Word-of-mouth marketing is often considered one of the oldest and most powerful forms of advertising. In fact, most business people understand that it works–they just don’t know how it works.
If you want to be successful at developing word-of-mouth for your business, you should be as organized and thoughtful about it as you are about other types of advertising and marketing. In fact, if you take this approach, eventually, you can get most of your business exclusively through word-of-mouth! The key to creating a successful word-of-mouth program lies in developing a formal plan for systematically meeting people and cultivating relationships with them. Here are ten ways for you to get your own word-of-mouth marketing program off the ground.
Avoid being a cave dweller.
Get out and meet people. Start by setting a goal for the number of appointments you’ll establish with people you wish to develop networking relationships with every week. Social capital works for everybody, not just people who set out purposefully to become networkers.
Ask for the referral.
There are specific techniques you can learn and develop that will help you hone your ability to ask for the referrals you want. One such technique is to ask “Who do you know who…?” You would then list several types of people you can help, such as someone who is new to the area, someone recently married or someone who has just started a business.
Join three networking groups.
Consciously select at least three different business or networking groups to join in the next three months. These groups might include chambers of commerce, community service groups and trade associations. When joining various organizations, make sure you select a well-rounded mix of business groups in which to participate. Try to avoid being in more than one group per category (i.e., two chambers of commerce), as this will divide your loyalties and put you in a position where you’ll be making promises to too many people.
Create referral incentives.
Develop a creative incentive to encourage people to send referrals your way. A music store owner, for instance, sends music tickets to people who refer business to him. Another example is the chiropractor who posts thank-yous on a bulletin board in his waiting area to all his patients who referred patients to him the previous month.
Learn, learn, learn for lifelong learning.
Spend time developing your networking skills. Read books and articles on networking, listen to tapes, and talk to people who network well. Networking is an acquired skill.
Act like a host.
When attending a business mixer, act like a host, not a guest. You are wasting your time at mixers if you stand around visiting with coworkers or others you already know rather than meeting new contacts and introducing them around. These events offer a great way to increase your visibility! If appropriate, ask to be the ambassador or visitor host in the organizations to which you belong. As such, it will be your official duty to meet people and introduce them to others.
Create an elevator pitch.
Invest time in developing a brief message about your business that explains what you do. What would you say? I want you to keep in mind that this is not a sales pitch; it is a creative and succinct way to generate interest in the listener. When you introduce yourself to others, use your elevator pitch. Chances are, this will help them remember you and what you do. Keeping these seven rules in mind when you create an elevator pitch will set you apart from the crowd.
Take notes and follow up.
When you meet someone and exchange cards, take a few moments to flip the card over and jot down some information about them or their business that will help you remember them and follow up with them later. This is a very simple, yet powerful, way to make a great first impression that can be developed into a mutually beneficial networking partnership. When you follow up, I recommend that you offer opportunities, whether a simple piece of information, a special contact, or a qualified business referral.
Talk less and listen more.
Remember that a good networker has two ears and one mouth and uses them accordingly. Our success in networking depends on how well we can listen and learn. The faster you and your networking partner learn what you need to know about each other, the faster you’ll establish a valuable relationship.
Collaborate and help others.
People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Helping people shows that you care. Connect with people outside of business meetings whenever possible. Drop notes, letters and articles that might be of interest to them in the mail. Call to check in with them or invite them to events you may be attending that might be of interest.
You are potentially linked to a vast network beyond your own sphere. By implementing the tactics above, you will receive benefits from that network. Maximize your opportunities to cultivate networking relationships with others, and you will see just how effective word-of-mouth marketing can be!