If you aren’t “investing” in word of mouth advertising, you’re missing out – here’s why:

By Alli Hill

You may think that “word of mouth” advertising just happens all by itself, and you’re partially right.  People will tell other people about their experiences with your business, both good and bad, without anyone asking them to do so.  But did you know that a customer who has a good experience is only likely to tell one or two people (if any), while a person who has a bad experience is likely to tell ten times that many? 

It’s true.

Word of mouth proves time after time to be some of the most effective advertising available, and it’s one that you have more control over than you might think.  You simply need to “invest” in it.

So how exactly are you investing?  Recommendations come for free, don’t they?  Well sure, but you need to make the time and effort to ask for the referral in such a way that will yield positive results. 

Naturally, you want more people to talk about the great experiences they have at your store:  top-notch service, quality products, fair prices, whatever you have to offer that should deem you the go-to choice. So how do you loosen the lips of satisfied customers and make them share their stories?

A few years ago I was working on some marketing for a restaurant that had just opened on the waterfront in Georgetown, SC.   A nice place, too – burgers, sandwiches, fish, fresh seafood, a full bar, and a beautiful view awaited hungry patrons.  The only problem?  Not many people knew they were there.

That changed soon enough.  When you can’t get customers to come to you… Go to them!

An endorsement that comes straight from a person’s mouth is worth its weight in gold.  It creates a sense of honesty and personalization you can’t get from a flyer or newspaper ad.  A real person offers their opinion and puts their reputation at stake as being a reliable source of information.  Who can argue with that?

In the restaurant’s case, there was no big marquee out front, no radio commercial or phone book listing – just a neon Open sign in the front window and a chalkboard menu on the sidewalk.  Being downtown, parking came at a premium, and being the middle of winter, foot traffic almost didn’t exist.

Armed with a stack of to-go menus and a smile, I visited nearly every business downtown and sang the praises of the delicious food at the newly opened restaurant on the waterfront.  I invited those that I spoke with to come give it a try, and provided incentives.

Within weeks the restaurant started to clear over $800 a day for lunch alone, and with no other advertising than me talking to everyone in town. 

While free appetizers and to-go menus may not fit your business, you do have two options when it comes to word-of-mouth advertising:

1.       Ask satisfied customers for referrals.  Don’t just expect them to tell someone about the outstanding service they received at your counter.  You need to trigger the idea in their mind.  If you opt to track referrals and reward those customers who bring you more business, make sure to let them know the incentives involved.

2.       Hit the streets yourself.  Visit job sites with bottles of water in hand.  Stop and talk to contractors you run into on your lunch break and give them your business card.  While you network, make sure you tell them why you’re the better choice and what you can do for them.  Give them a reason to choose you.

Those customers I brought in to the restaurant may have found out about the “food with a view” eventually, but I put the idea in their heads long before they had a chance.  And they possibly would have told their family and friends to come try it at some point, but because I asked them to tell others, they responded a lot sooner than they might have otherwise.

Take every opportunity to talk about your business.  The more people hear about it, the more it will create top of mind awareness.  And don’t be afraid to ask your most satisfied customers to share their experiences with others. 

Remember:  if you never ask, the answer is No.