Your business can’t be successful without customers. Whether it’s a product or service, you need to attract buyers and an audience. If people don’t know you exist, they won’t be purchasing your offerings.

To get the word out, you could spend thousands of dollars on a stellar and flashy marketing campaign, but there’s a simpler and cheaper way to create a following. That way is through word-of-mouth referrals based on positive customer interaction. According to research by Ambassador, word-of-mouth is the most reliable way to gain new customers and keep loyal ones returning on a consistent basis; it also accounts for 50% of all purchasing decisions. For every customer you please, they go out and share that impression with someone else. This is a great type of advertising, and it has the power to potentially reach more people than a conventional campaign.

Getting the Word Out

The idea of a low-cost marketing campaign is always appealing to business owners, but how do you conduct one? How do you create genuine word-of-mouth buzz? Here are five ways that will get you started:

1. Interact

In any way that you can, show your customers that you value their opinions, ideas and even complaints. You can set up profiles on all the social media platforms available to your business, but if you never post or reply to comments, the pages just reflect wasted effort. Buzz starts when you react to what your customers are saying and when you take the time to promote your brand. And social media is the best and simplest way to do so. Once customers see that you want to be part of their lives, they will be more willing to trust you with their money. Your word-of-mouth following grows with every like, follow or pin on social media and every opened email promotion, so take advantage of them.

2. Survey

There is a reason why companies conduct surveys: they want to know what you think. Your business can’t improve if you don’t take the time to learn about its weaknesses and strengths. Whatever those are, it comes back to whether or not the customer feels valued. That happens when he or she knows that you want to improve their experiences. As customers realize that you take their honest opinions to heart, they will tell others that your company is one that “truly cares.” This is how a word-of-mouth following begins to develop.

3. Give

People love free stuff, and your customers are no exception. So why not give them some part of what you offer for free? It could be a trial period, a free subscription or even samples of a new product. Consider having a contest in which customers can win larger items that they value. Not only will you create buzz, but your brand will also be seen as fun and hip. This can be used as an opportunity to get your name out there.

4. Discounts

Customers are more likely to try something new if there is a promotion behind it. One way to do this is by offering a limited-time deal or holiday promotion. People will be aware of approaching holidays and will plan their shopping accordingly. Take advantage of any lead times, and offer discounts in the form of standing coupons as well as one-time promotional offers in order to get new and old customers in the door.

5. Service

The best social media interaction and coupons cannot begin to compare with the word-of-mouth following that excellent customer service can provide. From every aspect of your customer’s experience, they should be happy. Your online store might feature an easy two-step purchasing process, but its ease won’t mean anything if one step doesn’t work or if the end result is a mess. Your customers won’t be happy. It is important to provide exceptional customer service and quality products regardless of your company’s size. 

To a certain extent, businesses that have a story to tell can attract customers through telling that story sincerely. After all, if you can’t tell your story, what reason do your customers have to care about it? Get enthusiastic about your business. The spark starts with your leadership and gets passed onto employees and other staff members who in turn share it with customers. Consider ways to make employees feel excited and positive about their jobs and the roles they have. When they’re energized, your customers will be energized too.

Positive word-of-mouth can propel your business to new heights, but negative word-of-mouth can cut into it just as deeply. When reading customer reviews, take the good with the bad, and learn from your experiences along the way. Give consumers a reason to talk about your brand, and your business’ word-of-mouth following will grow with each satisfied customers.