One of my favorite weekend hobbies is to research boutiques that are no more than an hour away and make a little trip to check them out. Each weekend, I find myself pleasantly surprised with my new findings and return home with several new purchases to add to my overflowing closet (which at this point has spilled out to two individual clothing racks sitting in my bedroom).

While this pastime is starting to become a little too expensive for my bank account’s liking, I love sharing the new places I find with my friends and bringing them along for my next excursion. Really, I love sharing my discoveries with anyone who will listen. Just a few weeks ago, I was giving the names of my favorite shops to the receptionist at my hair salon.

This is called word of mouth marketing. In essence, these boutiques provided products and an experience that I loved, and I, in turn, told just about everyone I know to check these shops out for themselves. Any time you recommend a particular product, restaurant, or service, to someone you know, you are participating in word of mouth marketing.

Providing an experience that wows your customer is more important now than ever, especially in the digital age of Google and Yelp reviews where we can immediately text our friends about the awesome new store we just visited or Tweet about a terrible meal we had at a restaurant. 92% of consumers will believe what they hear from friends and family before they believe an advertisement or commercial.

Did I mention that it’s free advertising? Follow these steps to make the most of word of mouth marketing in your business.

Online Reviews

My cousin and I recently went on a search for the best lobster rolls at the Jersey Shore. We did some research and decided that our first stop was going to be in Atlantic City. Unfortunately, it was easy to determine that this restaurant did not have the life-changing lobster roll we were searching for. Immediately after the meal, my cousin declared, “I’m posting on Yelp that this place was horrible!”

Remember when I said that 92% of consumers trust recommendations from their friends and family more than advertising? 84% of people trust online reviews left by people they don’t even know just as much as those suggestions from friends and family.

To that restaurant in Atlantic City, my sincerest apologies for the poor review you received from my cousin.

Though often overlooked by businesses, online reviews are an essential component of marketing. You need to be taking a look at what your customers are saying, and it is essential to reply to each review, good or bad. Feedback from your customers is valuable and is a great way to help plan for future enhancements.

When you have great experiences with customers, encourage them to leave reviews for your business. You can design business cards that detail where you are listed online so your customers can easily leave reviews. You can even provide incentives, such as offering a 10% discount to customers for leaving reviews or giving 5-star ratings.

Here’s a bonus! Reviews not only serve as word of mouth marketing, but they can be used for social media content, as well! You can share a positive review in the form of a social media post.

Social Media

One boutique I found on one of my weekend searches encourages shoppers to tag them on social media when they post in an outfit from the store. They have their own hashtag which they tell customers to use in their posts to be featured on the store’s accounts. They even have a fun selfie ring light in the fitting room so you can take pictures of the outfits you’re trying on! Prompting your customers to engage with you on social media is key. Create a hashtag for your customers to use and offer to feature those who post about your business. I have seen many stores discount purchases when customers post on social media using their hashtags or follow the account if they haven’t already.

The goal is for consumers to scroll through social media, see someone they follow using or wearing your product, feel compelled to check out your business, and make a purchase. Your social media page isn’t just about you. Engage your followers and encourage them to engage with you.

Additionally, people often take to Twitter or Facebook to share the experiences they’ve had. Make sure you’re aware of what people are saying about you on social media platforms and engage with users by responding as you would to any online review.

Refer a Friend Campaigns

You can initiate a refer a friend campaign by offering to give your customers a discount when they refer a friend to the business and that said friend makes a purchase. I love to participate in these programs. As I tell my friends, “You get to benefit from a fabulous purchase, and I get to make more purchases with a discount!” This is almost like hiring your customers to do your marketing for you by offering them compensation for winning your business new customers. Essentially, refer a friend campaigns pave the way for people to purchase from you again and again. You get the initial sale from Friend #1, Friend #2 makes a purchase after Friend #1 refers them, and then Friend #1 returns to use the discount they received from your referral program.

Conclusion

Take the saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” and forget you ever heard that. Word of mouth marketing can make or break your business. Your success or demise depends upon whether what people are saying about you is fantastic or not so wonderful. It’s essential to provide an experience that is so great people can’t help but tell everyone they know about it. Take advantage of this free form of advertising and allow your customers to spread the word about your business for you (and motivating them to do so by providing incentives can’t hurt)!

About the Author

Gina Lizzo

Gina is our Social Media Intern. She is a Marketing major at La Salle University where she is also a Division I athlete on the women’s golf team. Her favorite thing to do is cheer on the New York Yankees.

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