One of the simplest yet overlooked business growth strategies is “Word-of-Mouth”
While paid advertising and media stories may land you some significant customer leads, one of the simplest yet overlooked business growth strategies is word-of-mouth (or WOM). Entrepreneur defines it as “an unpaid form of promotion in which satisfied customers tell other people how much they like a business, product or service.”
The first thing to know about WOM is that it is about connection, not collections. Too often, businesses are focused on collecting fans, followers, likes, inventory etc. and the list goes on—Leaving the connection part of business-building in the dust. As a result, many businesses, seasoned and novice alike, forget about its power. According to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association infographic, one offline WOM impression drives sales at least five times more than one paid media impression.
So how do businesses develop WOM brand advocates for their business? The following strategies are designed to help any business leader cultivate customers’ experiences with your business in such a way that they feel compelled to refer you.
Show the customer they matter
Instead of focusing on a transactional business model where services are paid for and rendered, devote your work efforts to growing your customers’ business first. Let the customer know that you value their business by going above and beyond the scope of work. Get to know the customer on a deeper level than just business goals. For example, after a meeting, jot down names and ages of any children mentioned.
Additionally, take note of hobbies discussed or personal interests mentioned– perhaps a love for skiing or a favorite football team. Then be sure to mention something personal in your follow-up. Consider saying something like, “How is Timmy adjusting to his new school?” This shows you not only care about their professional well-being but their personal well-being too. Customers will remember your personal touch and attention to detail when recommending your business to others.
Recommend your customer
While directly asking for recommendations is often uncomfortable even for the most straightforward, outgoing business person, you can take the initiative to recommend their business online through platforms like LinkedIn. Describe the experience you had conducting business with your customer. They will appreciate the positive recommendation and per online etiquette, return the favor by recommending your business online and possibly offline.
Attend their Business Functions
If appropriate, try attending one of you customer’s networking or social events to meet other members of their business and potentially, their customers and connections. Having a presence at your customer’s event allows them to introduce you to fellow colleagues and business partners on the spot—if they’ve had a positive experience with your company, they will likely speak highly of you to their network. It’s also a great way to introduce yourself to other like-minded businesses as that of your customer’s. Making an effort to show your support via event attendance, guests will see that you are dedicated to supporting your customers beyond simple business transactions.
Offer Customer Loyalty Programs
This could be offering a discount on products or services when customers renew or offering guest blogging opportunities and other promotional activities to give them exposure to a larger market. This is another way to show your customer that your business cares about their growth and success. By creating positive experiences like this, you can be sure they will continue business with you and recommend your services/products down the road.
While experts tout that social media is the new WOM, offline WOM still has its place in the business world. Despite social media prominence and popularity, Andres Eisingerich, researcher at the Imperial College Business School in London reports that users would rather communicate via WOM because many don’t want to broadcast their preferences to a pool of acquaintances, subject to opinionated ridicule and disagreement. It’s much easier to do in person in small groups of valued connections (it alleviates the social pressures).
Bottom line: Treat your customers like gold—they directly impact your livelihood and more importantly, allow you to do what you love every day in business. With regular communication, generosity and a little networking, your customers’ will have positive experiences that they’ll be ranting about to their networks.