How to Harness the Power of Word-of-Mouth Marketing for Your Small Business

business referralNot many businesses give much thought to word-of-mouth marketing. They know it’s powerful but it’s so hard to control! The rewards of focusing on word-of-mouth referrals don’t show immediate results but is still certainly worth the focus and attention for long-term success.

But how does one market their business through word-of-mouth anyway?

Luckily, there are ways to do that. The only condition is that you should be willing to makes changes, improvements and amends.

Ready? Great!

First things first:

Focus on your customer service

Customer service is what sparks word-of-mouth marketing in the first place. Of course, when we say word-of-mouth marketing, there’s no guarantee that it’ll be positive marketing. It can just as well be negative.

More often than not, negative experiences spark off more word-of-mouth action than positive ones.

Don’t let it deter you though. While unhappy customers might create a stink (which is really bad, to be honest), happy (think ecstatic) customers refer you to other people and tell them how awesome you are.

So focus on giving each and every one of your customers the royal treatment, especially the unhappy ones. Go above and beyond the call of duty to satisfy them. If you can’t, be upfront about it and apologize.

Whatever you do, don’t disappear on them and don’t brush them off.

Instead, become an expert at salvaging bad situations. Customers you manage to win over after a bad experience will shout from the top of their roof tops about how amazing you are.

Set up a customer referral system worth your customer’s time

After you’ve managed to wow your customers/clients, give them incentive to refer you to their network. Figure out what your customers want more of, and give it to them.

Skill Share gives every student who takes one of their courses a unique link and suggests that they let people know which course they’re taking. If someone signs up for the class through that link, they get a $10 credit to spend on their next course.

Since most of their courses are in the $15 – $30 range, getting a $10 discount matters to their students.

Ask for reviews and testimonials

Happy clients are the best (and only) source of reviews and testimonials so don’t forget to ask them for one. You don’t have to display them all or even use them, but asking them to write an honest one for you will allow them to think of you beyond “This Company did a good job”.

It’ll force them to think exactly what was awesome about your product or service and what they really liked about your company.

If someone goes to the trouble of writing a review for you, chances are high of their mentioning it to someone in their network.

Survey your customers

Surveys are a small business owner’s secret weapon in creating a lasting impression. Irrespective of whether your customer has had a good or bad experience, send them a short survey to fill.

Ask straight-forward questions like:

  • How was your experience with [company name]? (It sucked, bad, could have been better, good, I’m a fan for life)
  • Your opinion is important to us, what can we do to improve?
  • Was there anything that you absolutely hated/found annoying?
  • What was the one thing you absolutely loved about doing business with us
  • Do you have any suggestions for us?
  • Etc.

Once they’ve taken the time to take your survey, do something nice for them. Send them a hand-written note, call them up personally or send a unique, personalized card. Anything to let them know you appreciate the time your customer took to help you out.


Social Media is the new medium for word-of-mouth

Gone are the days of telling your network about your good or bad experiences over dinner, drinks or your backyard fence. Now, it all happens on social media.

People are always looking to get recommendations to good products, services or companies. Or they’re looking to complain, rave, or rant about them. Either way, they’re going to talk about it and they’re going to do it through the biggest and most easily accessible medium available to them—social media.

So whether you like it or not, the word-of-mouth marketing of your business is going to happen on its own.

The question is, will you harness the power of word-of-mouth marketing for your small business by giving it a nudge in the right direction or will you choose to stick your head in the sand and hope for the best?

Kurt Birkenhagen Kurt Birkenhagen works for conferencing company, Vast Conference, in Los Angeles He is focused on customer acquisition, retention, and user experience. Learn more about their conferencing services at

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1 Comment

  1. Hi Kurt,

    I couldn’t agree more with you. A satisfied customer is the best customer. I’ve always believed that if you do everything to make your customer happy, it will have a positive impact to your business. As Marshall Field said – “Give the lady what she wants”.

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