Word of mouth can be the best thing since sliced bread if you own a small business – or like handing out doses of hemlock to your potential clientele. Which metaphor applies depends on what kind of work of mouth is circulating about your business.
So what can you do to get and keep that good word of mouth spreading? Here are ten ways to grow positive word of mouth.
1) Provide good customer service.
I'm a big promoter of customer service because it's one of the few ways that small businesses can compete with larger businesses, especially those that focus on low prices. I've written a lot of articles on how small businesses can provide good customer service, but there's no real secret to it. All you have to do is show your customers that they are important to you and treat them with the courtesy, respect and interest that you would hope for in their place. Do this consistently, whether you run a retail store or a website, and positive word of mouth is sure to follow.
2) Make it easy for your customers to contact you.
Poor communication practices will drive away not only the customer that was trying to reach you but the other people he tells about his frustrating experience, too. Supposed business phones that just ring and ring and don't even connect to an answering machine or that connect to full voice mail boxes are pet peeves of mine. As are websites that don't provide easily accessible contact information. And don't even get me started on business phones that are answered by children.
If you want positive word of mouth, your small business has to be reachable. Get all the necessary phone services, including answering services and call forwarding. And make sure that your business phone is answered properly, in a way that will encourage business, not discourage it. Need a refresher? Read Phone Answering Tips to Win Business.
Maintain a positive image.
For small business owners, this means remembering that you are never off and that you need to treat all people with courtesy and respect – not just the customers that are in front of you. Don’t be one of those idiots who cuts people off in traffic while driving a vehicle with a website and business logo emblazoned on it or one of those jerks who yells at the kids' soccer referee during the game. People love to tell other people stories about the jerks they've recently encountered and your behavior will affect your small business.
It Pays to PAK Your Business Image explains more about presenting and maintaining the kind of image that will help grow positive word of mouth instead.
4) Clean and pleasant surroundings are a must – even on the Web!
In my little town, I was once told that at a particular restaurant, the owner was spotted one day sitting on the toilet peeling potatoes. Whether or not this is a true story, I've never been to that restaurant since; I can’t help but think of it as dirty and unsanitary. See how bad word of mouth works?
Good word of mouth travels, too. People will tell other people how organized your shelves are, what state your rest rooms are in, or how pleasant your waiting room is.
To get good word of mouth building about your small business, think about what makes up a pleasant customer experience in your case and make sure that all the elements that would contribute to such an experience are in their best shape.
On the Web, that means things such as having search functions and site organization that make items easy to find and visible information on ordering and shipping and returns.
5) Ask for testimonials and display them prominently.
Testimonials from satisfied customers (short written statements praising your service, products or both) are powerful endorsements and can really spark good word of mouth. Get in the habit of asking for them. As I point out in How to Ask for Referrals, the time that you're asking for referrals is also an excellent time to ask a client for a testimonial.
Once you get testimonials, make sure you use them to maximum effect, posting them on your website, on your Facebook page, in your advertising, in your store... wherever they will be visible to the public and seed a positive image of your small business.
Continue on to the next page to learn five more ways to grow positive word of mouth and increase your small business’s customer base.