‘There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.’
So what do you do to get your customers (or your team, suppliers or joint venture partners) talking about you?
There’s nothing like a glowing review, testimonial or referral to endorse your business. Pick up any research on advertising effectiveness and you’ll see word-of-mouth at the top of the list. But they won’t say good things about you unless you meet and exceed their expectations.
Give people a reason to talk about you
Everyone has an expectation these days for good service. So if you want to get people talking about you and ultimately give you great reviews or referrals, constantly look for ways to go the extra mile to impress your customer and make it really difficult for them not to talk about you.
Do something exceptional. Identify the things that are of perceived high value to your customers but minimal effort or cost to you so you can give added value. Do something to give people a real reason to talk about you. It’s the exceptional and unexpected that gets you noticed, remembered and most importantly brings you repeat or referral business.
It’s certainly the personal touches that can make an average encounter into a truly memorable one.
What is there that makes your offer unique, that they might want to take home or share with others? Show your appreciation of their business and well as providing a memento that reinforces your relationship.
Your personal touches might not be pre planned, but as a result of being attentive to your customers’ needs. Train your staff to listen and be observant to what customers say or are looking for.
Customers love personal recommendations. And they love honesty. If they’re not sure what they want, find out about their needs, tastes, preferences, and tailor your recommendations. Share the ‘insider’s’ view, your personal favourites, what other customers tell you about their experiences or choices. Give your own tips, advice, and suggestions to help them make an informed decision, not the one that will make you the most money!
What is the very last thing that happens at the end of their visit or stay? How genuine is the farewell? How sincere the offer of help if they have problems? Identify the little finishing touches that you can give customers at the end of their visit to leave them with that wow factor.
Don’t be tempted to just copy what your competitors are doing. If you know what’s important to your customers you can start to tailor what you do to meet these needs.
And as you can’t be there all the time, give your team authority to do something spontaneous if they see an opportunity to enhance the customers’ experience.
Whatever your business, reflect on what your customers remember most about their experience with you? What happens in the last few moments of their visit will undoubtedly influence their lasting impression. Leave your customers with that little touch of magic that will stay with them for weeks, months or even years to come. So when someone asks them of THE place to go for that special occasion, fun day out, or indulgent treat it’s you that comes instantly to mind.
Create a social media buzz
Once you’re confident that people are saying the right things about you, get some of it in writing, so instead of just telling their friends they tell the world!
I personally still love an old-fashioned guest or visitors book for people to write their comments. But of course these only get seen by you and your other customers so encourage them to get the message further afield. If you’ve had a glowing comment in your visitors’ book, start off by asking if they’d be happy if you use that as a testimonial on your website. (And it adds even more credibility if you can get a photo of them or even a video!)
Then encourage them to get the word out there on social media. TripAdvisor is the obvious place to start, but encourage them to get talking about you on other social media networks which are most suited to your target audience, be that Facebook, twitter, etc. Again even better if they add photos tagged with the name of your business or other key words.
But please make it easy for them. Give them the link to your page rather than leaving them to hunt it down for themselves, because the chances are they won’t.
Referrals go one step further and are a great way to build your customer base – if a person comes to you as a result of a referral, you don’t need to go out and find them. The person who made the referral has already experienced what you offer and will do the selling for you.
And, even better, referrals build loyalty with the people who recommend you – they will want to be seen to stand by their referral by continuing to come to you themselves.
But referrals, just like reviews, won’t always happen unless you ask for them.
The obvious people to ask for referrals are your existing customers. Focus on those customers who are your ‘perfect customers’ as the people they refer will be a better match to your preferred type of customer (people generally know and mix with other people like themselves).
Think about other people who know you well enough to recommend you. This might include colleagues, suppliers, your own team and others in your network. This will be easier the better they know you and when they fully understand the extent of everything you offer.
Make it easy
If you don’t ask you don’t get. So ask customers (and others in your network) directly who else they know who may be interested in your promotions or forthcoming events. The sooner you do this after they have stayed or visited the better. This is the time they are likely to be most positive about what you delivered.
The way you ask for referrals is key. If you ask:
“Do you know anyone who might be interested in receiving details of our promotions?”
you are likely to get “No” or at best “I’ll think about it.”
But if you ask a specific question, for example:
“Who else do you know who is celebrating [their birthday, wedding anniversary, retirement …] in the next few months and may be interested in our [all-inclusive weekend breaks, wine promotion…]?”
“What other groups are you connected with who love..[ walking, cycling, floristry, local history….., etc] and would be interested in our ….[exclusive programs, off season tours….]?”
Creating a simple referral form that you include with the bill or at the end of their visit can encourage existing customers to make referrals. Make this prominent, and offer incentives for them to give you names.
Maintain relationships with your customers, even if the likelihood of more business with them personally is limited. They are more likely to refer you to friends, colleagues or others if they have had recent communication from you.
Even if a customer only visits you once, remember, they have a network of friends and colleagues who may also be your ideal customers. The lifetime value of one customer can be their connections to other customers, too.
Reward reviews and referrals
If someone gives you a glowing review take the trouble to say thank you. Set up alerts and notifications so you can track what and when people are talking about you. It demonstrates to others that you appreciate the feedback and don’t just take it for granted.
And if someone gives you a referral as an absolute minimum ensure that you thank them in person. Don’t wait to see if this actually leads to business, as what you are looking to reward is the referral process. The more referrals you have the greater the likelihood of gaining new customers.
Consider what other tangible incentives you might give that are of high value to the person making the referral, but at a low cost to you. Just ensure that the cost of the incentive does not outweigh the value of the referral. The nature of this incentive will obviously depend on where the referral came from, and what they’ll appreciate. Incentives don’t need to be cash; but they might include such things as a gift, an upgrade or bonus with their next visit, an invitation to an event, or an offer unique to your business.
Once someone has gone to the trouble of giving you a referral the very least you can do is follow it up. Immediately.
Once you have a referral system in place, keep track of where and how you’re getting successful referrals. This will enable you to find out what works and what doesn’t, so you can refine the process.
- What are you doing to deliver exceptional customer service to encourage great reviews and referrals?
- How do you make it easy for your customers to get the word out there to your perfect customers?
- What systems do you have in place or need to set up to generate referrals?
- How will you recognise and reward those who give you reviews and referrals?