of your startup to see what comes up. Are customers leaving reviews for you on Google, Facebook and Yelp? If they are, check out what they’re saying. All customer reviews (even negative ones) should serve as an opportunity to learn and improve your business.
- Are your prices reasonable? If your pricing is not competitive to your industry, you might find that customers are reluctant to recommend you to their family members and friends. Your pricing should allow you to remain profitable, while being fair to your customers. Of course, don’t lower your prices to the point where they’re dirt-cheap, but there is value in making sure they’re not wildly expensive, either. Perform regular reviews of how much your competition is charging for similar services or products. If you find that your prices are way too high or too low, it may be worth reevaluating your pricing to encourage those word-of-mouth recommendations.
Mastering word-of-mouth marketing often comes down to delivering a great customer experience. Keep the customer in mind with any project, even if it’s something basic.
Go the extra mile for your customers
You know what sets you apart from the competition? Going the extra mile for your customers. Maybe your client hired your company to power wash his patio deck, and you throw in some free staining to bring out his deck’s natural luster.
By going above and beyond for the customer and providing an additional product or service of value at no additional cost, you wow them, which can translate into some serious word-of-mouth marketing.
Think about what you can offer your customers to make their experience just a little bit better. Whether it’s throwing in a free treatment or providing a follow-up session at no charge, find a little something extra that adds up to big referral benefits.
Specialize in a niche
A rookie mistake many entrepreneurs make when first starting out is saying “yes” to every project that comes along. While that “yes” might get you more customers in the moment, you run the risk of failing to deliver on your claim, or worse, doing more harm than good. Both of these outcomes can lead to the opposite kind of word-of-mouth marketing that you’re trying to achieve.
By attempting to take on everything, you are not specializing in anything. Instead, try to focus on a few specialties so you can get really good at them. Mastering one or two niches in your trade means you can bring your best work possible to every project. When you blow people out of the water with your work, they won’t be able to resist passing on your name to the rest of their social and peer networks.
The great thing about word-of-mouth marketing is that once it starts building, it will begin to sustain itself. That means you can continue focusing on doing what you do best, without investing a ton of your time into finding new customers. They’ll come to you.