"How can I find new customers when all my working hours go into keeping my existing customers satisfied?"
This is a question asked by many small business owners who spend their days dealing with customers and don't actually have time to take care of marketing and new customer acquisition until late in the evening or on the weekend. But what would you say if you didn't have to take care of marketing your services and products yourself at all?
The Magic Words are Recommendation Marketing
Word-of-mouth, in the context of marketing, is when someone expresses an informal, evaluative opinion on a brand, product or service. It refers to direct personal communication between consumers within their social environment, such as amongst their friends.
"Recommendation management means turning random recommendation discussions into deliberate ones. After all, even enthusiastic customers will not necessarily and spontaneously think of expressing their thanks through great word-of-mouth. Creating good reasons for recommendation, plus encouraging people to pass on their recommendation, must therefore be an ongoing task for the whole company," said expert Anne M. Schüller when interviewed.
Anne Grabs, also an expert in the field, explains in her book that the reason why recommendation marketing works so effectively is that "word of a positive brand experience is shared," and that "reports and stories from other people … [are] grasped more quickly and remembered more easily than a message from an advertising poster, for example."
92% of all people trust a personal recommendation more than an advertising message.
Recommendation marketing has taken the place of mass advertising
A major advantage here is that motivating your customers to talk about you with their friends and acquaintances is something you can do while working. You don't have to invest any additional time into it – you simply have to place great value on open dialogue as a matter of principle. This builds trust among your customers, which has a positive long term impact on customer satisfaction.
Requirements for Successful Recommendation Marketing
However, trust alone is not enough to obtain a recommendation from your customers. In addition to this, the quality of your product or your service must meet your customers' requirements, and ideally exceed their expectations. Or would you recommend a second-rate product to your friends? Probably not.
So you need to make sure that what happens at your customer touchpoints is worthy of recommendation. According to Anne M. Schüller, "all business activities [must] … be designed to contribute towards positive word-of-mouth.”
Use dialogue with customers and prospects to identify potential and continuously improve your offerings. Think of criticism as an opportunity, not as a setback.
At the same time, you will also improve your communication as you learn to highlight specific features – and especially the unique selling points – of your products and services. The more precisely you describe these, and the more often and consistently you communicate them (across all your platforms), the more credible your message will be.
But it is not only your own message that counts. What other people say also matters. Alongside direct customer reviews, the opinions of "influencers" are particularly important. These are people who enjoy a very high level of trust within their own community. A recommendation from an influencer can significantly affect the number of prospects and new customers you have.
Now ask yourself, how you can earn such recommendations?
Making Active Use of Recommendation Marketing
The answer is obvious – make it as easy as possible for your customers to recommend you and your products or services. This could involve simple social sharing buttons on your website, a comment form, or a link to rating platforms such as Yelp and your Google business profile.
Actively draw your customers' attention to these recommendation opportunities. Don't be shy about explicitly asking for a review. Satisfied customers will undoubtedly be willing to do you this favor. Consider the timing of your request carefully, however, because the more quickly your customer can respond to it (for example on their smartphone), the greater the chance that they actually will.
Otherwise they will leave your premises with their mind on their next destination, and will have soon forgotten your request.
Of course, you can ask your customers for a recommendation in other ways. It need not always be in a personal conversation – you could use e-mail or social media, for instance. Managing to connect both online and offline will often put you a step ahead of your competitors.
If that sounds good to you, but you have no idea where to start, then we have a solution for you. As previously mentioned, the experiences of your current customers have a significant impact on your continued success (whether through personal recommendations to friends and family or through online recommendations in forums or on social media).
To positively influence this word-of-mouth while simultaneously connecting the online and offline worlds, Shore offers an integrated feedback function.
The application allows your customers to rate a product or service conveniently via text message or e-mail directly after purchase. All ratings are then shared with you automatically so that you can immediately respond to the feedback received.
Remember – your customers talk about their personal experience with your services whether you hear it or not. Wouldn't it be better if you could see and react to it straight away?
Whether thanks or suggestions for improvement, you will be showing real interest in your customers in both cases, and that always goes down well.
A third way to promote word-of-mouth is by using rewards. No doubt you're familiar with typical customer referral programs which are, strictly speaking, just that – rewarding your customers for referring new ones. The more attractive the rewards are, and the easier it is for your customers to receive them, the greater the likelihood of a referral. Be creative and offer your customers real added value – after all, you will benefit most in the end.
Bottom Line: Get Active!
Recommendation marketing is much more a personal attitude than outwardly directed communication. Only by developing a passion for your work and being confident in yourself and your offerings can you win over other people.