Tap Power of Referrals to Sell Products and Services, Expert Advises

Tap Power of Referrals to Sell Products and Services, Expert Advises

Getting people to talk often, favorably, to the right people in the right way about your business is far and away the number one most important thing that you can do as a marketer.

That's the central idea of a new book written by veteran marketing consultant George Silverman and published by Amacom Books, a division of the American Management Association.

Sliverman's book, The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing: How to Trigger Exponential Sales Through Runaway Word of Mouth, informs kitchen/bath professionals and other business owners how to strategically harness the power of word of mouth to sell products and services much faster and at a significantly lower cost.

Word of mouth is much more credible than your most sincere salesperson, Silverman points out. It is capable of reaching more people and it is faster than advertising and direct mail. It breaks through the clutter of the thousands of ads and marketing messages everyone sees every day.

However, it comes with important caveats. Word of mouth is more often negative than positive. People are much more likely to tell others about a negative experience than a positive one. For example, studies reveal that a satisfied customer is likely to tell three other people, whereas a dissatisfied one is likely to tell 11 people.

Silverman suggests several rules of thumb for helping to generate successful word of mouth. Among them are the

  • Give your customers something worth talking about. Ordinary service is ordinary. If you want people to discuss your business as something special, you have to give them something special. For example, be very free with advice and recommendations on products. If a customer requests a product you don't carry, make sure the customer knows it but then let him or her know you'll go out of your way to obtain the product. Make each of your customers feel special. Always surprise the customers by giving them a little more than they expected.
  • Find lots of little ways to make doing business with you a little better. Give a warmer greeting, provide a better and more informative display, give them a folder of information to take away. Have a live display and serve coffee or tea, soft drinks and cookies. Always make sure your showroom is clean and up to date.
  • If you don't know the answer to a question, say so. If a customer wants a special stain or special cabinet, don't speculate and don't call later. Call the cabinet supplier while the client is there.
  • Always run a sale, promotion, open house, demonstration or other off-beat event. Make customers keep coming back, even
    if for no other reason than to see what you are doing next. The shopping process for a kitchen or bath usually takes a consumer many months. Try to make as many impressions over those months as you can. In addition, create events to bring your customers together with prospects (and even strangers). Saturn, Harley-Davidson and Lexus have all been particularly successful with this approach.
  • Give your customers incentives to engage in word of mouth. Create a reward, discount or other incentive for bringing in a friend, and share that incentive with both the referrer and the person referred. Run a special sale or make a special offer that is for existing customers only, but allow each existing customer to bring one friend. Give special offers that can be honored only through the friend.
  • Capture testimonials and endorsements and put them in your promotional materials. Consider producing a cassette, videotape or streaming video of your enthusiastic customers talking about their experiences with each other. Burn these on CDs or put this on your Web site.
  • Be sure to check in regularly with customers who have signed contracts and are waiting for cabinets; they often feel as if they've been forgotten. Check in daily with clients during installation, as well. If you've torn out someone's kitchen, give them coupons for restaurants or loan them a portable kitchen. If you're remodeling a master bath, give coupons to a day at a spa, or a stay at a motel.

Don't let them think the sale is "over" for you just because the contract has been signed.

Silverman even advises giving your prospects a list of competitors whenever you're booked up. "Funny thing almost everybody waited," Silverman observed. "Only the best could be that secure, which is exactly what a client said to me."