The purpose of a business is to create customers who create customers.
Have you ever asked a friend or colleague: “Who did your family photo shoot? What about your new website? Your landscaping?” Or “I need a new refrigerator, anyone know this brand?”
And the response, typically: “Oh, a friend recommended the photographer, she’s great.” Or “I have an LG refrigerator and love it!” That’s how it’s done. You can watch ads, scour the Internet, even check Consumer Reports (which for a refrigerator, is not a bad idea), but ultimately, you want to hear from a real consumer, and someone you know.
Entrepreneur.com defines Word-of-Mouth advertising as: An unpaid form of promotion in which satisfied customers tell other people how much they like a business, product or service.
From small businesses to big corporations, our most trusted source of information is word of mouth. In Forbes’article Why Word of Mouth Marketing is the Most Important Social Media, a Nielsen study confirms 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising.
Since word-of-mouth, if you trust the mouth, is your best source of information on haircuts to copywriters, what are you doing to generate word-of-mouth advertising for your business?
Happy customers direct business your way, and are the most credible form of advertising. If I refer someone, my reputation is on the line. Can you connect, in a real Six-Degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon way? If so, that’s bankable.
Why wouldn’t you use word-of-mouth as your primary marketing tool?
Well, you can, and should. And it’s easy. Generate word-of-mouth advertising, starting with these few steps:
One is, of course, do good work. And when you’re done, ask, flat out, “Will you write me a testimonial or give me a quote?” Make sure your client is happy, of course, and that you’re not giving them homework. Ask for a “blurb” on why they liked working with you. The ideal testimonial is one with a picture of them—faces make us feel good—and a link to their business, especially if you provided services such as web design, or copywriting. Their photo lends credibility to their words while a link allows the prospect to see your work. Finally, if you and this client provide complementary services, you can cross-market. That’s a win-win. I have many clients who have become cross-marketing business partners.
If your client is not comfortable writing, have them dictate to you, as long as it’s their words and their feedback. Some clients will want to use their full names and link to their sites while others will be anonymous.
Another way to get referrals is to give them. Offer prospects names of great, and make sure they are great, web designers or manuscript editors or whatever it is that you don’t do but have been asked about. Spread the work around. I often have prospects wanting services that are outside my area of expertise. But, I know great Web Designers and Social Media Managers. I give their names and say, “Make sure you tell them I sent you.” And I ping that person and say, “I just referred you a prospect, his name is so-and-so, hope it ends up being a match.” It’s simply networking, and we all need to do it, all the time. Build community, surround yourself with good talented people, and business will come your way.
Finally, and this is not an exhaustive list, connect, don’t collect. We hear talk of numbers of Twitter followers, or “reach,” client base, FB fans; some metric whether it be in the thousands or hundreds of thousands and maybe feel a pang of jealousy. Why don’t I have that huge following?
Let me ask you this, do you want that following? Are you playing Pokémon GO or do you want to connect with customers and create lasting relationships? You can decide to collect customers, but you may not have repeat business or a sustainable long-term model.
Instead, think about one client at a time. Provide stellar, personalized service. What is your niche, your area of expertise, and most importantly, that special extra you? How can it help THAT client? What is their pain point right now? Don’t just exceed their expectations a little. Blow them out of the water. And that doesn’t mean you compromise your contract, or fee, it means you focus on what’s in it for them.
My first client needed great website copy. That’s what I do, I write great copy. But, her real pain point, for this project, was timing and stress. She had a deadline, her website to finish, and the copy was only a cog in the wheel. She gave me her deadline but I was working on another project. I squeezed her in. As I worked, I realized I could deliver early. And if I did, I knew it would make her life easier. So, I sent the copy three days before promised. Not only did she love my work, but she was relieved of stress. She is now a raving fan, and a colleague. In addition, it felt good to give more. I adjusted my schedule, it didn’t hurt me; it just meant being flexible. We now have a solid, and complementary business relationship, and I have a reputation for being reliable and efficient. Connect. Create connections and community with your clients. It will pay off.
If you want to generate more business with word-of-mouth referrals, commit to:
- Do good work, getting your clients to give you testimonials, or even quotes—depending on the client, that may be easier to get—touting your expertise and skills.
- Give referrals for colleagues with complementary skills and build a network of professionals whom you can trust with your precious cargo: Clients.
- Don’t forget the personal touch. So much is generic today. With an abundance of choice, most of which is on-line and impersonal, do a video call, create a personal connection. Take the time to build relationships with your clients.
If you do these three things, in six months, or even less, you will have testimonials and quotes for your website; a network of colleagues with whom you share business; and a strong sense of community and connection with your clients. And, you’ll make more money. But, you’ll feel so good about it. Win-win.