Word of Mouth: The Best Marketing Strategy for a Small Business

happy customers chatting
Read on to learn four ways to keep the customers you have, and wow them enough to spread the word.

There’s a lot of chatter these days around the importance of digital marketing and social media marketing for small, local businesses. And they’re certainly important. In fact, it would be extremely difficult to have a thriving business without digital strategies in place today. 

But let’s not forget one of the original, traditional, and pivotal forms of marketing in the midst of the whirlwind of trends: word of mouth marketing. Attracting new customers and keeping them happy so they tell their friends and family about their amazing service provider can be the single most powerful marketing tool available. Word of mouth (WOM) can be everything in terms of customer growth and revenue for a local business. 

Think back to the time you needed a leaky roof fixed, or you didn’t trust a simple Google search to find the best physician for your needs. What was your first instinct? (Fingers crossed your answer is: I asked someone I know!) Most people reach out to an individual or group they’re connected to and trust. Of course, that could mean communicating with someone in-person – literally by “word of mouth” – but in this context it could also come in the form of a question sent via a social platform or a group text. In fact, Facebook and NextDoor both offer a type of post specifically for fielding recommendations from friends and neighbors.

Regardless of how a recommendation comes, even if the advice comes from a secondary connection, their words hold more weight than any display ad or anonymous Yelp review could ever hope to hold.


92% of consumers say a recommendation from trusted friends and family members surpasses any other form of advertising. – Nielsen


Now that we’ve established word of mouth is still the best form of marketing, we need to understand how to reach that level of loyalty with customers. So how do you become that trusted business with loyal superfans? How do you provide such a great service or product that customers not only mention your business in passing, but climb up to the very top of their soapbox and shout out the praises to the masses?

The way you go about implementing client experience will vary depending on what industry you’re in. What won’t change is the need for a human connection, excellent customer service, and something that differentiates you from your competitors. Regardless of your industry, location, or the size of your business, there are tried-and-true customer experience tips every business owner should be following. Let’s walk through these key tips.




Stay True to Your Speciality

Customers have more options today than ever – they hold the buying power. So why should a potential customer choose your business over all the others they see online and on the street? It should go without saying that in order to set your business apart, you must do something different. Whether your service or product is unique, your way of adding value beyond a sale is a game-changer, or you’re known for that one thing you do to go above and beyond, make sure your customers know – over and over and over – you’re not like other “regular” businesses! Keep in mind whatever makes you special should be heavily demonstrated on your website and social media content as well. Reinforcing what sets you apart from your competitors will only help strengthen that belief in potential customers, but also those who you want to be loyal superfans. 

There are also more options available today to market your business and reach more people than we ever thought possible. While this is an exciting prospect, it can also be a huge roadblock for business owners if choices overwhelm them or if they dwell on every option at once. It can also be easy to go down the never-ending rabbit hole of trying to be too many things to too many people. One huge advantage a local business has is the ability to specialize in a way that best serves their niche market without having to generalize what’s on offer. 

Often, your client base is physically close to you, and you know what issues, concerns, or needs they deal with in your area so much better than some company across the country. Use that to your advantage! It may also be tempting to change your services to look more like a competitor, but before you do, make sure it doesn’t alter the integrity of what sets you apart or conflict with your true mission and business objectives. Just because you might have the ability to reach more people or offer a wider variety of products, doing so does not guarantee higher profits or meaningful work for your ideal clients.


Know Your Audience Well

This is not as elementary as it might sound. There’s obviously a reason you’re in a certain industry – we assume passion and expertise might have something to do with it. And we assume, too, you enjoy working with the people who seek your products or services. It’s good, however, to check in every once in a while to see if you’re still resonating with your ideal audience – or to consider whether there is an untapped market of people who could buy from you.

Think of it as a form of continuing education in your field. Perhaps you find there’s a whole other “buyer persona” who could benefit from your offerings despite not quite fitting in the box of your current target market. Different groups of consumers can have different pain points and therefore a wholly different view on how to use your expertise. If you’re willing to explore this, you might find your entire business model benefits from fresh, innovative solutions to newly presented issues. 

Start with your current customers – ask them (in person, online, or via text) what they’re benefiting from most as your customer, what they wish you offered, and what their biggest pain points are when it comes to your field. Odds are, just by reaching out and showing interest in serving their needs better, they’ll not only help you, but will remember fondly your willingness to listen. Consequently, they will let friends and family know you care. Word of mouth marketing at work.


Exceed Customer Expectations

There’s still a ton of weight to the old adage “under-promise and over-deliver.” And you can over-deliver in so many ways that there’s no excuse to just do the minimum. If you’re given a deadline or proposing a finish date, get it done a week before you tell them you will. They will more than notice. You can also tack on seemingly small, but meaningful services, upgrades, or gifts – after all, who can resist a freebie? This could look like a photographer mailing a beautiful print of the best photo they took of a client, or sending video messages to your lawn care customers on how to best care for their specific landscaping in-between your monthly visits. If you don’t know where to start, ask your current customers what they see as their biggest frustrations or lingering questions, and go from there. 

It’s not enough to be mediocre. Your customers simply won’t be motivated to tell their friends and family about you unless their experience was better than they expected. So treat every customer like they have that little blue check on social media. And if they mentioned you, their words about you could make or break your business from what they tell their following.


Collect Referrals and Testimonials

It’s not your customers’ job to talk about how great you are. But wouldn’t it be nice if they did?  Here’s the trick: Make sure it’s easy and quick for them to share about their positive experiences with your business. Your clients are way too busy to expect them to jump through any hoops to share their thoughts. That is, of course, unless there is an incentive!

If your target audience is on social media, share a giveaway for engagement. Have people like, share, and tag others in the comments of your post. Those who choose to participate are essentially telling their friends, “Hey, I align with this company (or at least with what they’re giving away), and I am willing to show my support publicly!” … without them actually having to put in the effort to say that. Not only are they already scrolling through, but it takes less than five seconds to participate in something positively associated with your brand that they’re genuinely interested in. 

You’ve seen larger companies offer discount codes and freebies when someone they refer signs on. It’s not a bad idea, even for a small business. But sometimes the quickest and easiest way to encourage customers to talk is to simply ask while you have them there, at the point of the sale. When you’re making a sale or providing a service, ask if they wouldn’t mind leaving an online review. Or if it makes sense in the moment, take a selfie with them and post it on social media thanking them for choosing you. Quick actions like this can speak louder than words. Find an engaging way to amplify your customer’s voice and they’ll take notice.

Your best ROI for marketing is a happy, returning, referring customer. If you’re interested in reaching your target audience and don’t know where to start, that’s where we can come in! We help businesses reach their ideal clients through our family of media products. Contact us today if you need help reaching your ideal customer. And use these tips to encourage them to tell their friends and family all about how great you are.