The power of word of mouth marketing and how to use it effectively - The University of La Verne Small Business Development Center (SBDC)
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The power of word of mouth marketing and how to use it effectively

Publisher: Alyssa Gregory – Posted on 05/17/2013

Many small businesses are built upon client referrals and recommendations because people trust their networks. Think about a consumer or a business owner who is making a purchase. Before buying a new product, purchasing from a vendor, investing in equipment, or collaborating on a project, people ask for and listen to the opinions of their colleagues, friends, family and other contacts they trust. Why? Because we all value the experiences of the people in our circles, and asking for their feedback is one of the most efficient ways to evaluate a purchasing decision.

Before buying, most of us take note when someone has something good (and something bad!) to say about a company or a product. Add in social media, where these opinions and experiences can impact a business’ online reputation. These opinions can significantly help or hurt a business. There is increased access – and focus – to reviews and recommendations, so word of mouth plays a significant part in the buying process for many of us.

When you’re out there selling your own products and services, word of mouth can be one of your most effective marketing tools. Word of mouth marketing is powerful, easy, indirect and usually free, which are valuable benefits to just about any small business owner.

Are you ready to use word of mouth marketing in your business? Here’s how you can generate a buzz that results in more sales and increased business growth.

Exceed expectations

If you have a reputation for providing exemplary service and high-quality products on a consistent basis, getting customers to toot your horn will be easy. Plus, if customers are regularly complimented on work you have done or the product you have sold them, they will likely respond by pointing people in your direction.

Start slowly

Are you new to marketing? Word of mouth is the perfect way to get your feet wet with marketing because you can start with people you know and trust. By educating your friends and family about what you do, you can open up a whole new world of potential clients. And you never know who might come your way from a recommendation made by a family member.

Be genuine, respectful and honest

It may sound simple, but by developing meaningful relationships with customers and colleagues, you make it easier for people to recommend you. And you should be willing to return the favor with word of mouth marketing for your colleagues, too. Offer recommendations and make introductions to get the ball rolling. They will remember that and be more likely to spread the word about you.

Start an incentive program

While most word of mouth referrals will happen naturally, it can certainly help when you remind a customer that you are ready and willing to be recommended to others, and give them an added reason to do so. Sometimes, a simple incentive to take action is all that’s needed.

Make it easy

You don’t want your customers, colleagues or friends to be in a situation where they are trying to recommend you, but they can’t remember your exact website address, your email address or your phone number. You can avoid this by regularly sending them extra business cards, printed materials and email messages that can be passed along. Be visible for more effective and frequent referrals.

Word of mouth marketing is easy, inexpensive, and effective, and it can be one of the best ways to promote your small business. And you can start using it right now.


Alyssa Gregory is a small business consultant, writer, speaker and collaborator who has been helping start and grow small businesses for 13 years. She is also the founder of the Small Business Bonfire, a free social, educational and collaborative community for small business owners.

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