With Canada easing restrictions and shoppers back on the streets, small business owners wonder how they can attract new and old customers. Although digital transformation has brought forward a variety of new marketing channels and tools, word-of-mouth marketing hasn’t lost its relevance. In fact, it’s arguably still the most powerful marketing tool out there. Throughout Covid-19, people have continued to interact online and have shared their experiences as customers. Word-of-mouth remains the most trusted form of marketing – with 92% of consumers trusting reviews and recommendations from their friends and family over traditional media. Let’s discover the world of word-of-mouth marketing and how your business can apply it to improve brand awareness and increase sales.

Megaphone spreading word-of-mouth marketing.

What Exactly is Word-of-Mouth Marketing?

First, let’s break down the basics. Word-of-mouth marketing is the oldest and purest form of advertising and has been around for centuries. It’s an extremely powerful tool that’s free, or in some cases very cheap, and relatively easy to apply. Specifically, word-of-mouth marketing is when a consumer’s interest in a company’s product or service is reflected in their daily conversations with friends, family, or others with whom they have close relationships. In a nutshell, the goal of this type of marketing is getting people to talk about your brand, product, or services. When it comes to word-of-mouth marketing, you don’t have to sit back and hope that your customers will do the work for you. It can be encouraged and facilitated by your business with the help of different strategies. Let’s have a look at four distinct word-of-mouth marketing strategies that you can implement today to get people talking about your business.

Word-of-Mouth Marketing Strategies

1. Be Active on Social Media

In our current digital age, it’s essential for small business owners to be active on social media. In 2021, the average social media daily usage was 2 hours and 27 minutes. It’s abundantly clear that people love interacting and engaging online. Since the emergence of Internet, word-of-mouth marketing has gained popularity with people now able to share their experiences to hundreds, if not thousands of people. You should own social media accounts on multiple platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, and Twitter. And you should be consistently interacting with your consumers on these channels and curating user-generated content. This can be accomplished in multiple ways.

Run Contests: run social media contests and hand out prizes. Get consumers to participate by tagging friends, sharing your posts, and following your pages. Creating buzz around your business will get people talking and lead to organic conversations.

Seek Advice: ask your customers for advice on what type of products or services they would like to see in the future. This could be in the form of a poll or questionnaire. Instagram has a built-in function for polls where you can add a story and ask any question that you want. It’s an easy and cost-effective way to get your consumers involved in your decision-making.

Hire Brand Ambassadors/Influencers: while most word-of-mouth marketing is focused on organic engagement, don’t neglect the value of hiring brand ambassadors or influencers. Be sure to hire people who genuinely love your business. With a strong following, you would be surprised how much they can influence their followers in purchasing your products or services.

2. Be Active in Your Industry

You may not realize it – but being active in your industry can help you yield greater word-of-mouth marketing engagement from customers. Play an active role in discussions and interact with your competitors both online and offline. Develop relationships with these businesses and offer guidance or help in any way you can. In return, they may recommend your business, or you may be able to develop partnerships with some who share similar values. Make sure everyone knows your brand and what you stand for.

Be Active Online: you can join Facebook groups, subreddits, networking groups, or twitter communities who discuss topics related to your products or services. Be a regular attendee at virtual meetings or events and spread your brand. That said, don’t oversell your business, as it may come off as desperation.

Be Active Offline: seek out journalists who are willing to write up an article about your business or sponsor community or charitable events. You can also encourage employees to volunteer at these events. By setting an example in your community, people will take notice and word-of-mouth will naturally occur.

3. The Power of Reviews/Testimonials

We’ve already established that people trust their friends and family for reviews and recommendations. What about from strangers online? Shockingly enough, 86% of consumers read online reviews before trying out a local business. With the sheer number of people trusting online reviews, they must be embraced by your small business. Here’s how you can do so.

Be Accessible: make it easy and accessible for people to review your products or services by having your business live online. There are numerous platforms that people use to submit and read online reviews. A good example is Google (which owns 92% of market share). Others include: Facebook, Amazon, Yelp, and many more. Claim your business profile on Google and keep all your business information updated and consistent across the Internet. This will rank your business higher in search engines.

Respond to Feedback: whether reviews are positive or negative, you should set aside some time to respond. By doing so, it shows your customers that you truly care and you’re ready to hear their concerns. More importantly, you need to be genuine, timely, and own up to your mistakes.

Be Open to Criticism: there’s a lot you can learn from customer feedback. Paying attention to your reviews helps you do more of the good and less of the bad. Observe if there are any common themes that come up, such as incorrect business hours, or people having a hard time getting a hold of your business. This will allow you to fix issues before they become a bigger problem.

4. Offer Exceptional Customer Service

Finally, and probably more important than all, offer exceptional customer service. Word-of-mouth marketing is triggered when a customer’s experience goes beyond their expectations. Treat your customers the way you would want to be treated. A smile and politeness can go a long way. Also, respond to complaints promptly and keep customers updated with any changes or important information. Let’s have a look at different strategies to ramp up your customer service experience.

Run Promos: Successful businesses know that running promotions can boost customer satisfaction and increase brand awareness. Promotions can be in the form of 2 for 1 deals, discounts, vouchers/coupons, loyalty programs or product/service upgrades. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and ensure your customers feel important and valued in the process

Train Employees: Great customer service is a cornerstone for any business. Make customer service part of everybody’s job. Hire employees who are problem solvers and enjoy helping others. Invest in their continued development and training so they’re up to speed with the latest findings. By offering them the right tools and resources from the beginning, they will be inspired to deliver the customer service experience you’re looking for.

Listen to Consumers: Start a conversation with your customers and really listen to what they have to say. Ask how they benefit from your business and what their biggest pain points are. Connect with them on a deeper level and practice active listening. This consists of trying to repeat the customer’s problem, making sure that you fully understand what they’re trying to say. People love to have their voice heard, and they will remember you for it.

The Bottom Line

Word of mouth is something that happens organically, but it can be encouraged and facilitated in many ways. It can become such a powerful marketing tool if used correctly. With a well-rounded and self-sufficient word-of-mouth marketing strategy in place, customers will do most of the work for you. As our country opens, there will be ample opportunities in generating organic word-of-mouth marketing. Spread the word now before it’s too late!