Three Steps to Harness the Power of Word of Mouth for your Business Word of mouth is an important first step in marketing a small to mid-size business, and it is critical for a successful start to a new business operating on a limited budget. After launch, word of mouth continues to play an important role in getting your business in front of the customers you want. Word of mouth can be among the most effective tools for spreading the word about your business – what it does right and what it needs to do better. For more established businesses, referrals are key components of word of mouth marketing. This is something that we will discuss in detail another time. Now, we are looking at how to harness the power of word of mouth for a new, emerging business. Harness the Power of Word of Mouth for Your Small Business
Define Your Audience
Friends, family and former colleagues can be great testing grounds for your elevator speech, and you certainly want to keep them informed about your new business as it progresses through development and launch. These individuals, who you do want to talk about your business, are not necessarily your target audience. They may, however, have access to your target audience, so you want to inform them with your message and explain the core value of your business in a way that is clear and repeatable. Your target audience is the group of individuals whose needs you most fit. This is the group that you most want talking about, and receiving the message about, your business. Your target audience is aligned with your product, service or mission, as well as your price point. This means that, if you are an education consulting company that helps high school students apply to top tier colleges, your audience is not simply all high school students and their parents. Rather, your target audience is high achieving high school students with involved parents that make education in general, and higher education in particular, a priority. To get to know your target audience, learn how they process information and make decisions. Find out who they have worked with previously and what types of businesses they have purchased products or services from. Understanding who your audience is helps you to target your message, set sales and marketing expectations, and to start on a path toward a successful customer-provider relationship.
Find Your Audience
Once you define your audience, you need to find your audience. This includes determining where and how they gather information before making decisions. In the example of the education consulting company, this means gathering information on local high schools of all types in the regions where you want to start working. You may keep it local at first, to make travel budgets manageable, or you may have other criteria for determining your target audience location. Social media is a useful and affordable way to find your audience and to observe and gather data about their behavior, all with the goal of meeting the needs of your audience and communicating to them in ways that are most compelling to them – communicating in ways that make it easy for your audience to say yes to you.
Inform Your Audience
To harness the power of word of mouth, you need to keep your message clear and consistent when you are communicating directly with your target audience and when you are communicating with influencers (like your friends, family and colleagues) who have access to your target audience. In addition to the active communication that you undertake – speaking with, emailing, posting on social media – to stimulate word of mouth conversations around your business or brand, make sure that you have the more passive communication pieces in place so that when your audience does research to move from the position of prospective client to new client, they find answers to their questions about your business that are consistent with what they have heard. The more passive communications and marketing pieces include your website; articles you have published or articles that have been written about you; e-books or downloads on your site or affiliated sites; and other print and digital content that articulate who you are and what you do. An informed, educated audience is an audience that is ready for the provider-customer relationship, an audience that can grow into continuing clients and advocates for your brand, expanding the reach of word of mouth and participating in conversations about the value you provide in meaningful ways.