It Started With A Crash
An unfortunate thing happened to me this week: I crashed and shredded my favourite bike kit full of holes. I was fairly distraught. The physical damage would heal: the kit felt like part of my identity!
All was, however, not lost! A friend mentioned to me that she knew an excellent spot that could conduct repairs. “They do great work,” she said, “trust me.”
Well, trust I did, and it turns out that she was right! I could not have been more pleased. I would probably tell my own friends to pay the same establishment a visit in case they ever had things to mend after a brush with cold, unfeeling asphalt. And then I realized: this was an excellent case study for the importance of word of mouth marketing for small businesses.
The Numbers Don’t Lie
In a recent survey by small business networking site Alignable, 68 percent of 1,500 participants indicated that they would rank word of mouth as the most effective means by which to generate new customer interest. Turning your customers into advocates is a low-cost, high-return method to increase your business’ ability to stand out in the local community. Research shows that roughly 80 percent of local business customers come from a 5-mile radius around your business. That means your “word” does not need to travel far, but the more “mouths” you have in the area that know about you the greater the likelihood that your best next customer will run into one of them.
How can you make this powerful engine of engagement and influence work for your small business?
Give Them Something To Talk About
We live in an age of digital viral potential – someone’s good deed, or worse, their gaffe, can transmit socially in a heartbeat. However, many of these moments appear and disappear in a relatively short time. When it comes to creating word-of-mouth conversations, your goal as a small business is to leave a lasting impression on your customers, one that will influence their opinion. This comes down to customer service, involvement, genuine concern, the willingness to help and provide unique advice, and the creation of relationships.
Recognize The Community
Communities are really groups of people who enjoy nerding out together, at the core of it. Enthusiasm and specificity of interest are the things that glue passionate people together in search of things over which to bond. Whether it’s athletes, mothers, entrepreneurs, or coffee enthusiasts – recognize the potential impact when your customers convene and look to each other for inspiration. Try to think like your community thinks! Keep tabs on the things that the groups most relevant to you prioritize in the moment, and join into conversations about the causes and concerns most relevant to them.
Measure, Organize and Optimize
Creating strong word of mouth appeal for your small business is an amazing achievement. However, you will need ways to know how the conversations you start affect your business performance and hopefully create real-world results. First things first: don’t be shy about asking your customers to advocate on your behalf and refer you to their friends! Ask new customers how they heard about your business, in order to gauge the importance of your word of mouth strategy. Reverse engineer and follow these clues back to the source in order to learn more about your audience.
Once you’ve created the basis of a relationship with a customer, you can then empower them, to use a rather clichéd but entirely appropriate term. Create a system and offer incentives – and on the other side of the coin, be sure to directly thank and/or reward those members of the community that become advocates for your business!
With this advice and a bit of legwork, you can get members of your local community buzzing about the things that make your business unique. Integrating word of mouth into your broader marketing strategy will create opportunities to help you stand out.