So you just started your business and your marketing budget is slim to none. Don’t fret. Maybe the viral marketing power of word-of-mouth can drive business to your door. But without clients or marketing, how can you get word-of-mouth started?
Even if the paint is still wet on your walls, your website is spanking new and your letterhead just arrived, there are ways to start getting the word out before word-of-mouth kicks in. But don’t expect a marketing magic bullet to suddenly appear. There are many ways to market a new business, just as there are many types of businesses and owners.
“Word-of-mouth is far and away the dominant force in the marketplace. Yet it is also the most neglected,” says George Silverman, president of Market Navigation, Inc. and author of The Secrets of Word of Mouth Marketing (Amacom Press). “People think they can’t do much about word-of-mouth…that it’s out of their control.”
But that can be an expensive mistake. There are many things a startup business can do to spark the huge power of word-of-mouth marketing. For a few businesses it just happens. For most it is a self-generated marketing “miracle.” These seven steps, suggested by Silverman, can lead to word-of-mouth success.
7 steps for word-of-mouth viral marketing success
- Send the same simple message through all of your communications. If it’s not simple, it can’t survive being passed via word-of-mouth.
- Don’t position your product or service as part of a general category. Get more specific. Define it by its most-needed attribute: “The dandruff shampoo that doesn’t dry your hair.”
- Make your examples borderline outrageous so people will find your story worth repeating.
- Sprinkle your materials and marketing messages with success stories from real people.
- Offer customers multiple (but simple) ways to inquire about, investigate and order what you offer.
- Get experts on your side by bringing them into conferences, advisory groups and seminars. Encourage them to spread the word to others.
- Ask customers for referrals. Encourage your sales people to request referrals, recommendations and testimonials.
Some ways to get the viral marketing party started
- Gear up your networking. If you network and get to know people in your industry, they will think of you when they need your product or service. Join networking groups and local business organizations, and attend conferences. Before you go, however, be sure to refine your “elevator pitch.” That’s your short, 30-second sales pitch that explains what you do. People are turned off by long-winded explanations.
- Help out local charities. Donating your products or services can generate goodwill and get your name around. Many business owners find that whatever they spend on these activities comes back to them manifold. Being involved in community activities is one of the best ways to spread the word about your business without a big advertising budget.
- Target your dollars carefully. If you do advertise or send out direct mail, be selective. Don’t advertise to the general public if your product or service is highly specialized. Try small, highly selective lists first.
- Consider introductory discounts or free samples. People are more willing to try a new product or service if they can do so economically. Many small companies have jump-started sales through carefully controlled giveaways.
- Generate some press coverage. Cash-strapped entrepreneurs often think it costs big money to get some good PR. But the size of your budget is not nearly as important as the story behind your startup. Create a story related to your business and invite the press to a launch lunch. Prepare and send out news releases and position yourself as an expert on your industry to the media.
- Work the distribution channels. There are many people in your line of business who can help add to your reputation. These include sales representatives, wholesalers, distributors, consultants, academic leaders, industry experts and many others. Include them in your efforts to build word-of-mouth.
- Give superior customer service. People will spread the word and get the viral marketing ball rolling if you treat them well. Address any problems quickly.
Our Bottom Line
Don’t expect a viral marketing magic bullet to suddenly appear, but steps you take to build word-of-mouth could pay off handsomely later on. Even if your business is barely beginning, do everything in your power to start getting the word out!
© 2005 BizBest Media Corp.