Word-of-mouth campaigns can be a valuable tool in your business's overall marketing strategy. They often generate quality referrals because customers rely on recommendations from trusted sources more than they do from advertisements. Additionally, the costs associated with running a successful word-of-mouth campaign are usually a fraction of what a traditional advertising campaign can run.
But what you save in dollars spent you will need to replace with time and effort. On top of delivering the highest quality product or service possible, you'll need to plan and execute a schedule of networking events that will put you in front of people and begin to build your credibility.
Below, I've assembled a list of 10 credibility-enhancing materials that you should have at your disposal in order to make the most of every networking opportunity and ultimately build a successful word-of-mouth campaign. Not every item should be used at the first point of contact with a potential client or someone who can refer clients to you.
For the Early Networking Stages:
1. A one-page flyer.
Have a brief overview of your business ready to pass along at all times in case you meet someone while networking who wants to quickly pass along your information to a prospective client he or she knows. You should have a hard copy to fax and an electronic copy to email.
2. Question-and-answer sheets.
One of the quickest ways to learn about a person's business as a networker, and for him or her to learn about yours, is to make the initial meeting as organized as possible. A sheet with questions that you can each ask each other can ensure you don't forget to find out the information that could lead to a quick referral.
3. Testimonial letters from satisfied clients.
This can be one of the most effective ways to showcase the quality of the products or services you provide. You can keep hard copies in a binder or post them to your website. If you have a LinkedIn profile, ask the clients in your network to "recommend" you.
4. Photos of yourself, your office facilities, products and awards.
Having a professional photo of yourself is important for promotional opportunities and for your social media profiles. Photos of your office or business operation and products help to legitimize your business and gain credibility. Also consider having photos of awards and certificates you and your staff have earned.
5. Items that explain your business.
These can include: your annual report, mission statement or a written history of your company. You can also use information published articles, results from surveys created and compiled by you or by others in your industry, presentation notes or slides, your advertisements, or multimedia presentations.
For the Later Networking Stages:
6. New-product or service announcements.
As you network, make sure the people who might potentially hire you or refer others to you are immediately informed when you offer new products or services or if you are expanding operations. The best way to do this is through press releases and announcements. In addition to submitting these to news outlets, you can hand them out at meetings or post them online. Also consider having brochures, data sheets and catalogs for your current products and services.
7. A list of your memberships and affiliations.
This can be helpful when meeting someone for the first time, to see if you have mutual acquaintances or business associates. It may also lead to an introduction to someone in one of your organizations to whom you have been hoping to be introduced.
8. Articles you have published or in which you're mentioned.
Writing articles, or being mentioned in them, is a great way to become known as an expert in your field. People often prefer doing business with experts.
9. Client or customer proposals, bid sheets, or marketing letters.
Keeping this information top-of-mind will come in handy if you are at a networking event and have the opportunity to talk to a prospective client in depth. The prospect may have a specific need that is similar in scope to jobs you have already bid on. Having the ability to quickly refer to previously-completed proposals may give you an edge with the prospect.
10. News reports on trends affecting your target market.
Keeping up with issues and news items that are important to people can enable you to have targeted conversations with prospects. Then, ideally, you'll be able to discuss your related products and services and turn those prospects into clients.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.