Word of mouth is still the number one way to get customers. This is the latest finding of a survey conducted by Verizon in conjunction with Small Business Trends. According to the survey, 85% of the small businesses state customers learn about them through word of mouth. Search engines come in a distant second at 59%, followed by social media at 33% ad email marketing at %29%.
Small businesses are all about the personalized approach. It’s not about casting a wide net, but rather about connecting with a select number of customers, enlisting their trust and loyalty, and having that positive impression spill over among their circle of friends and colleagues.
Small Business Trends (smallbiztrends.com) offers the following four steps you can take to increase and leverage word of mouth about your product or service:
1. Check your business in Google and Bing at least once a month.
Even if search engines weren’t the No.2 way customers have of learning about a small business, keep in mind that word of mouth spreads online as well as offline today. Your customers are online today, and even if you run a local brick-and-mortar business, chances are they check you out online. You can fix many negative impressions, such as customer complaints or negative reviews. But first you have to know about them — and not be blindsided or ignore them because they’re too painful to confront. Once you know about them, you can contact the customer, leave unemotional explanations if the information looks incorrect, or seek out more positive reviews to convey a more balanced impression.
2. Conduct customer surveys to learn what your customers REALLY think.
The Net Promoter system asks on a scale of one to 10, “How likely is it that you’d recommend us to your friends and colleagues?” The ones who are very positive are called Promoters. The ones who are negative are called Detractors. Net them out, and you have a Net Promoter score. Today, with online survey tools (some of which are integrated with the software that manages your house email list), it’s not hard to discover and keep track of your Net Promoter score. Increasing your Net Promoter score gives you something for your team to rally around and set improvement goals. Start measuring and analyzing. Discover what is making Detractors out of some and Promoters out of others. You want to understand what your customers value so much that they are wildly enthusiastic about your business.
3. Communicate and reinforce to employees the value of raving fans.
If you spend a lot of time focusing on solving negative complaints, you may be inadvertently sending a signal that customer service only matters when there’s a complaint. Instead, you should be sending signals to get ahead of the curve. Customer service matters before someone gets upset, when you have the opportunity to turn someone into that raving fan of your company. Spend some time explaining to employees where most new customers come from and how valuable it is to have existing customers who love your company. Don’t assume that your employees actually pick up on that. Show your appreciation publicly when they go “above and beyond” to delight customers. Your employees at all levels need to hear the message repeatedly. They need to believe that YOU believe it.
4. Create easy ways for customers to share word of mouth.
This is where traditional marketing and advertising can support and amplify customer word-of-mouth. Consciously develop initiatives that get happy customers talking. Make it easy for them to share their positive impressions. Also, make it easy for existing customers to refer their friends, family and colleagues. Some tactics that can help are: 1) specifically ask for testimonials; 2) provide referrals cards; 3) offer refer a friends links on newsletters; and 4) suggest easy ways to leave testimonials. For instance, invite a customer on to a live Google Hangout or Skype call, and video a brief testimonial. Or ask them to leave a brief star review on your Facebook Page or Google+ Page.
See also more tips on how to create word of mouth for your business at SmallBizTrends.com.