Infusionsoft, a private company that offers marketing and sales software to small businesses, recently conducted a study that found 62 percent of small businesses stated”word of mouth” was their best marketing tool – nearly twice as effective as email (34 percent), the second highest rated tactic!

So how does one develop a reputation and expand their audience size by mere hearsay? Try these 11 tips:

1. Set Quantifiable Objectives – Vague word-of-mouth objectives like “getting everyone to talk about us” are useless if they can’t be measured. As with any other marketing tactic, the ability to monitor your progress is essential. Create objectives like “getting X number of new customers through X number of referrals per month or generating X number of leads per month via word-of-mouth marketing.”

2. Create a System for Generating Referrals. Encourage customers to give referrals to other customers by offering bonuses, give-aways or discounts. (Click here for more on generating referrals.)

3. Offer Special Deals to Referred Customers. Give new customers discounts or special offers in return for trying your business.

4. Promote with PR. Keep your business in the public eye by establishing relationships with local journalists, members of the media and bloggers. Keep them informed about your company’s latest news, accomplishments and future plans.

5. Get Active in the Local Community. Sponsor or participate in public events that give back to the community such as fairs, 5K races or any program where the proceeds go to charity. If the logo of your outdoor apparel store is on every runner’s t-shirt, who are they going to think of the next time they go on a hike?

6. Network with Other Business Owners. Just like establishing a friendship with the local media, developing relationships with small business owners in your community can become another form of PR. Other businesses can become your customers and refer their friends and associates.

7. Make use of Your Personal Connections. Use your friends, family and any organizations you belong to to spread the word about your business. Post an an ad to the church bulletin or leave brochures at the front desk of your local gym.

8. Hand out Extra Business Cards. This is a no-brainer. Always give extra business cards to new clients so they can pass them out to friends and colleagues who might require your services.

9. Keep Tabs on what Customers Think. Conducting focus groups, regularly checking your online ratings and reviews, and keeping tabs on social media are all good ways to know what type of word-of-mouth customers are spreading, whether it’s positive or negative.

10. Pay Special Attention to Unhappy Customers. Unhappy customers are inevitable. Win them over by going out of your way to find a solution and offering outstanding service. Never ignore or minimize their problem because unhappy customers tend to complain to more people about their experiences than happy ones boast.

11. Always Ask New Customers How They First Heard About You. Try to get as specific as possible—if they learned about you from a friend at the gym, which gym? Tracking how customers learn about your company will help you assess how well your word-of-mouth marketing efforts are working so you can focus on the most productive avenues.

These tips were provided by Rieva Lesonsky, CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses


By: Kevin Hickman