Tuesday, June 24, 2008

10 Ways to get Customers Referring Your Business

Most businesses know that the best way to get new customers is through word-of-mouth recommendations. Most of us base a lot of decisions on recommendations because we tend to believe someone who is not trying to sell to us. (Think about the last few purchasing decisions you made – whether it’s choosing a restaurant, a tradesperson, or a hairdresser, most of us rely on word-of-mouth to some extent.)

But the tricky part about word-of-mouth, is that it’s largely out of your hands. However, there are several things you can do to encourage your customers to recommend you to others.

  1. Make sure customers are happy with your service
    This is literally as simple as asking them what they thought of your service. For some businesses it might mean making it policy to ask how the customer’s meal was, or calling a few days after a service has been completed to make sure everything is ok. If there was any problem, this gives you the opportunity to find out about it.

  2. Ask them to rate you on the web
    For some businesses this sounds scary but if your customers are happy with you, all you need to do is ask if they’d mind posting a rating on the web for your business. Most people love to feel needed and if they’re happy with your service and you’ve developed some level of rapport with them, they’ll be more than happy to help you out. Misty’s Diner has been doing this for several months and at the time of writing has 120 customer ratings in WOMOW.

    Obviously we suggest you use WOMOW.com.au but the key is to have your customer ratings in a public forum run by an objective third party. That’s what makes them believable!

  3. Ask for personal referrals
    At first glance this can look desperate, but all it means is letting your customers know that your business is built on word-of-mouth and if they know anyone that would be interested in your product/service, to point them in your direction. Later, when they’re having dinner with friends, hopefully they’ll remember this simple prompt and it’s amazing how often a referral will come about.

  4. Let them know some inside secrets
    Give customers something interesting to say to other people. It doesn’t have to be particularly ground-breaking stuff either. It could be something about yourself and why you got into this business, the types of clients you deal with, something about a major project you’re working on, really anything that gives them the opportunity to tell someone else something they don’t already know.

    Imagine the difference between saying:-
    “I know a great plumber who might be able to help you out with that”
    “I know a great plumber who specialises in grey water solutions. He was just telling me about a job he just finished where…”

  5. Keep in contact
    Your customers could be in a position to give you a recommendation at any time, but if they haven’t heard from you in years its not likely they’ll remember you. The key is to stay in touch through personal phone calls, mailouts, newsletters, emails, lunches, whatever it takes to make sure that when the opportunity arises and a friend asks “do you know a good accountant around here?”, your name will be the first they mention.

    One way to achieve this and combine with point 2 above is to email your clients saying that you’d like their feedback. Let them know that you’re using a website to collect feedback and would really appreciate it if they could rate you (if you want to use WOMOW just include a link to your WOMOW page).

  6. Dare to be different
    Another way to ensure your customers remember you is to be different in some way. There’s any number of ways you could do this but some businesses I’ve come across that do this use things like bright uniforms, posting a quote of the day, asking customers to pay what they think is a fair price instead of using a price list, use dramatic packaging, provide a mobile service (instead of in an office), or serve each customer a fresh muffin on arrival. Really this is marketing 101 in terms of setting yourself apart from your competitors, but think of it not just as a way of being better, but as a way of being remembered and talked about.

  7. Let everyone know about your ratings
    When people are checking out your website or in the midst of the sales process, let them know what your other customers say about you by showing them customer ratings or testimonials. These could be printed out in your office, a link to you WOMOW listing from your website, or included in your written quotes (eg “See what customers are saying about us here www.womow.com.au/biz/xxxx”)

  8. Thank people for their recommendations
    When you do get a recommendation, make sure you thank the person and let them know how much it means to you. This could mean phoning the customer that just sent their colleague to visit you, sending a box of chocolates or bottle of wine. When you get ratings on WOMOW, you can post a comment on their rating thanking them for their rating and for using your service – they’ll be more inclined to give you more recommendations, plus for everyone else reading, it looks like you really care. And unless the rating is anonymous, you can send them a private email too with a personalised thank-you.

  9. Above all, provide great service
    This underpins everything else, but I can’t let it go unmentioned. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the mechanics of the business and forget about the customer experience. Be a customer for a day and put yourself in their shoes. What’s it like to phone your company, walk into the waiting room, email you, visit your website for the first time? Is there anything you could be doing better? Are there any basics that you’re missing? Once you get a few ratings, you’ll soon know what aspects of your business customers value the most.

  10. Go one step extra
    If it’s at all possible, make it a policy to do something extra that customers wouldn’t expect. Call the next day to see how everything is working out, remember their order from their last visit (or set up a system that does), give them a coffee / wine / mineral water / chocolate on arrival, set up a TV with relevant DVD’s in your waiting room, offer a free fitting service, write to them and offer a free maintenance check, give them a free air-fragrance with your service, or allow them to keep something else associated with your business.

    I know of one car dealership that provides a lifetime of free carwashing to anyone that buys a car from them. Not only does this provide a great talking point, it ensures the customer remembers them next time they’re looking to buy a new car.

    If there’s something you can do to really wow your customers, they’ll be so grateful, they’ll look for opportunities to even the score. As they say, the difference between extraordinary and ordinary is the “extra”!

Once you start regularly implementing just some of these ideas, the referrals will start flooding in. It’s a great way to do business!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Word-of-Mouth Goes Online

Ever wondered how some people seem to find all the best businesses? Word-of-mouth has always been a sure-fire way to find great businesses and avoid the worst. In fact, word-of-mouth is often said to be the oldest and most effective form of marketing. But recently a new website has begun revolutionising the way word-of-mouth works in Australia. It’s called WOMOW.com.au and it stands for Word Of Mouth On the Web.

WOMOW.com.au is somewhat like a business directory (excepting that it’s written by users, all businesses are rated, and businesses don’t pay to be included), and similar to a web forum (except that it’s more structured so that information can easily be retrieved by others). The result is a unique tool that’s already changing the way that thousands of people find and choose businesses – and it may end up having a dramatic impact on the business landscape.

Just imagine, you’re looking for a mechanic that won’t rip you off, or a hairdresser you can trust to give you a great new look, or you need to organise a funky dinner venue for a bunch of friends… what you want is a recommendation. Jump onto www.womow.com.au and search. There you’ll find businesses that have been rated by real customers – many with lengthy descriptions that give you a really good idea about the business.

Say you’re looking for a mechanic…

About Town Mobile Mechanics (Melbourne) by Jablue
“It might seem as I'm generous in my praise in that I've rated Rob & About Town in the highest category for all criteria - but that was honestly my experience. My car had been broken down for some time & after chatting to Rob he agreed to come to my home on that day to diagnose the problem. He arrived on time, found the problem (starter motor) very quickly, and had a replacement fitted for an agreed price. I was able to pay by bank transfer, and he even checked a problem my sister was having with her ignition while I was on the computer. Couldn't be happier !!!!”

Or a cleaner…

Theema Cleaning (Greensborough) by MelissaL
“Have used Theema Cleaning twice for a spring clean at my house including windows. When it comes to window cleaning they really know their stuff in terms of different types of glass and what products to use. They use environmentally friendly cleaning products and have a great team that come in and get the job done in record time. I also used Theema for cleaning the blinds at my office and they did a fantastic job at short notice for this as well. Would highly recommend.”

Or maybe a physiotherapist…

Rating for Coburg Physiotherapy by krees
“I have a chronic back injury, and I've been to many physiotherapists before, but none have fixed me like these guys. They are never late with appointments, are open later than other places, so you don't need to leave work early, and is a great experience. Compared to other physiotherapy centres, they are also quite reasonable priced, and also cover work cover and pensioners.”

Traditional directories let you find businesses, but how do you know if they’re any good? The businesses that pay the most are always the most prominent, but you know nothing about their service (other than they’re paying a lot for advertising). WOMOW co-founder, Fiona Adler, believes that “good businesses deserve to be rewarded for their efforts and WOMOW helps them by amplify their word-of-mouth reputation”. Product reviews are everywhere on the Internet so it’s about time we had an equivalent resource for finding out about local services. And what if businesses provide poor service? Adler says, “people need to know about that too!” In fact, WOMOW.com.au does more than help people find great businesses, it gives consumers recourse in the event that they’re treated poorly - in effect, giving more power to consumers.

But the real strength in WOMOW is that it provides an incentive for businesses to treat customers well. “Give people a great experience and they’ll thank you with a positive rating on WOMOW – and before you know it, more people will start trying your business, giving you more opportunities to show what great service you can provide.”

And it already seems to be working for some businesses...

Misty Singer from Misty’s Diner in Prahran says that "In one night alone, new customers from WOMOW accounted for almost a third of our revenue! It gives me goosebumps when I read some of the great things our customers are saying about us." (You can see the actual ratings here - www.womow.com.au/biz/Mistys-1950s-Diner-Prahran)

And hairdresser Lee Davies from Salon Lavan claims that “Business is booming – in the last 2 months, we’re been getting several new clients a week – just because customers are writing nice things about us on WOMOW.” (You can see Salon Lavan’s ratings here – www.womow.com.au/biz/Salon-Lavan-Elsternwick.)

WOMOW.com.au has been up and running for less than a year but already has more ratings for all kinds of businesses than any other site in Australia. In fact, users have already entered over 16,000 ratings and traffic is growing at around 25-30% each month! There’s a real sense of community coming through too. People are realising that by spending a couple of minutes submitting a rating and sharing their experiences, they can contribute to their community by helping their neighbours get great service and supporting the customer-focussed businesses in their area.

With more and more people turning to WOMOW to rate their favourite and least favourite businesses, we could be seeing the beginnings of a people’s movement for better customer service. And that’s got to be good for everyone – except the dodgy operators that is!

Check it out at www.womow.com.au.

Key Facts about WOMOW
  • WOMOW.com.au went live in July 2007 after winning three out of four categories in the Melbourne Universities Entrepreneurship Challenge in April 2007.
  • As of June 2008, WOMOW’s users have entered over 16,000 customer ratings with a new rating currently being submitted every 6 minutes. WOMOW already has more ratings for all types of businesses than any other website in Australia.
  • Traffic is strong and growing at 25-30% per month.
  • WOMOW began in Melbourne but now operates throughout Australia with localised ratings for each major centre.
  • WOMOW covers all types of businesses – eg: tradespeople, hairdressers, gyms, doctors, physiotherapists, child-care centres, restaurants, activities, cleaners, vets, dentists, mechanics, accountants, computer repairs, wedding services, beauticians, and lots more (basically anything you’d like a recommendation for)