How to get customer referrals to grow your small business

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Small and home businesses don't typically have large marketing and advertising budgets available at their disposal. As a result, the smaller companies have to come up with creative and inexpensive ways to increase visibility.

Customer recommendations are one of the best ways to spread the word about a small or home business. If you want to get customers to recommend your products, here are a few simple strategies you can integrate as part of your marketing process:

Provide premium customer service

The bottom line is customer service matters. Companies today cannot afford to treat consumers rudely, badly or with indifference; there is way too much competition in any given industry to risk offering terrible service to customers, potential customers or even website visitors.

In addition, if a customer receives poor service and is annoyed or dissatisfied enough, chances are an account of the situation could end up spread across the Internet in the form of negative social media posts or poor online reviews. People are typically not shy about voicing their discord when it comes to poor customer service.

In the online environment, it is even more important to put efforts into developing strong customer service practices because the face-to-face element is lacking; in order to provide premium customer service, a lot of effort should be invested to make the experience personalized and pleasant.

Good customer service is vital to growing customer loyalty.

Social media marketing / Content strategy

Social media marketing is mainstream in today’s marketing plans and many businesses have long jumped on the bandwagon. If yours hasn’t, you should consider it. There are many benefits to social media marketing – if done right. Through the various social networks, companies can effectively:

  • Have direct and fast contact with consumers
  • Spread the word through satisfied customers
  • Sucessfully grow a fan-based community
  • Higher visibility and repeat exposures

Engagement is key and someone should be responding to comments and inquiries. Additionally, interesting content is one of the top reasons why people follow brands on social media (Demand Metric - infographic linked below). Companies that invest time spent on networks, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (to name a few), allow people to follow, become a fan, or simply share information about a business in their own social contacts. A company blog is also a good initiative and can be used to grow both authority and a fan-based community on a small business' website.

Speaking of blogs, they can play an important role in a content strategy. Did you know 68 percent of people spend time reading about brands they are interested in? If that isn't a good enough reason for small businesses to invest in content, maybe the stat that highlights 70 percent of people surveyed indicated they would rather learn about a company through content than an advertisement? (courtesy: Demand Metric infographic).

The good news is that small businesses with limited marketing budgets can start a blog for free using basic blog tools. Blogging doesn't have to be daily, even once a week or twice a month can go a way to establishing a positive online presence that people will want to interact with.

Encourage customer reviews

Businesses who genuinely care what customers think actively seek out feedback. Customer reviews can be encouraged and the feedback evaluated. For instance, if a customer posts a positive review about the business, this is golden. Aside from being free marketing, what better recommendation than to have consumers give a thumbs up for the rest of the Internet to see?

If certain aspects of the business aren't working, then the business can take these comments and use them to make changes to incorporate customer suggestions. What customer wouldn't be pleased to learn his or her comments paid off and the business took a suggestion? Being open-minded to customer reviews are likely to result in an increased number of recommendations and people will appreciate being given what they ask for. There is always room for improvement. Always consider feedback.

Free samples and trial periods

Offering free samples for products and trial periods for services is a way to get consumers to try out what's being offered. Many consumers are attracted to free offers and if the product turns out good enough to make a conversion, chances are people will refer the freebie offers to their friends and family to try. Samples are a great way to increase both visibility and awareness about a product.

Referral programs

Enticing customers with bonuses for referring customers is another way to pass business forward. Customers who have an incentive to spread the word about a company are likely to spend more time promoting the product or services available.

Marketing for small and home businesses can be a challenge due to budgetary and staff constraints, however, by investing efforts into ways to get customers to help participate in the marketing process, everyone can be a winner.


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