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Word of Mouth Marketing: A Great Summer Challenge!

Want more customers this summer? Do your fellow local merchants know your inventory and service menu? Do they have the confidence to recommend that a customer should head your way when their own business can’t fulfill a need?

Intriguing questions, and your answers matter, because WOMM is powerful. Consider that:

Those numbers prove why businesses need to offer exceptional experiences that lead to being remembered and referred from family to family and friend to friend.

But what if you could formalize this experience beyond hoping your local business is earning personal word-of-mouth referrals? What if you upped the game to get your competitors to refer customers to you?

The Traditional Craftsmanship Behind Real-World WOM

My recent Google search for repairs for an heirloom table brought up half-a-dozen furniture makers in my small city. I called one with whom I’d had a previous transaction and the owner let me know he didn’t have time for repairs but could refer me to another craftsman across town.

“We’ve both been in business here for 30 years, so we know one another. I know he does good work,” he explained.

In other words, a relationship of longstanding had been developed, making Business A confident in recommending Business B. Far from being a case of one owner jealously hoarding prospects from fear of the competition, there was a spirit of generosity here that put my needs, as the customer, first.

But what if the business you’re marketing is newer, and doesn’t have a spare 30 years to build this type of golden relationship? Consider these practical solutions for jumpstarting the process:

Make List #1

  1. First, identify related local companies with some overlap in offerings. Identify your specialties and, also, any products/services you’ve chosen not to offer. Examples: a caterer that provides everything for weddings but the cake, a therapist who councils couples but not youths, or a kitchen store that stocks All-Clad but not Revere Ware.
  2. Now, take an on-or-offline trip through the offerings of your competitors to see if they provide what you don’t and vice versa. Document these findings.
  3. Next, document any direct competitors with identical offerings to whom you’d feel confident sending customers you can’t serve. Examples of this would include your hotel being booked up, your client stable being full or, your auto garage being unable to offer a same-day appointment.

Make List #2

Now, write up your core offerings in a bare-essentials list format that would be easy for anyone to quickly scan. For a kitchen store, this might look like:

Dream Kitchen:

  • Revere Ware, T-Fal, KitchenAid, Cuisineart and Oxo products
  • Cooking demos every Saturday 12-5 in our store kitchen
  • Featured in Cooking, Chef’s and Living magazines
  • 10% senior discount
  • Open 9-6, 7 days a week, at 123 Main St. Call (222) 222-1222 or visit www.dreamkitchen.com

Launch Your Outreach

Your community’s character and your personal style come into play when reaching out to other businesses. Possible options:

  1. Print your list #2 on a postcard or magnet and hand deliver it to the owners in list #1. Start conversations and ask them to make similar lists that will help you quickly refer customers their way as opportunities present themselves.
  2. Reach out via email or social media with your list and request.
  3. Publish the list on your website’s partners page and ask phone owners to share it and chat about your campaign to connect up related local businesses.
  4. If you belong to any local business organization, bring a stack of #2 lists to the next meeting and make a quick presentation.
  5. Emphasize sharing list #2 with all staff, so that it can be accessed and used in the most convenient manner.

If you discover interest from any of the above, consider launching an official business-to-business referral program in your community. Build direct incentives, social recognition or access to a loyalty program into the system. You can grow beyond simply referring customers to other businesses in your industry to gaining a greater sense of what many types of local businesses offer, enabling you to refer new neighbors and travelers to great places for a wide variety of needs.

When a customer comes to you for a need you can’t fulfill, providing a referral puts you in the place of a family member or friend. By initiating and formalizing local business-to-business relationships, you will be creating a network of allies across your city, united by the goal of increasing business for all parties by matching trusted associates to consumer needs whenever opportunities arise.

Miriam Ellis

Contributed By: Miriam Ellis

Miriam Ellis founded her company, www.solaswebdesign.net, in 2003 and has been actively engaged in Local Search Marketing for over a decade. She also works for Moz, supporting Moz Local, blogging about Local and answering Local questions in the Moz Q&A forum.


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