Read Their Lips

Let your customers do the talking with word-of-mouth marketing.
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This story appears in the May 2000 issue of Startups. Subscribe »

When it comes to chatting up your homebased business, there's nothing more helpful or economical than effective word-of-mouth marketing. Stop and think about it: If you see an ad proclaiming that one office supply store has the best prices on answering machines, but your friend tells you another store actually has lower prices, who are you going to believe? You're obviously going to believe your friend, because he or she has no agenda, and therefore is a credible source.

The same applies when it comes to word-of-mouth referrals. Some of the most successful homebased marketers are those who are able to take their base of happy clients and encourage them to share their satisfaction with friends and peers. While word-of-mouth techniques vary, you can generally expect positive results if you do the following:

  • Call your satisfied customers and ask them to call one potential client for you. Most people are happy to do this, and these days especially, help like this is considered "good karma." As they say, what goes around comes around. Another way to handle this: After you complete a project with a satisfied client, ask that client to fill out a feedback card and ask for one referral.
  • Similarly, always ask for the names of potential customers and the right to use the satisfied client's name in a conversation with a potential customer.
  • Ask for permission to use your satisfied client's name and any testimonials ("She made my business more profitable in just three months" or "His product increased my efficiency 30 percent") in any print advertising or direct campaigns.
  • Whenever a new client does business with you, ask how he or she heard about you. When the client tells you he's been referred by "Harry," make sure the next time Harry stops by, he gets a sincere thank-you and maybe even a discount or freebie.
Edition: July 2017

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