Pssst! Have you heard the news? There’s nothing like word-of-mouth marketing to boost your business. Whether in the form of a face-to-face recommendation or a glowing online review, word-of-mouth marketing is a free, easy way to spread the word about your business and keep customers flocking to it. So, how can you make a powerful impression on people and get them talking? Create buzz about your business right now with these 10 tactics:

1. Turn unhappy customers into loyal fans

One bad customer experience doesn’t have to result in a scathing review of your business. It’s the way you respond to unhappy customers that determines what they say about you. Turn the bad experience around by making the customer feel valued, and you’ll create a loyal fan who will tell others about your amazing service. First, listen to the customer’s complaint. Then do all you can to make it right, fast.

For example, if a diner isn’t happy with their meal, offer to prepare it again or remove it from the bill. Or, if a customer orders a product from your online store and it arrives damaged, apologize and immediately ship a replacement product at no additional charge.

2. Get listed on multiple review websites

The more places your business is listed, the easier it is for consumers seeking businesses like yours to find you. Yelp, Angie’s List, Google Local and TripAdvisor are just some of the top places your business needs to be listed online.

Online searchers most frequently seek business hours of operation, pricing information, business location and directions. Many also put great stock in online reviews by other customers, with 88 percent trusting these reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Shampooches Dog Grooming in Alton, Illinois, was tough to find on popular business listing websites. To help the business connect with new clients, the marketing team at Deluxe advised owner Alicia Jeffreys to find and update her listings with her current hours of operation, new photos, and contact information. Within one month, Shampooches’ refreshed listings received more than 1,000 views!

Get your listings in order by scanning the dozens of websites where you could be listed, claiming your listings and verifying the information is correct.

3. Respond to online customer reviews

When you respond to a positive customer review, it shows you care. Write up a thoughtful response to thank the reviewer for their kind words. A good rule of thumb is to spend the most time replying to those customers who spent the most time on your review.

But what about negative reviews? You certainly don’t want to ignore them; that won’t make them disappear! According to a recent survey by BrightLocal, 30 percent of reviewers judge local businesses based on their responses or lack thereof. For that reason, it’s best for the business owner or general manager to formulate a polite, prompt response. Hearing from a leader at your company shows your online community that customer happiness is your first priority. It might even inspire a change of heart from your negative reviewer and an online conversation about how much you value your customers.

Check out our handy do’s and don’ts of online reviews for more help with responding the right way.

4. Ask for referrals

Customer referrals are one of the top ways to grow your business. But you should never assume people are going to automatically tell friends and family about your company. Get in the habit of asking for a referral from every satisfied customer. During or after every job or sale, remind your happy clients that their referrals are the highest compliment and you appreciate them telling friends and family about your offerings. Just be sure to reward them with a perk or incentive for helping you build your business.

5. Get testimonials

While you’re at it, why not ask customers for a testimonial? If you don’t want to ask people in person, you can email them a survey or use your website to ask, like The Happy Chocolatier does:

6. Make customers feel special

Want customers to remember and talk about your company? Make them feel valued by giving them a little something extra. It needn’t be expensive, just thoughtful. Add a handwritten thank-you note to customer orders or treat them to a small gift to turn them into loyal fans and get them raving about your business.

For example, Shampooches Dog Grooming gives handwritten postcards to first-time clients and customers who adopt a new dog. Owner Alicia Jeffreys also sends customized condolence cards to her customers who tragically lose a beloved pet. Whether they’re celebrating happy moments or going through a sad time, Jeffreys aims to make a special connection with her customers.

7. Dazzle with packaging

Sometimes product packaging can be more of a conversation starter than what’s inside the box. Tech items are amongst the most-watched unboxing videos on the internet. After all, who doesn’t love unwrapping a shiny new gadget? Give your customers that “wow” factor by packaging your products with customized bags, boxes and tissue paper. Then, when they re-use your packaging, your business logo makes an impression on a new potential customer.

8. Get a creative marketing hook

Pique customers’ curiosity with a compelling marketing hook that captures their attention, evokes their emotions and leaves them wanting more. A creative hook can be any of the following:

  • A short phrase that conveys your unique selling proposition
  • A “slant” or angle for your business
  • A catchy jingle, message or unique offer
  • An intriguing story
  • An important benefit

Here are some examples:

  • UNO Pizzeria & Grill: “We’re the Guys that Invented Deep-Dish. You’re Welcome.”
  • Hans’ Bakery: “Our Texas donuts are as big as your head!”
  • Matt’s Bar: “Home of the Original ‘Jucy Lucy'”
  • Moxie: “Distinctively Different”
  • Lucila’s Homemade Alfajores uses storytelling to appeal to readers’ emotions and make them hungry:

9. Captivate with an online contest

There’s nothing like a contest to get people excited and talking about your business. You can run them on a variety of platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and your website. And they’re a great way to expand your social media audience and get free personal endorsements of your brand. Here are some ideas:

  • Ask people to answer a question, like: “What do you like most about our products?”
  • Inspire participants to create a short video that shows why they love your brand.
  • Host a contest where participants have to “like” or “tag a friend” in order to be entered to win.
  • Encourage folks to share their favorite tips for using your products.

Whatever type of contest you decide to run, you’re bound to create a fun, engaging experience that will strengthen your relationship with your audience and customers.

10. Feed the need for knowledge

Create a blog to get people talking about your company and attract new customers to your website. Include useful information, such as tips about your products and answers to the questions most frequently asked by your readers, and they’ll keep coming back for more. Remember to add social media sharing buttons to make it easy for them to share your post with others.

According to the Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Report, 83 percent of people trust recommendations from friends and family, and two-thirds say they trust consumer opinions posted online. That’s why it’s crucial to incorporate word-of-mouth marketing into your plan. Why sit back and wait for your happy customers to promote your business? Use these tactics to inspire them to shout about it from the rooftops.

Not a marketer? Not a problem.

This downloadable guide covers marketing in 8 easy-to-understand sections — each filled with professional tips and advice you can put into practice right away.

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