smb-tech-trendsNothing beats a recommendation from a customer. No doubt you already know that but it was confirmed recently in the annual Small Business Happiness Index, a survey of 1300 small business owners, conducted by Vistaprint.  Respondents indicated that word-of-mouth marketing had the largest impact on customer growth.

When you think about the amount of information available today – whether through traditional offline sources or online channels – it’s not surprising that most customers take comfort in the opinion of a trusted source. In fact, according to another study conducted last year by advertising researcher Nielsen, 92 percent of people indicated that they trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising. In fact, even online search nowadays is driven by word of mouth since search engines optimize for user reviews.

Get the most from word of mouth marketing

character with megaphoneConsidering how important satisfied t customers can be to your small business growth, you want to be sure to maximize the opportunities presented by word of mouth. Here are some suggestions for generating word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) to gain more leads and sales.

Establish company insiders:  Get your customers more involved in your business. Give them an advance look or trial of a new product or service. Get feedback and if it’s positive, ask them to tell others about it. Periodically informally survey your key customers  when you talk to them in person or through feedback tools on your website.  You might also do something unexpected to delight your best customers from time to time like provide free two-day shipping or something along those lines. Also create a forum where customers can share their opinion.

Make information shareable: Make it easy for customers to share content – whether it’s a white paper or article on your website or product information on your blog. Include social sharing widgets as part of the content.

Enable website reviews: Reviews on your website can be very powerful. Encourage your customers to include reviews by adding online review tools. Just be sure that reviews are real. There’s no better way to lose customers and in turn get a bad review than to post made up quotes or comments.

Leverage third-party industry endorsements: If you send out news releases on your products or services and get positive coverage from press, make sure to add copies of the articles (you’ll need reprint permission) or provide a link on your website. Industry validation boosts your WOMM efforts since customers feel confident when they read good things about your offering from people they perceive as experts.

Ask customers to spread the word: Satisfied customers are generally more than happy to help spread the word. If you enjoy a good relationship with a customer find ways you can leverage their experience. Interview them for a customer case study; invite them to participate with you on a panel; or ask for a mention on their social media networks.  You might be surprised that sometimes all you have to do is ask.

I also refer you to a book I recently read about, which is now on my reading list. “Contagious: Why Things Catch On” written by Jonah Berger, a Wharton marketing professor, looks at why word of mouth is so powerful – 10 times more than advertising he says – and what makes a product word-of-mouth worthy.