A great way to get new business is to hone in on customer referrals. They bring you more business, help maintain current relationships, and continue to grow your business.
However, there are techniques for establishing a playing ground for word of mouth to occur. So if you want to expand your customer base and brand awareness, you’ll want to develop some strong basics from the start.
You want to create scenarios where customers want to tell others about you, and by establishing this strong base, you’ll find that word of mouth marketing can help create a thriving business.
The foundation for growing your customer base
For many, customer satisfaction is key and often the primary goal for any business. It’s when a business creates a customer-centric business, that customers become advocates for the brand, and thus help expand the business’s customer base.
Here are a few steps to help you create a referable business. Even if you don’t dive into every area listed below, and instead focus on just a few, you’ll still be able to succeed in expanding your customer base.
Let’s get to it!
Step 1 – Tell your brand’s story
Your team is what will make a customer go out and tell your story to others. If you develop a strong company culture (here is a great company culture analysis with infographic) you may be able to influence others, including customers, of the story or picture you want told.
Quick tips for telling your brand’s story so that it easily resonates with customers.
Share the same values as customers - What are the factors your customers value? Dedication, transparency, or sustainability?
Create brand awareness - The more recognition you have in your field, the more able you will be to build a reputable name and story for yourself. You can do this by sharing knowledge and creating interesting content, jumping on trends, and being unique.
Evoke your customer’s emotions - A good story often tugs at emotions. If your business was made based on a true life story or if a story can play into it, use it. People are great storytellers, and enjoy stories, so give them something to talk about.
Trader Joes, for example, has a great story floating around that manages to hit all three of the tips mentioned above.
There was an 89-year-old man from Pennsylavania who was snowed in during a winter storm. His daughter was worried he wouldn’t have enough to eat and manage through the storm. So, she began calling around to see if there were any grocery stores that delivered.
She finally decided to call Trader Joes, after a lot of dead ends. She began to explain the situation to a customer service representative. They began to say they don’t deliver, but that would make an exception to help her father. Not only did they deliver, they did it for free, and sent a few extra goodies on top of the essentials his daughter requested.
That story proves that Trader Joes is customer oriented. They offered something of great value, and aligned with their customer’s values. They created a pocket for brand awareness to occur, and that stemmed because they were able to evoke emotion.
Your marketing efforts can help, but what really counts is the overall experience your team provides, which brings us to our next point.
Step 2 – Offer a fantastic product
It’s your product that people are paying for. Your product or service is what comes as the solution or keystone to your story. Pragmatic marketing, in this sense can help you along the way, as you work towards delivering the products truly wanted by customers.
Quick tips that can help make your product stand out from the rest.
Fulfill their wants and needs - Happy customers come in all shapes and forms. But one thing that makes a customer happy is when you can satisfy their needs and wants. So be sure you are either providing them with something that brings them joy or helps them solve a problem.
Be creative and stand out from competitors - It’s highly likely you’re working in a market that has competitors. You both may offer a similar product, but cash in what makes you stand out or different from others. For example, some people are diehards for Ford, while others prefer Chevy - both offer cars and trucks, but each fit different individual needs and preferences.
Make your product exceptional - You want your product to be better, make something easier, solve a pain point, or do something extra. If you can accomplish this, you can exceed customer expectations, and that can get people to tell others ‘you have to try this’.
Slack, the workplace communication hub, is a great example of this. Their product solves a lot of pain points for work communication (and fun group communication). Plus it integrates easily with many business automations, making it a great platform for in office chat, for many.
In fact, they are crushing it when it comes to offering a product that people love. They actually have a ‘wall of love’ where they showcase all the praise they get.
Though someone might refer you based on the experience they received, it’s your product that is actually getting referred. None-the-less, your customer service plays a role in how people perceive your product, bringing us to our next point.
Step 3 – Perfect your customer service
After you’ve honed in on your brand’s story and product, you’ll want to focus on providing a great experience. Meaning your customer service will need to be on par with what people are expecting.
Quick tips for bettering your customer service.
Provide multiple channels for help - We’re in the world of technology, meaning people want 24 hour help. That doesn’t mean you have to be ‘online’ all the time, but you should offer multiple ways for customers to look for answers. Knowledge bases, blogs, videos, customer chat, and recorded demos are all great ideas and you can provide all of them if you wish.
Be personable, if possible - You don’t need to know their whole life story, but knowing the basics sure helps. Referring to what you know about their product (if you’re B2B) or even just using their name can be beneficial.
Keep customers in the know - This is especially pertinent if you offer a service. People are relying on you to relay messages. Is your service going to be down? Are you doing a major update? Will the way people use your product change? Let them know, and they are likely to share the knowledge too.
Confluence the workplace collaboration space, offers a page on their site to inform users if their system is down.
If you scroll the page users can also see which specific parts may be down. Plus, users have an easy way to report a problem. This keeps users in the loop. Plus, something as simple as this lets users know you are working on and aware of issues going on - making it much easier for them to develop trust in your brand.
Your service can get people talking - and bad service is likely to cause a lot of damage in negative word of mouth, which means your reputation should also be a focus.
Step 4 – Be aware of your reputation
People often talk about the bad experiences they had. And you may find if a customer is upset enough, what they say about you can tarnish your reputation. So try to build a solid online reputation, by focusing strong reviews, and providing insight to those that are less than stellar.
You may find that your reviews intersect with building your customer base and act as a platform for building your name within your niche.
Quick tips for handling your reputation and online reviews.
See what people are saying about you - In the age of mobile and boundless internet availability, it’s likely to find something written about your brand. If you browse reviews and online customer complaints, you may be able to handle a sour situation and gain a customer back - as well as save your name.
Claim public profiles - By claiming your public profiles you are better able to manage what is shared about you. Plus, you can give real and insightful information to users who are actually wanting to know more about you like, your location, operation hours, etc. This will allow you to also expand your network, as you can interact with like-minded businesses on social platforms - which can further your brand awareness in the real world.
Ask for review - Be sure to ask for reviews, and regardless of whether they come in bad or good, all the reviews will provide you with the opportunity to grow
Facebook is a great platform for businesses of all types. But if you have a physical location, Facebook can act as a directory right to you (and a source for reviews). Plus, it will show users which of their friends have visited as well as provide the essentials, like your address, when you are open, and your phone number.
Step 5 – Start rewards based programs
You can use your existing customer base and network to help you out (and if you have worked on the steps above, your customer will be more than happy to oblige).
By offering a reward or incentive-based program (like a refer a friend, influencer programs, customer loyalty programs, partner programs, or ambassador program), you can provide yourself with another layer of word of mouth to occur.
Quick tips and ideas for using a rewards program.
Run an actual referral program - Referral program software creates an easy way for your customers to refer and help you build your customer base. Plus, it makes an easy segway into asking people refer as you can provide a simple link in every email you send - making it a great way to amp up your existing marketing plan.
Try a loyalty reward program - These have stuck around simply because they work. You create loyal customers who come back again and again. Eventually their loyalty translates to others - even if they don’t outright speak about it. Think of a person in your office who always brings in a coffee from a local cafe. They may not tell you personally to try it, but their regular cup is a great advertisement!
Start or participate in partner programs - Whether you think about it or not, a business in the same industry as you, who isn’t a direct competitor can be a great way to build your network. You both have similar customers, and can refer each other to customers who need help with a specific pain point that you can’t directly help with. It’s a win for you, them, and your customer.
Booking.com runs a referral program that encourages users to share with their friends, and both receive a reward for booking. This keeps the current customer coming back, while opening the door to a new customer (and incentivizing them to actually use the service).
There are a ton of tricks you can try to expand your customer base. But, it all starts with providing the best product and customer service first, as new customers come to those who truly deserve it.
Think like your customers, earn their trust, and keep your word. Everything should fall into place. But if you need to ramp it up, push for reviews and try out an incentive program.
Megan Mosley is a marketing specialist at Referral Rock, who makes referral marketing software. When Megan isn't writing, you'd be able to find her at her favorite coffee shop or exploring nearby trails.