Word of Mouth Advertising: When times are tough get customers talking.

by Tom Egelhoff

Author Tom EgelhoffIf you asked 100 small business owners to name the most effective form of advertising almost all would say, “Word-of-Mouth.”

One person, referring another person to your business. How valuable is that?

The hard part is to find a way to get people talking about your business and telling others about it.

I have a weekly online business show called “Open for Business.” (Saturdays 11AM till 2 PM Mountain Time) At the beginning of each month I do a segment called “Recession Busting Businesses.”

Call in number during the show 406-522-TALK (8255)

I ask listeners to call the show and talk about businesses that are doing it right. The ones that are going the extra mile in service, products, quality, procedures and policies.

Businesses that are overcoming adversity and putting customers first.

I had hoped to get enough calls to do half an hour. I ended up getting so many calls it lasted over an hour. I also got people calling to see if someone could recommend a good business for their project.

The point is that people are out there and they appreciate what you do for them. And in some cases they appreciate you enough to go on live radio to talk about you.

So are there other ways to make your business the talk of the town?

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Build your business with testimonials

Every business has customers that “love” them. They think your employees are “rock stars.” These are the people to ask about possible testimonials in print, TV, radio and any other place you advertise.

A third party recommendation in print or TV is almost as good as the pure one-on-one, word of mouth, referral. Asking for testimonials should be a basic staple of your customer service follow-up.

Many businesses get thank you cards or letters of appreciation from customers expressing their thanks to your business.

Usually these end up pinned to a bulletin board or a book in the customer waiting area.

These are way too valuable to hide in a book or an obscure corner of your store. Instead give them the exposure they deserve. Frame them and place them throughout your store.

As people browse products and services they are exposed to a whole series of testimonials that re-enforce their confidence in your business.

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Negative word-of-mouth advertising

Unfortunately negative always carries more weight than positive. Pick up any newspaper or turn on your TV and you’ll find all the negative you could ever want or need.

If you have an unhappy customer it’s almost like business cancer. It can slowly eat away at your business reputation until it’s too late.

You can combat this cancer by making it easy for your customers to complain.

None of us like a confrontation with an unhappy customer; but they're a fact of business and learning how to deal with them will only make your business stronger.

In many cases complaints are communication problems and can often be easily handled.

Make sure your employees are empowered to handle any complaint in the event you are away from the business.

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Don't Forget To "Sell On The Phone."

How many times have you called a business and the person answering the phone was, to put it kindly, less than professional. Did that make you feel like calling again?

Did you get a bad first impression?

The person answering your phone is one of your most important employees. Someone took the time to look up your number, dial it and ask a question.

That is a potential customer you could gain or lose depending on how they are handled.

A smiling, happy, confident, knowledgeable, professional person should always be answering your phone.

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The Last Word on Word-of-Mouth

Every live contact with a customer is a word-of-mouth opportunity. You are not selling you are trying to build a long term business relationship with everyone you meet.

Give them a good reason to talk about you and watch the bottom line go from red to black.

Tom Egelhoff’s book, “How to Market, Advertise and Promote Your Business or Service in Your Own Backyard,” is available in bookstores everywhere. Hear Tom on “Open for Business” online every Saturday - 11:30AM to 2:00 PM Mountain Time. Tom’s web site is Small Town Marketing.

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