Many businesses will say that they generate most of their new business through word-of-mouth. However, dig a bit deeper and you often find that they are not doing anything to specifically support this… it’s more a case of being a by-product of good service. If you have happy customers, don’t leave this to chance. I’ve asked Certified Practitioner, Peter Baynes, to highlight a few simple things you can be proactive about. ~ Bryony Thomas


You get an enquiry out of the blue, from a person not on your contact list. “How did you hear about us?” you ask. If they give you a name of someone you have not heard of, then this is a great example of word-of-mouth marketing – someone who you don’t directly know mentioning you to a prospective customer.

If you are doing a good job, you should already get some word of mouth recommendations. However, these will tend to be from people you have had direct contact with, such as customers, colleagues, acquaintances, relatives, and friends. These are your first level connections. This type of recommendation means that you can tick the boxes when folks are looking for evidence and proof that you can do what you do (Leak #6), or when they need some form of critical approval (Leak #5). (See: What are the Thirteen Touchpoint Leaks?)

Going beyond your first level connections

Going beyond this to wider connections is about reaching your extended audience.  In Leak #11, we ask who do your prospective customers turn to first? (See Chapter 2 in Watertight Marketing). How do you make third parties into Taps for your business?

The word-of-mouth marketing we are talking about here is reaching others who know you less well, and probably may have not even met you. This is your wider, extended audience and comprises those who have the ear (or eyes) of your prospective customers. These are the people who your prospects are likely to turn to first when they have a need for your product or service.

You have probably done it yourself – asked your friends, colleagues, accountant, or even a Tweet out to the big wide world… something like “Do you know anybody who does websites?” or “I have a really problem with my IT set up – do you know how I could sort it?”. When this happens for a problem you can solve, you want someone to mention you. But how do you go about getting this type of mention?

Making word-of-mouth marketing work for you

Here are some top tips to make word-of-mouth marketing work for you and your business:

  • Know who your extended audience is. Who are your likely customers likely to ask when they have a need? Their accountant? Their peers? Their network? These are the people you need to reach and influence to get word of mouth recommendations. If you are unsure, ask a few of your customers who they turned to or asked first.
  • Find out where your extended audience hang out – both online and offline. Which networking groups do they go to? Which social media platforms do they use? What publications do they read? What topic hashtags do they use in social media?
  • Start relevant conversations in these places. You will need to use a variety of channels –  blogs, posts, Tweets, events, etc. You want to be noticed, so make sure you think about and plan what you are going to say, and how you are going to respond to any interactions you have as a result.
  • Post some thought-provoking questions in relevant groups, or ask them at networking events. Make sure you have an answer and comments for when feedback and answers are requested! For example, if you provide printing services, you could blog about “What’s the use of printed brochures in this digital world?”
  • Create some content that is a bit controversial – but make sure you genuinely believe in your point of view, so you can back up with appropriate arguments. Think along the lines of the title of Seth Godin’s book ‘All Marketers are Liars‘.
  • Start or facilitate a debate on a topical issue in your industry. You can do this yourself, or invite guest contributions from each side of the argument. For an IT services company, this could be about the pros and cons of moving to the Cloud or outsourcing IT services.
  • Create some helpful guides or an opinion piece on common themes that come up in your market. A good example of this is Watertight Marketing’s Christmas Marketing Checklist, providing guidance to companies on how to maximise the benefit of seasonal marketing activity.
  • Always be consistent and on topic. You want your extended audience to associate you with the right type of work you want. So if you are a website designer, do not put out content about accounting. And if you are an accountant, do not create content about marketing.
  • Feature influential people in your content. Review books in your space, ask key players to provide predictions or answers to a key question to place is a Vox Pops type post. People positively featured in content will usually share it in their networks. Here’s an example from Valuable Content.
  • Make sure you run a marathon and not a sprint! Building up awareness in your extended audience takes time. Don’t expect immediate results. Make sure you do enough, often enough.
  • Make it easy to share your stuff. Cover the basics of putting share buttons, etc. on your materials so that it’s easy for people to pass it on.

And finally, when you get a direct enquiry, always ask where they first heard from you. Build this into your metrics so that you can track it. That will let you know where your word-of-mouth marketing is being effective.

A little proactivity can go a long way. Word-of-mouth is too important to leave it to chance!

© Watertight Marketing Ltd

Peter Baynes

Peter Baynes

Watertight Marketing Certified Practitioner

Peter is an experienced B2B marketing consultant with a strength is supporting high-growth technology businesses. He is based in Surrey and supports clients across the South East.

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