Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Survey, people trust the in-person recommendations of those they know personally more than any other form of advertising. Ninety-two percent of those surveyed believe that the recommendations of their friends, relatives and acquaintances are more trustworthy than advertising claims.
Even the recommendations of strangers — like those who write product reviews on sites like Amazon — carry more weight with consumers than other forms of advertising. Only 47 percent of the world’s consumers said they trust television and magazine ads, while 70 percent have confidence in online reviews posted by strangers.
Clearly, the best way to attract new customers to your business is to get people talking about it. But how can you do that? A business worth talking about offers the best customer experience, solicits feedback, leverages the power of influential customers, goes out of its way to make a lasting impression and works hard to build relationships with its customers.
Go Above and Beyond for Your Customers
While quality products and stellar customer service are essential for any business to succeed, these things alone aren’t going to generate the kind of buzz your business needs. You need to provide a truly unparalleled customer experience. Make sure your staff is friendly, knowledgeable, patient and quick to lend a hand. While even the best staff members can have a bad day once in a while, your business won’t make a good impression on customers if staff members are rude, unfriendly, slow or lacking in expertise about the products you sell.
Don’t hesitate to take action against inefficient or rude employees. Keep your inventory in great shape — if you can offer a more generous selection than competitors, customers will take notice and tell their friends. Make sure popular items stay in stock, and that the storefront is always clean and well-organized. Offer promotional items to your customers — you can buy custom logo pens at great prices, for example, and customers will certainly appreciate the gesture. Every customer who has a good experience with your business is a customer who’s likely to gush about you to their friends and family.
The best way to find out what’s working and what’s not is to ask your customers directly. Place a suggestion box in a prominent location so customers can lodge their complaints. Monitor social media and review sites, like Yelp, for negative reviews and complaints about your business. Offer incentives for customers who complete surveys.
Pay attention to the things that make your customers unhappy, and respond as quickly as you can. Customer complaints are one of your most valuable sources of information about what your customers are looking for.
Get the Support of Influential Customers
Your most influential customers are not always the ones who spend the most money in your business. They’re the ones who send in the most referrals. Ask your customers who referred them and reach out to the influencers who are drawing the most attention to your business. Chances are they aren’t even doing it on purpose. But if you get their support, they can be a valuable source of advertising to everyone in their sphere of influence. Offer incentives, discounts or other gifts to customers who become influencers.
You’ll get more word-of-mouth advertising if you can stand out from the crowd and stick in your customers’ memories. There are many ways to do this. You might choose a quirky decorative theme or construct elaborate, one-of-a-kind window displays. You might offer each customer a small but useful gift — for example, if you’re a pet supply store, you could offer a free cat toy or dog biscuit to each customer. Many businesses offer free coffee and donuts to their patrons for this reason. You could even include a small cafe in your storefront so customers can refresh themselves or a play area for the kids. It’s up to you.
Put Relationships First
Customer loyalty is often a direct result of the strength of your relationship with that customer. Treat your customers with respect, courtesy and honesty, but above all, take a genuine interest in their lives. Of course, this can be difficult if you have a large customer base; you’re not going to remember the names of every customer’s spouse and children if you have hundreds or even thousands of customers. But you can be friendly and polite to each customer, give each customer your full attention and show a genuine interest in meeting his or her needs. When customers feel that your business cares, they’ll rave about you to everyone they know.
Generating buzz for your business is a lot of work. You have to offer your customers the best experience you can, and work quickly to set things right when, despite your best efforts, a customer has a bad experience. But all that hard work is well worth it, because it generates word-of-mouth advertising — the most effective kind of advertising there is.