It's what every marketer wants- boatloads of customers talking about its products, posting detailed reviews online and tweeting about its brand far and wide. And for good reason: Authentic recommendations from a friend or "someone like me" are far more influential than anything a marketer can buy. In a world dominated by social networks, consumer buzz can make a brand stand out amidst the noise and reap real- world profits. When it comes to swaying consumers, nothing beats word of mouth. That’s because, 92 percent of people trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising when making a purchase decision

The number one reason people pick one product over another — or even pick up a product in the first place — is due to recommendations from people they know. In other words, through word of mouth.

Basics
Word-of-mouth advertising means that your customers tell other people about your business and their experience using your company. This type of advertising happens naturally in many cases when people want to share their experience with those they know. A customer is more likely to recommend your company based on an exceptional experience they have. Consistent quality service is essential, but your company also needs to stand out in terms of service, offerings, store design or other elements that make customers remember you long enough to refer someone else to you.

Benefits
Because the recommendation comes from someone familiar, the person on the receiving end of word-of-mouth advertising may be more receptive to the message. A trusted friend or colleague is a more reliable source than a random ad in the newspaper or a jingle on TV. Word-of-mouth advertising also costs your business nothing, so it certainly is a cost-effective way to get the word out about your business. The cost savings is particularly beneficial for start-up businesses without a large marketing budget.

But is there a formula to making a product conversation-worthy? And more importantly, is there a way to keep that conversation going over time? Like most small business owners, you probably spend considerable time and money on marketing to attract new customers. word-of-mouth marketing is the most trusted form of advertising, and customers were far more likely to buy a product that had been recommended by a friend than one they’d seen an advertisement for. Here are some tips for getting your business’ name on the street organically and bringing in new customers

1. Network, network, network.

The importance of building a good network of business contacts can’t be overstated. Join your local chamber of commerce and attend events frequently, giving a business
card or two to everyone you speak with. Be sure that you have a good elevator pitch about what your business does, but don’t get too sales-y—making a new connection is the important part; you can always follow up later to talk business. You might also consider joining a group that’s specifically targeted at building referrals.

2. Focus on great customer service.

Customer service should be a prime concern for any business owner, but when it comes to building referrals, you’ll want to go above and beyond what’s necessary. For instance, if you own a restaurant and a customer comes in requesting a gluten-free menu option, don’t just tell their to get a salad — talk her through the entire menu, discussing the ways you can customize each item to suit her needs. They’ll likely be so impressed by your concern that they’ll recommend your business to all of their friends.

3. Keep customer testimonials fresh.

According to research, 64 percent of consumers read online reviews before making purchasing decisions. This means that it is critical for your business to feature
customer testimonials and reviews on your website. While encouraging positive reviews on third-party sites is great, don't forget to display them on your own site as well. In fact, testimonial pages can have a big impact on SEO Consider how often people search for the term "reviews" along with your company name. Would you rather they land on the reviews you've placed on your site or on a review site that gives them easy access to your competitors as well?

These are one of the easiest ways of doing Word-of-Mouth Marketing and hence try and get as many positive testimonials and reviews as you can get, from your clients/customers and place them on your website. These are extremely effective in catching web-readers attention and inspiring them for buying it, also because now- a-days most of the people tend to read reviews before purchasing anything or availing services from. So it will help you in boosting your sales and will also create a good-will among readers.

4. Woo your influencers.

Influencers are people who naturally like to talk about products or services they have had good experiences with, and have a strong online social network with whom to
share their opinions. For Vail Resorts, their influencers consist of ski and snowboard enthusiasts who live near one of their winter resorts. Vail Resorts recruited these enthusiasts to be part of its “Snow Squad” and armed them with lift passes, one-click video cameras, and online tools to create and share testimonials about their skiing and snowboarding experiences. Not only did the Snow Squad generate lots of buzz and excitement in the resort areas, but Vail Resorts was able to use the content they created to market to a wider audience online.

For small businesses, think about who your enthusiasts are, and provide them the tools (product samples, t-shirts, website links — whatever makes sense for your business) to talk about your product face-to-face as well as online.

5. Authenticity is key.

Consumers know that you're not going to feature a review from an unhappy customer on your website, so they naturally factor this in when reading information on your site. This doesn't mean that reviews on your site aren't influential. In fact, there is strong evidence that they have a significant influence on conversion — but they need to be credible and authentic

The key — no models, no canned quotes — real people with real reviews. A great way to do this is to include photos with the review. Seeing photos of your work helps build credibility and allows consumers to feel confident that the review they are reading is from an actual customer and hasn't simply been manufactured.

6. Sharing makes the referral go-round.

Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are all great places to expand your reach and influence. Every time you post a new review on your site, you should also be posting it on social channels that make sharing it easy. Even better, give your customers a way to automatically share their reviews on their own social channels when they submit their reviews to your site: one click, many places.

Technology has made creating and sharing customer reviews as simple as snapping a picture, writing a few words and hitting send. By making sure each review is shared instantly across as many platforms as possible, small businesses can develop word- of-mouth marketing programs that, with a single click, can reach thousands.

7. Provide targeted conversation starters through social ads.

Through the micro-targeted advertising that can be done in social media through the likes of Facebook Ads (pun intended), we can now provide visuals and dialogue in a relevant way to spark conversations in social media that, if done right, can get people online and offline talking about your brand in an extremely targeted fashion. Remember, these ads are not about pushing your product but about starting a conversation!

8. Create social media content that is begging to be shared.

While tweets limit you to 140 characters, video as a type of social media content is of the most viral forms of media, so take advantage of this fact by creating YouTube videos that are begging to be shared. Here is one site that suggests a formula for the types of videos that have a better chance of becoming viral and sparking word of mouth. While social media posts are often personal, images and videos are often things that we want to share and experience with others, so take advantage of this to your brand’s benefit.

9. Do as many favors as you can.

When it comes to your contacts, focus more on what you can do to help them than on how they can help you. Be generous with introductions and advice, and even consider joining nonprofit boards for causes that are important to your business associates. Forget about an immediate expectation of quid pro quo. Simply focus on being as helpful as possible, and you’re likely to see your efforts pay dividends in the form of referrals in the long run.

10. Unleash your employees.

The best word-of-mouth marketers for your business can be right under your nose: your employees. Employees often know your product like the back of their hand, but may not necessarily know how to use this knowledge in the online world. The electronics retailer Best Buy created a Twitter handle dubbed Twelpforce to answer customer questions through Twitter, made up of Best Buy tech pros who answered customer questions in Best Buy stores. By hooking up these pros to smart phones or computers, they were able to extend their expertise to help customers anywhere that customer had access to Twitter. The Twitter conversations also served as a word-of- mouth marketing tool for Best Buy since the responsiveness and helpfulness of the Twelpforce was available for all to see.

For small businesses, think about the expertise each employee has in your business, and how that expertise could be unleashed online to help customers. Then think about how those online customer interactions could be used to help market your business.

11. Do market research with a clear goal in mind.

Large corporations are very keen on market research in order to understand how well they’re doing in a variety of activities.

Even without a large market research budget, small businesses should take the same approach. Start with the key question that you want to answer, then step through the thought process on how you would answer this question. The questions will then determine what market research approach you use. And at the end of the day, this will give you more confidence that you are making informed business decisions based on data.

12. Connect With Consumers Through Samples.

People can't say much about your product if they haven't used it. The study found that product samples generated the greatest increase in discussion. Not because consumers felt a need for reciprocity, but because they must have first-hand experience with the product to understand what it can do.

It takes more than a simple handout at the train station or a trial-size tube in an envelope. You have to connect with people and make the brand come alive with ideas
for activities and suggestions for using the product in more creative ways. Coupons and rebates may lead to a product experience, but they are focused on the cart and are a complement, not a substitute, for a sample.


Word-of-mouth advertising is truly a powerful way to generate business and establish a good reputation for your company, right? And, the best part is, it’s free. Every
happy customer refers more customers, and referrals continue to multiply. But, the problems are if one unhappy customer can reverse your hard work and, with the help of the Internet, spread a negative opinion about your business around the world in lightning speed. Damage control takes time and effort and will cut into your hard- earned profits, but you can turn things around using some of the same methods that sullied your name.

Identify the Problem
Step 1
Identify the source of the problem and do whatever it takes to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Go to the source: Ask customers and read any online complaints to find out what or who they are complaining about, such as a rude salesperson, product quality or a return policy.

Step 2
Talk to your staff and get their side of the story. Then provide customer-service training if the problem is lack of training. If it’s an attitude problem, let the person go. Work with the manufacturer or distributor to resolve product-quality issues. Examine your return policy to determine if it is fair and reinforces a customer-service culture.

Step 3
Contact the complainer, if possible, or post an apology on the same blog or discussion board where the comments are being shared. Take the high road. Offer to make things right and explain what you are doing to fix the situation. Thank the person for bringing it to your attention and take accountability for any problems.