In the second part of the double your business income series, I’ll look at word of mouth or referral marketing. Part 1 in this series examined how you can increase your income by improving your customer service experience.
Word of mouth marketing is a topic I’m up close and personal with because it is the main method I use for growing my business.
For example, in April last year, I received a call from someone who was referred to me by her friend. I had given the friend a free introductory coaching session in 2012 and the experience stayed with her all these years.
Secondly, in 2014, the referer met one of my clients who raved about the work we were doing together.
This solidified the referrer’s opinion of my work and when her friend talked of starting a business, she gave her my number.
Step #2: How to Fill Your Business Through Word of Mouth Marketing
1. Give your customers an outstanding experience before, during and after they’re in contact with your business
Customer service experience starts before someone buys from you, but it doesn’t end with the purchase.
The first purchase may be done because someone really needed the product or service. What will make them come back and keep coming back to you?
There are 5 main reasons that will make people purchase from you more than once:
- You’re the only one (or among the few) offering this product or service.
- You’re located closest to them, so they don’t have to go far.
- Your price is the lowest.
- The experience they had before, during and after they made a purchase.
- Your constant contact with them.
Making a sale is the beginning of building a deeper relationship with each customer. Businesses of all sizes and ages can do this.
Customers who feel appreciated will come back again and again. They will also bring their relatives, friends, colleagues…everyone.
It will be hard for your competition to woo them over.
Finally, should something happen that brings negative publicity to your doorstep, they will be the first ones fighting on your behalf.
I saw this happen earlier this week when someone was conned by a seller on Facebook and she accused someone else who was selling similar bags.
It seems to have been a case of mistaken identity, but what impressed me was the way the accused person’s customers came out strongly and gave positive reviews of having worked with her. This eventually made the accuser retract her complaint.
I also noticed that during this process, other women made orders.
Word of mouth is a double-edged sword. It can easily build or destroy your business.
In this digital age, you need to carefully handle your prospects and customers because a small mistake or misunderstanding can go viral in a very short time and ruin your business.
This is so critical that large businesses have employees whose work is to monitor and respond to social media comments about the company.
Action Step: Evaluate and improve your customer service experience.
2. Build a business that matches the exact needs of your customers
People buy to fill certain desires or address a fear, pain or need in their lives.
You must have an amazing understanding of the reasons why people will want to buy from you to harness the power of referral marketing.
This also means that you keep your promises to prospects and customers, so don’t promise one thing in your marketing and then deliver another once someone buys.
Your marketing has to match the solutions you’re offering. In case you have to make a change, inform the person before they buy or as soon as you notice that something requires changing.
If you’re selling something that requires advance payment and things change, tell the customer at once, give them another option, or offer a refund immediately. It would also help if you could give them something extra as a way of saying “Sorry”.
Such small efforts go a long way in building credibility and your customers will talk about this incident to everyone they know…which will bring more people to your business…
Action Step: Conduct market research to identify the exact challenges, fears, and pains your customers are going through.
3. Sell solutions not processes
There are 3 steps to getting customers:
- People get to know about your business (through being in a visible location, offline marketing, your online presence or by referrals).
- They come to your business (online or physical location).
- They make a purchase.
When someone buys from you, they are saving something; achieving something here and now; or anticipating a better future.
This is the same for all purchases from a loaf of bread bought at the local kiosk, a handkerchief purchased from the vendor in the traffic jam, the matatu someone takes to or from work…to bigger things like a house, car, wedding attire, etc.
Once you know what your customers want, you need to craft your marketing to match their desires.
For your marketing to work, you have to talk about the challenge they are having and the positive results they will get by opting for your solution.
We see this all the time in adverts. Next time you’re watching the news, take time to also observe the process you’re taken through during the commercials, which of late have featured a lot of soaps and washing powder adverts.
My favourite example of targeted marketing is by supermarkets in Kenya. Each of the large supermarket brands has positioned itself carefully and does its marketing to suit a specific part of the population.
Nakumatt doesn’t do much physical marketing, but the supermarkets are found in upmarket malls and residential areas. Their prices are generally higher than other supermarkets, but they make money because their target market doesn’t mind paying a bit more. They also carry a range of luxury products for everyday use.
Uchumi, Naivas and Tuskys are found in areas with high foot traffic – generally in regular malls, town centres, and residential areas. Prices are lower in these supermarkets and their main selling points are accessibility, low pricing, and fresh vegetables. These supermarkets don’t carry a lot of luxury brands.
Action: Go through these marketing messages and think as a customer would. Evaluate your marketing messages and find out the ones that are bringing the most business. Redo or dump the rest and concentrate on creating more messages that are similar to the ones that are working.
4. Use Targeted Marketing
People don’t care how you’re going to help them achieve what they want.
What they care about is getting a solution to their pain, fears, or desires.
Everything you do – from your marketing, to your actual products and services – should be about the customer.
Always remember that business is about the customer and not about you. Remove your ego from the equation and you’ll see clearly how best to sell your solutions.
In marketing, there is the term WIIFM which is an acronym for “What’s In It For Me?” This is how a customer thinks.
Looking at your own life, think of things that consider basic such as:
- Where do you shop and why?
- What kind of pen do you use and why?
- What is your go-to place for school uniforms for your children and why?
- Who is your favourite Mama Mboga and why?
- Which is your favourite fuelling station and why?
- Which phone do you use (or would you love to purchase) and why)
- Where do you and your friends meet regularly and why?
When you explore these questions, you will find that these places, products or services offered you a solution that you felt was necessary. It goes back to the reasons for repeat purchasing explained in tip #1.
For example, I don’t sell coaching, I sell the ability to help you double your business income while reducing the time spent working.
I could talk about the coaching process, but I doubt anyone would be interested in that.
All they want is to increase their revenue, have an easier time managing staff, cut the time spent working, or a combination of these and more.
Action: Answer the question WIIFM from a customer’s perspective: Find out why people buy from you and position your business to meet the needs of your ideal customers. Talk to prospects and customers in a way that makes them feel that you understand their challenges and are willing to solve them. Use words that they can easily understand when answering their WIIFM.
5. Declare your niche
Become the go-to person for something specific. Don’t be everything to everyone. Be something for someone.
To declare your niche, first get clear about the problem you’re addressing in the marketplace (see #2 above).
Second, research your competition and identify the gaps left open by your competition.
Third, create solutions that match the needs of the market and fill the gap(s) left by your competition.
Finally, create an ideal customer avatar. This is a description or profile of the person you want to have as your customer. Be very clear about your avatar because all your marketing will target this persona.
Your customer avatar should include the following details:
- Marital status
- Number of children (if any)
- The car the person drives
- How they spend their free time
- The places they hang out
- Their hobbies and interests
- The causes they care about
- Where they shop
- The magazines they read
Imagine that this is a specific person and even give them a name. The better you’re able to describe your avatar, the easier it will be to market your business, and the easier it will be for your customers to refer others to you.
Once you know your avatar, declare and claim your segment of the market that serves these people. Get so good at serving them that you become the go-to business for the specific solution you offer.
With time and careful positioning, you will start seeing a lot of referrals coming your way. You will also get to know your regular customers and earn their trust.
Action: Evaluate your positioning in terms of the niche you’re in. Where are you at on the scale? What can you do to improve your position and possibly become a leader in your niche within the next 2-3 years?
6. Ask for referrals
Your customers may not necessarily tell others about you so you need to be proactive about getting referrals.
So how do you get people to send you referrals consistently?
Just ask them to…It’s as simple as that.
There are many ways of asking for referrals, including the following:
- Have special offers for referrals: This works great for service businesses.
- Host a competition and ask customers to come with friends and family.
- Have an online coupon that gets activated when someone shares your link on their social media profile/page.
- Tell customers something like, “If you like our service, tell your friends and family about us.”
- When a client tells you how much they like working with you, accept their appreciation and then tell them that you’d love to help their loved ones so if they know someone who is struggling with <insert the same kind of challenge the client sought your help for> then give them my number and email.” (this is how I get most of my clients).
Action: Try out different ways of asking for referrals until you identify the one that works best for you. You can also find out what other people in your industry do to increase word-of-mouth marketing in their businesses.
7. Keep engaging, educating and entertaining your customers and prospects
Your customers and prospects need to hear from you regularly if they’re to send you referrals.
You can keep them updated in different ways:
- Using an email newsletter or ezines as they are popularly called.
- Hosting regular promotional events at your premise or participating in events attended by your customers.
- Attending networking events where your ideal customers are found.
- Being featured in the news doing positive things for the community.
- Through your social media updates and posts.
- Through a website or blog that you update regularly. If you have a blog, then update it weekly.
- Update and informational SMS messages.
- Through regular updates about their account with you (you’d be surprised at the number of people who keep track of their Loyalty Points balance on supermarket receipts).
People need to know what you’re up to so you have to keep educating your customers about your business and updating them regularly.
What has worked for me is a combination of using social media, a blog and a weekly e-newsletter. I also attend networking events and speak at various forums though this is at a minimal level.
For social media, I use Facebook and LinkedIn. The Facebook page gets updated each weekday and each day has a different theme as follows:
- Monday: Motivational quote.
- Tuesday: Business startup or growth tips and ideas.
- Wednesday: Link to a business-related article by someone else.
- Thursday: Link to a post on my blog.
- Friday: Q&A or something funny.
Working with themes is great as you don’t have to think about what to post. These themes are not cast in stone and I change the content depending on what’s trending or when I have an offer, but they help to keep me focused.
I use Pagemodo to schedule my Facebook posts. It takes me 2 hours a week to find content, create posts and queue them up on Facebook or Pagemodo.
Check out Marketo, Shortstack, Hubspot and Pagemodo if you’re interested in creating social media campaigns for your business.
My business Facebook page is for credibility and visibility. It also sends people to my blog where they can read articles, download resources, and sign up to for my weekly business growth e-newsletter.
Most of my marketing happens in the newsletter as it’s where I showcase my expertise and communicate directly with readers.
I’ve had people on my mailing list for years and then one day they call me and sign up for a workshop or coaching program. No questions asked and no bargaining – just direct sign ups. I’ve also had referrals contact me after receiving one of my articles as a forward.
Newsletter readers include direct sign ups from my blog, referrals who received the newsletter as a forward, and contacts I make during talks, workshops and networking events.
The newsletter keeps me at the top of people’s minds and keeps educating them about what I do and how I can help them and the people they know. It’s a non-intrusive way of following up people without becoming a nuisance.
Just this morning as I was writing this article, someone called to tell me that the last 2 articles I sent gave her ideas for growing her business this year. She also invited me to talk to her friends (at a fee) and referred some friends for Business Strategy consultations. These referrals are people she’s already talked to and pre-qualified for me.
If you’re interested in getting more tips and resources hot off the press, go to the top right hand corner of this page and sign up for my newsletter.
Text Book Centre’s virtual Book Club does a similar job. Each month, they send info about the book for the month (offered at a discount) to members of the book club.
They also send an extra 1-2 emails within the month, reminding you to order your book or do a review of the book. Their emails are short, educational, and very well done.
Email newsletters work best when they are on a regular schedule e.g. weekly, fortnightly or monthly.
Your newsletter should not always be promotional unless it’s for something specific like the book club. It should contain useful information that educates and entertains the reader or makes them reflect.
As a general rule, do four educational or entertaining emails for every promotional or sales email.
A word of caution: Don’t add any contacts to your newsletter list without people’s consent as this may be seen as SPAM.
Action: Get to know what others in your industry are doing to keep customers and prospects updated. Narrow down to the 3 most cost-effective, but highly successful methods and implement them in your business, one at a time.
Word of mouth marketing is one of easiest, yet most challenging marketing methods to implement.
This is because it takes time to get it right, and once you get it right, there is some level of maintenance required.
However, if you’re able to tap into word of mouth marketing, you will save money and have at least one consistent marketing method.
You’ll get more ideal customers who will have been referred by your past and present customers, or even by prospects who never bought from you.
The tips and action points in this article will help you create a system where your customers send you more and more referrals. Implement them and increase the chances of doubling your business income this year.
Are there other things ways you’ve managed to get referrals in your business? I’d love to hear about what’s worked or not worked for you so please share in the Comments below.
In the last article in this series, I’ll explore how you can create and implement business systems and models that automate and brand your business.
(Image credit: Stuart Miles at Free Digital Photos)
- 3 Steps to Double Your Business Income – Part 1 (Customer Service).
- Double Your Business Income – Part 2: Fill Your Business Through Word of Mouth Marketing.
- Double Your Business Income – Part 3: Create a Business Model.