Skip to main content
We’re here with practical marketing information for your business.

Search

A marketing strategy will help you identify your best customers, understand their needs and implement the most effective marketing methods.

The internet has transformed business marketing. No matter what you do, the internet is likely to be at the heart of your marketing strategy.

Social media is firmly established as a marketing tool. Having a presence opens up new lines of communication with existing and potential customers.

Good advertising puts the right marketing message in front of the right people at the right time, raising awareness of your business.

Customer care is at the heart of all successful companies. It can help you develop customer loyalty and improve relationships with your customers.

Sales bring in the money that enables your business to survive and grow. Your sales strategy will be driven by your sales objectives.

Market research exists to guide your business decisions by giving you insight into your market, competitors, products, marketing and your customers.

Direct marketing can be a highly successful way to generate sales from existing and new customers. Find out how to target them in the best way.

Exhibitions and events are valuable for businesses because they allow face-to-face communication and offer opportunities for networking.

PR

Favourable media coverage can bring a range of business benefits. But how do you attract the attention of editors, broadcasters and journalists?

How to encourage word-of-mouth recommendations

Word-of-mouth recommendations from satisfied clients are a highly effective form of advertising because they are persuasive, credible and above all free. Kate Horstead finds out how you can encourage your happy customers to spread the good word about your business

"A consumer will only recommend something if they are prepared to put their reputation on the line," says Steve Barton, president of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (now part of the Association of National Advertisers).

The accepted way to make this happen is to provide such a good service that customers spontaneously recommend you to friends. However, only about 15% of your customers will actually be 'influencers', says Barton - and these are the people you need to concentrate on.

"It doesn't matter if they don't buy the specific product themselves," he adds. "What matters is that they talk to people about it. You need to get these people involved."

In other words, look for the portion of your satisfied customers that have the biggest influence among people who could become customers of yours - whether it’s an influential industry figure with a good reputation, or a social media guru with a specialism in your business area. Getting recommendations from these people will yield big returns.

Getting word-of-mouth influencers on board

Your regular customers, business connections, friends and family are likely to contain a host of word-of-mouth influencers. But even if you don't know who exactly is spreading the word, you can still mount a word-of-mouth marketing campaign.

What matters initially is understanding why people would recommend your business, and then how you can coax them into talking more.

"Word-of-mouth marketing works best when you've got something new to say - not necessarily a new product, but perhaps an innovation with a product," explains Barton. "The key is to identify the 'talking point' - what your influencers want to talk about, rather than what you want to say."

Using networking to encourage word of mouth

Face-to-face networking is a good way to reach potential word-of-mouth influencers - and a key tip is to give out two business cards so new contacts can pass one on.

You could also send out an email newsletter, publish a blog, talk to potential customers on social media, invite customers to preview new products, attend industry events - and so on. Every opportunity to communicate with people who might talk to potential customers is a chance to generate word-of-mouth recommendations and testimonials.

Is word-of-mouth marketing cost-effective?

Over time, your word-of-mouth marketing campaigns should become highly targeted; the key is to identify your key influencers and market specifically to them. Doing this requires a way to measure who is successfully influencing others to become your customers.

One way is to offer a discount to customers who introduce friends to your product or service. With an incentive like this, the influencer will identify themselves alongside the new customer; an email newsletter will enable you to track customer recommendations through a "send to a friend" option. And you should always ask new customers how they heard about you.

The marketing that leads to word-of-mouth recommendations might cost, but, as Barton says: "It's more important to focus on the return on that investment, which can be phenomenal."

Stay up-to-date with business advice and news

Sign up to our lively and colourful newsletter for new and more established small businesses.