The most powerful and important source of customers for local businesses is still word of mouth, especially in this highly-connected electronic age. With the advent of social networks like Google+, Facebook and Yelp, word of mouth has literally gone global. While this could be a death knell for businesses who offer poor customer service, for those who are willing to go the extra mile, it is an extraordinary opportunity. Here are five tips to increase word of mouth marketing:
1. It all begins and ends with customer service.
If the service is bad, the reviews will be bad, and no amount of bribes or incentives will change that. Often feedback found on review sites can provide an eye-opening experience for a savvy business owner, allowing the business to wise up and revise its practices. All feedback should be responded to graciously, demonstrating to the customers that the business truly cares about providing a positive customer experience.
2. Establish an online relationship with your customers.
You attend to customers visiting your business, but what about all customers interacting with you online? Make a point to collect customer contact information so that you can follow up. Convince potential customers to visit your business by sending a personalized email or text. Encourage existing customers to give you feedback and visit your social media pages to post reviews and comments. Be sure to respond positively to any comments posted there. Customers are more likely to recommend a business they feel personally connected to.
3. Use special offers to encourage sharing and referrals.
Many businesses offer rewards and bonuses for customers who bring them referrals. This is a tried and true practice to increase word of mouth advertising. Everybody loves a reward, no matter how small, and if they get one just for telling their friends how great you are, more the better! Be sure to offer a reward that will keep them coming back, such as a discount on a future service.
4. Update your online presence with correct information so your referrals can find you.
Even if customers recommend your business to others in person, chances are they check you out online first. Make it easier for your customers to find you. Make sure your contact information is correct and complete, and provide easy-to-follow directions. If your business is upstairs, around the corner, behind the big sign, whatever, be sure to include that information. By enhancing your online listings on high ranking social profiles like Google+, Facebook and Yelp with more information and images of your business and services, you help increase the number of referrals doing business with you.
5. Find and leverage all of your possible review sites.
Increase the number of positive online reviews. Yelp is important to manage. In addition to Google+, Facebook and Yelp, also check out other possible review sites. Google your business and see what other review sites might be out there with your business already listed. Monitor reviews closely and thank your customers for their feedback, positive or negative. This will help optimize your online presence, increase word of mouth referrals, and could even increase your search engine ranking.
In conclusion, word of mouth is still the most powerful — and cheapest advertising available, giving you decidedly the most bang for your marketing buck. And with the plethora of websites and mobile apps available, it requires just a little time and diligence to make the most of it. It’s well worth the time and effort, but don’t forget the most important thing: In the end, once again, it all comes down to customer service!