Marketing Channels, Marketing Planning & Reporting

How to Make Word of Mouth a Powerful Marketing Tool for your Business


Walt Disney once said, “Do what you do so well that people can’t resist telling others about you.” And it’s a sentiment worth following! Word of mouth is an incredibly powerful marketing tool for your small business. The question is; how can you support word of mouth in the day-to-day running of your business?

In this post, I’ll outline several ways to ensure you get the most out of your existing customers and contacts. With a clear strategy, your network will be spreading the word about your products or services in no time!

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Ask, encourage and reward!

It sounds incredibly simple but it’s worth saying – don’t be scared to ask! In the early stages of running a business this can feel daunting. But over time, you’ll realise that the benefits of encouraging feedback are more than worth it!

First things first; collect a review or testimonial as soon as they have bought from or worked with you. Testimonials are invaluable – more on that later in this post!

But don’t stop there. Setting up a rewards system to encourage word of mouth is something more and more businesses are doing these days. For example, the eco-friendly deodorant brand Wild runs a successful “Refer a Friend” scheme. Existing customers receive a code to share, resulting in a discount for both parties. For every friend the customer refers, they’ll receive 20% off a future order.

Rewarding loyalty like this can be a brilliant way of generating word of mouth. Customers like to feel like a part of your community, and these kinds of perks create that feeling.

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Keep in touch over time

A testimonial immediately after they buy is great. But to encourage continuous word of mouth, you have to remind people that you’re there! So make an effort to touch base with them regularly, for example through your mailing list or social media. Tell them what you’re up to, let them know what’s new and find fun ways to remind them of what a great experience they had with you.

It might even be worth pulling together a group of VIPs – people who know you and your business well. These contacts could be the first to try out any new products or services (and give you invaluable feedback). This is another great way to reward customer loyalty, and the perfect opportunity to instigate conversations around your brand again.

On top of that, make sure you continue to regularly attend business networking events. These offer the chance to consistently grow your network and remind your existing contacts what you do.

Still not convinced about the power of networking? Here are 7 lessons I learned attending business networking events!

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Make sure people know what you do…

Here’s the thing. When you run your own business, you know it inside out – which is great! But it means that, sometimes, we can be guilty of assuming everyone else fully gets what it is that we have to offer, too.

For word of mouth to be truly impactful, you need to ensure that people actually know what you do. Remember that existing customers can draw from personal experience, but their knowledge is limited to whichever products/services they bought. And, in some cases, that knowledge is time sensitive – your business may change over time!

To help with that, ensure that your communication with them in person, in newsletters and on social media, gives them the full picture. This is even more important for people in your network that have never bought from you!

So, keep everyone up-to-date with new additions to your products and services, latest case studies and what’s going on behind the scenes of your business. Equipped with that information, people will be able to give you more meaningful referrals for the full spectrum of what you offer.

… and who you are targeting!

In addition to having a solid grasp on what it is that you do, your network also needs to understand the following.

  1. Who your ideal customers/clients are.
  2. What type of work/jobs you are looking for.

Knowing that you are a financial adviser is great. But if you deliberately work with small, independent businesses only, having someone recommend you to a large corporation isn’t ideal! And if you only take on short-term projects, being recommended for an ongoing retainer doesn’t fit the bill either.

So, for word-of-mouth marketing to work, this means making sure that the people recommending you have all of that information to hand. One useful way of doing this is leaving flyers with them after visiting their business or meeting at a networking event.

A flyer means they have something to hand to the person they’re recommending you to, taking the pressure off them to remember everything you’ve said! Make sure this flyer makes it totally clear what you do, and where to find you. And also make sure that you’ve properly outlined to your contacts who you are looking to work with. Explain who your target customer is, so they know who best to hand that flyer to!

On top of that, ensure that every platform they can find you on is up to date, has your USPs clearly and immediately visible and has easily accessible testimonials or reviews. (See, I told you this would come up again!)

For people who haven’t directly worked with you, testimonials and case studies are crucial. They show exactly what positive experiences your customers or clients have had, and give the person referring you something to reference. It can genuinely be the deciding factor for that person. No positive reviews and insights into your work may mean they go elsewhere and the word-of-mouth advantage has been lost.

Refer others first

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Another way to encourage word-of-mouth marketing is to be an active referrer yourself! Knowing how important recommendations are for small businesses, be sure to talk about other businesses you know and admire as well.

Much like on LinkedIn, when someone will often start liking and replying to your posts once they notice you liking and replying to theirs, other business owners are likely to show their gratitude for your recommendation by reciprocating. So, you’ll get brownie points and referrals. It’s a win-win!

This way you grow your audience, strengthen bonds with other businesses and organically encourage more word-of-mouth marketing. Plus, let’s face it – it feels nice to make someone’s day by sending someone their way!

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Don’t rely solely on word of mouth!

When you’ve been running a successful business for a while, your word-of-mouth reach will probably increase over time. And that’s great! But it’s not a given. Especially if you’re a seasonal business, or sell a product that people will only buy once in a while (a wedding dress or a new website, for example!).

When you’re busy it might feel like that well is never going to run dry. But if it does, you’ll be in trouble. So, much like any other marketing channel, don’t rely solely on word of mouth.

Even when referrals are doing amazing things for your small business, don’t neglect your other marketing channels. Or, if you’re at the start of your small business journey, make use of the time and insights referrals from your existing network (not to forget friends and family!) can get you to build up other marketing channels.

This way you’re ready to support and, if necessary, supplement word-of-mouth marketing when it starts to slow down. As ever, a well-rounded strategy on and offline is the path to continued success.


To read more about this topic, have a look at these:
10 Things I’ve Learned Running My Own Small Business
7 Successful Ways I Market my Small Business On and Offline
How to Choose the Right Marketing Channels for Your Small Business
Influencer Marketing for Small Businesses

Denise Strohsahl brand and marketing consultant for small businesses

Hello, I’m Denise from sandstonecastles, a brand & marketing consultancy based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

I help small business owners like yourself to find the right marketing that’s in line with your brand and values.