How to Encourage Word-of-Mouth Referrals for Your Startup

Word-of-Mouth Referrals

Word-of-mouth advertising is a time-tested method that business owners use to market their business. The statistics support this inexpensive form of advertising as a marketing tool of choice, with the Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Report citing that more than 80 percent of consumers verified that they trust referrals from family and friends over other advertising. This study was global, spanning out over 60 countries.

Based on these impressive numbers, smart startups seeking to maximize profitability should utilize and encourage word-of-mouth advertising. Survey findings published in Leadpages back this impressive statistic up, with 49 percent out of 1000 business owners confirming that word-of-mouth promotion reaps the best results for new customer acquisition.

Go Beyond Having a Great Product or Service

There is no substitute for having a customer experience worthy of bragging rights. Satisfied customers are much more likely to tell their friends and family about a great experience than an average, lackluster one. For this reason, savvy entrepreneurs recognize the importance of making the customer experience memorable. Paying attention to details is one strategy that works. Customers are particularly sensitive to timely shipping and notifications that keep them informed.

A perfect example of a company that leads the pack largely because of their attention to details is Apple. It is common knowledge; Steve Jobs left nothing up to chance. While Apple's products are undeniably high-quality, it is the attention to details such as the shiny box and attractive design details that catapulted Apple above other competitors to become a dominant force in the cell phone and computer space.

Provide Superb Customer Service

It is no secret that customers respond to being treated with respect and appreciation. Having systems in place to ensure that patrons are thanked for referrals and reviews is an absolute necessity. It is equally important that a company quickly handles any problems that arise during the buying process. While no shopper wants to deal with a missing package or damaged product, the only way to salvage that customer's future business is to immediately take care of the problem.

People recognize that there will be problems. The average customer will give a company another chance if they follow-up quickly and make things right. As simple as that sounds, excellent training and ongoing operational reviews are necessary to make sure customer service is prepared for these types of situations. Anticipating problems is an important component of providing superb service. One example of providing excellent customer service is to ensure that customers' emails and phone calls are made a top priority and answered immediately.

Build a Social Media Presence to Keep in Touch

In the digital age, social media is the new "word-of-mouth." Staying in touch with customers and prospects means being visible and reaching out to them where they are. The company brand has to be present and seen to accomplish this task. Considering the amount of time people spend on social media, the obvious outlet for connecting with customers is via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram; to name a few.

Putting forth a friendly and recognizable voice to join the chatter is how people connect. It is important to remember that these platforms are not to be used for "hard sales." This type of pressure can "turn off" potential customers. Social media is simply a good way to educate others and join the discussion without being too salesy.

Reward Your Loyal Customers

Satisfied customers who are quick to write a review or pass along your company name as a referral are worth their weight in gold. It only makes sense to encourage this behavior by formally thanking these people. While there are many ways to show gratitude, offering discounts or freebies is a highly prized gesture that works. Giving away logo-gear is a winner for both the company and the customer. VIP events also offer a memorable way to say thanks.

Technology makes it easier than ever before to get the word out and to provide satisfied customers with the tools they need to refer customers without any extra trouble. Provide the links they need to spread the word. Making it simple for your favorite patrons to share good news or a testimonial that spotlights your company is key for getting the best results. Take advantage of the software on the market to guide your efforts.

Final Thoughts

Making word-of-mouth advertising a primary marketing tool to promote a startup is a relatively inexpensive, but very effective way to attract new customers. The challenge is to motivate customers to sing your praises by offering an excellent customer experience. By incorporating the use of technology, social media, superb customer service and rewards designed to elevate the customer experience to a praise-worthy transaction, word-of-mouth advertising is guaranteed.

Guest Author

Eric Gordon

Eric Gordon is an independent business development and marketing specialist for SMEs. He loves sharing his insights and experience to assist business owners in growing their revenues. You can find Eric on Twitter @ericdavidgordon