12 Ways to Increase Word-of-Mouth Referrals

By: Thomas Young

The most powerful form of marketing is word-of-mouth referrals. This is true regardless of the size of your company or marketing budget. When generating referrals, your customers become your sales force! Who better to promote your products than loyal customers? Following are 12 things you can do to help develop word-of-mouth referrals for your business.

  1. Ask for Referrals 
    The easiest way to generate referrals is also the most important. People want to help others, especially when you are good at what you do. Let your customers know that you are looking for referrals. They will be happy to oblige and some will go out of their way to help.
  2. Be Specific 
    Provide your referral sources with a few details about your target market. If you are not specific in your request, referral sources have the entire universe to think of and will generally not be able to think of anyone. Make your referral request specific.
  3. Align with Your Customer’s Vision 
    Get inside the head of your customers and align with their vision. Be a resource; understand the needs of your customers. Referrals will come when customers realize that you really do understand them and that your goal is to help, not just make money.
  4. Develop Word-of-Mouth Marketing Promotions 
    MCI’s friends and family promotion was tremendously successful and built market share for the company that has been the key to their growth. Develop a marketing promotion plan which encourages referrals and benefits your existing customers. Make the promotion worth your customer’s time by offering valuable incentives for new referrals.
  5. Promote Client Feedback 
    Ask your clients to evaluate your products and services and provide feedback on how you measure up. Share this data with current customers and new prospects. Obviously, correct the areas in which you are deficient and remove barriers to customer service.
  6. Continue Self-Development 
    Make your organization committed to constant learning. You must expand out of the box and constantly grow and develop your knowledge and abilities or you will be left behind by the competition. Knowledge is powerful and people will come to you for expertise before they buy from you.
  7. Build a Customer Community 
    Find ways to bring customers together with other customers. This might be a chat room on your web site or other customer events sponsored by your company. This brings a community of customers together and stimulates word-of-mouth.
  8. Communicate Your Competitive Advantage 
    Understand why you are different from the competition and what sets you apart in the eyes of the customer. Communicate this message in your promotional activities. Be clear in delivering this message. It is the most important component of your direct marketing efforts and the reason people become loyal customers.
  9. Listen
    Become known as an excellent listener. This communicates that you care about others and builds an enormous amount of trust. The fact that you are the best listener customers know will be communicated to others and result in valuable referrals.
  10. Build Alliances
    Determine how you can reach your target market by developing win-win alliances with other organizations. This is very common on the Internet as sites link to each other with great results. Look for organizations that currently service your target market and find ways to help each other.
  11. Learn How to Network Properly
    Take time to learn how to network effectively. Establish a networking plan and plan on helping others, which is the key to successful networking. Read and learn more about how to network effectively and go to lunch with world-class networking professionals to ask them how they do it. They will gladly share all their secrets because that is how people network effectively.
  12. Develop a Web Site That People Talk About
    Establish a web site that catches peoples’ attention. When web surfers come across a hot site, they typically tell others about it. It is very common to email web site links to friends. Find a way to make your site unique by adding value to your target market. This value is expressed in knowledge you can provide them to help improve their business operations or personal lives.

These are a few ways to build word-of-mouth referrals for your business. Remember, there is no quick fix in sales and marketing and no substitute for excellent customer service and valuable products and services. Take the time to strengthen your marketing efforts in these areas and watch the referrals come pouring in.

Tom Young, MBA is president of Sales Training Plus, a sales training and marketing consulting firm helping companies increase revenues. He can be reached at 719-481-4040, or e-mail at  tom@intuitivewebsites.com.