Thursday is guest post day here at Conversations with Carolyn and another guest post is this one from Andy Sernovitz – Enjoy!
Most small businesses will tell you their new customers come through
word of mouth, but very few can tell you how those referrals happen or
where they come from.
But, it’s not magic and it’s not an accident. Great word of mouth is
the result of a planned, well-executed strategy focused on earning
raving fans and helping them talk about you.
The good news: It’s easy (and a whole lot of fun) to get started.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Just ask
Wait, hold on. Before we go any further, have you done the most
obvious, most straightforward, and most effective word of mouth strategy
of all? Have you asked your happy customers to tell their friends about
Remind them on their way out the door. Add a note to your receipts.
Send follow-up emails that include a request for a review. Include
simple sharing links on your checkout confirmation pages.
Really, just ask. It’s that simple. Happy customers would be glad to talk about you.
2. Focus on the first-timers
As much as a longtime customer may love you, they’re not as likely to talk as the new one that just walked out the door.
Think about it this way: You may go to a local spot two or three
times a week for lunch, but you talk a whole lot more about that
exciting new place you tried for dinner last week.
When we’re used to how great something is, what else is there to say?
So, go out of your way to blow the minds of the newbies:
Treat them like VIPs, celebrate their arrival, let them taste
everything on the menu, give them a tour, and make sure they leave with
something that helps them tell friends about the incredible experience
they just had.
You only get one chance to meet each new customer. Make sure it’s amazing.
3. …and do something fantastic for the old-timers
While the new folks might be easier to get talking, your loyal
customers still represent a huge and worthy word of mouth opportunity.
Give them something great to share — things like a special discount
code, beta access to new products, badges and status, a reunion, or a
spot on a special advisory board.
Sure, it may take a little more to get this group talking — but their
experience and loyalty to you makes their referrals more credible and
4. Always, always ask for feedback
Not asking for feedback is sort of like cupping your hands over your
ears — customers are still complaining, but instead of doing it directly
to you, they do it publicly on review sites, blogs, and social
It’s not only a great way to find opportunities for improvement, it’s
also a great excuse to remind happy customers to leave a review.
Start your feedback requests with a sincere focus on getting the
customer’s opinion. Don’t waste this opportunity to hear about where you
could do better. Ask them to rate your stuff, to share ideas for what
would make things better, and to give open feedback.
Then, at the end of everything — here’s where you can add a coupon
for a friend, a link to relevant review sites, and a simple checkbox
saying, “Yes, I give [company name] permission to use my feedback in
their marketing materials.”
For inspiration, check out how the folks at PrintingForLess.com use their feedback forms to earn referrals.
5. Learn to be great at saying “thank you”
Saying thank you to your talkers isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also a fantastic way to generate more referrals.
But, how do you find the talkers who deserve thanking? Easy, ask every customer how
they heard about you. Leave room to share the referrer’s contact
information and use it to send these talkers something nice.
Some businesses go so far as to send small perks (this dentist surprises his talkers with $20 Starbucks gift cards), but a friendly thank you note can work just as well.
The key here: Don’t try to buy referrals (it’s icky and often
backfires), focus on thanking your existing talkers as a way to
encourage even more word of mouth.
What about you? How are you earning referrals for your business?
Andy Sernovitz teaches word of mouth marketing. He is the New York Times bestselling author of Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking and CEO of WordofMouth.org and SocialMedia.org.