Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you had tons of happy clients who raved to their friends and colleagues about how great you are to work with and how much they love the ways you captured their special moments? You could gain so many new referrals without any advertising costs! Ah, the good ‘ole days when word of mouth meant people actually talked to each other.

Now, of course, social media is where we “talk” to our friends about our experiences with businesses. You can find Word of Mouth (WOM) Marketing in conversations on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc. If you know how to do it well, being part of the conversation is a cheap and effective way to advertise your business.

I know you understand WOM can have a huge impact on the growth of your business. Yet, I also know many of you don’t quite grasp how to use these social media tools to your advantage (and it does take a little practice). The most common mistake is to forget that marketing is an ongoing series of posts, tweets, and blogs—it’s not a one-time effort. No matter how carefully crafted that one post is, it’s soon to be buried and forgotten.

How to use social media successfully

The first step is to recognize that WOM marketing can prove to be the best OR worst advertising for your business. If clients don’t like your service or product, they will spread the word faster than you can imagine. Scary but true. More people talk about their bad experiences than those who had good ones. People just seem to be wired that way, so be prepared—and don’t give them anything to complain about!

The second step is to recognize (and this is contrary to what most people assume) brand differentiation is based on more than your price or product. Sure, you have your own style and hopefully have been able to carve out a nice niche for yourself. But in our sluggish economy, what can set you apart even more is customer experience.

Surveys show that 86 percent of customers will pay more for a better experience, and my recent Waikiki vacation with my daughter is a good example. Our entire hotel stay from the service, staff, and rooms was so mediocre that I wrote not one, but two reviews on Expedia and TripAdvisor. Next time, I am prepared to pay a bit more for a hotel where I can expect to be impressed.

Turn strangers into friends and friends into customers

That is marketing guru Seth Godin’s advice. After you accomplish this, the next step is even more important. Seth adds, turn your customers into salespeople. But how can you do that? By starting the conversation…

You engage in mindful communication and you don’t clutter their inboxes with useless stuff. On your social media outlets, you provide information or giveaways that are of interest and value to your followers and customers. When your followers share and comment on your posts, they are advertising and selling your business for you. That’s when you’ll know your WOM marketing strategies are on the right track. Free, genuine promotion. How great is that?

Here is an excellent article about the right approach to WOM marketing.

Happy customers

Testimonials and surveys are a great way to find out what people think of your service or product. But a word of caution: keep surveys short and simple with five questions at most. What did you like best about your experience with us? In what area(s) do you think we can improve? Give SurveyMonkey.com at try. It’s an easy, popular tool that can suit any business.

And remember that relationships take time, so focus on building more of them instead of jumping to make a quick sale. Let your business stand out by its mission, excellence, professionalism, and sincere customer connections.

Have you had good or bad experiences with WOM marketing in your business? I’d love to hear what works (and didn’t work) for you!

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