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Word of mouth marketing has always been an important tool for businesses. It drives sales because buyers want to be sure they are making the right choice when they make a purchase. Hearing other people say good things about a product or service helps build a buyer's confidence that their purchase won't be a mistake.
Small businesses often think of word of mouth marketing as free advertising. But word of mouth is so powerful that big businesses pour millions of dollars into advertising campaigns to make consumers think everyone has a great experience when they purchase their products. Think about the Burlington Coat Factory ads, for instance, where consumers brag about how much money they saved on clothes by shopping at Burlington. Then there are the DSW Shoe commercials where one woman runs up to another and asks in awe, “Where did you get those shoes? ”The answer is the company's slogan - "DSW – It’s where you get those shoes.” The implication: DSW is the place to go for shoes that will make you a standout.
Small businesses don't have that kind of money to spend. Nevertheless, savvy small business owners have learned to generate great word of mouth reputations on tiny budgets. How do they do it? How do they get customers to not only appreciate them, but promote them to other people as well?
Here are 20 free and low-cost tactics you can adopt to drive word of mouth marketing for your small business.
- Provide top-notch products and services. Customers will only extol your virtues if they are happy with what they've bought. What you sell and how you sell it, should live up to or exceed what your customers expect based on your ads, sales pitch, and industry standards. Remember, word of mouth works two ways. If customers are unhappy with your company, they will complain loudly and publicly about their bad experience.
- Provide excellent customer service. The secret here: treat your customers and prospects the way you'd like to be treated yourself. A few basics: Smile at customers when you talk to them. Be polite. Answer their questions. Don't keep them waiting unnecessarily. Whenever possible have a real person answer the phone. If you must send callers to voice mail, have something in your voice mail announcement that lets them know how soon you will return their call. Then, return their call within the stated time frame. If you provide a service, get the customers' projects done on time and within their budget. Keep them informed about changes, delays, or other information they'd want to know.
- Be friendly. If you have customers you come into your store or restaurant regularly, take a minute to smile and say "Hi" and ask how they're doing today. If you know a customer's name, call them by name. Friendly hellos and a few seconds of small talk make most people feel welcome and like they're dealing with a friend. If you have customers call you, do the same thing, if possible.
- Answer questions that prospects have with facts, not jargon, and if you sell something technical, don’t talk down to the customer or get annoyed if they have trouble understanding what you are saying. Rephrase your answer so the customer does understand it. If there’s some industry news or product information that will be helpful to customers, pass it along to them.