Let’s be serious. Nobody wakes up and decides to tell all their friends and family what a great place TOP’s Restaurant is! Marketers who want to take advantage of word-of-mouth communications need to take a more subtle approach. We take customers that arrive on personal recommendation but do little to cheer them to carry on the tradition of spreading the word.
I have outlined few ideas you could use for stimulating your customers to recommend your service:
- Catchphrase - You can’t go wrong in asking customers who express satisfaction to tell their friends. They might be more inclined to do so if you ask them and it will surely do no harm.
- Enticement - Direct marketing companies and subscription magazines have used the recommend-a-friend enticement as an effective way of bringing in new custom. By offering a gift, discount or other reward to customers who recruit new customers provides a positive benefit to the person “spreading the news”. There is a limit to the approach since (as multi-level marketing and pyramid selling have shown) there is a fine line between a fair enticement and exploiting friendships.
- Aiming opinion formers - Certain people get listened to more or simply speak to more people than most folk. We can call these “opinion formers” since their influence is greater because of the breadth of their contacts. Religious leaders, publicans, postmen and the Tupperware lady all speak to great numbers of people. Targeting your message here can have an effect that exceeds a similar but untargeted approach.
- Speaking to groups – There are ample of local organizations that need speakers each and every week. Offering yourself as a speaker can result in positive and favourable word-of-mouth. Even better – offer a discount or other incentive to the people you speak with. Not only will they be more likely to use you but it creates a further positive spin and encourages the listeners to “spread the word”.
- Setting up a group - Found your own club. Let your customers run it and provide facilities, advice and other support. They’ll feel closer to you – almost a part of the business – and be more inclined to tell their friends. The club needn’t be too formal but should have a purpose and someone to lead it.
- Running a newsletter - Don’t be too fancy. Just couple of pages of thoughts, ideas, product information and customer comment. Get customers to contribute with letters, stories or ideas. Nowadays you can even extend the newsletter by setting up a Web site.
- Giving away free gifts - Reward your habitual customers with some free product or service. Don’t make this too formal a process, simply take advantage of one of their visits to thank them by giving a free coffee or meal, service or whatever you offer. You can be sure that they will tell their friends just how good you are and maybe even encourage their friends to try you out.
These are just a few examples of how to get people talking about what you do. There will be plenty of other ideas inside your head. Sit down. Fish out a few thoughts and try them out. Most service companies are part of the community. Act like you are and you will get the benefit of others treating you as a friend rather than as a mere business. And once you’re a friend people want their other friends to meet you.
Spreading the word should be a key element of service communications strategy.