Sales and Sales Management Blog

October 24, 2011

How to Make Word of Mouth Marketing Really Work


Last week while I was teaching a group of CPA’s in Newark how to work with their clients to generate a large number of direct introductions to high quality prospects, one participant mentioned that he would often hear from a client that they had given his name and number to another business owner but he would seldom hear from that prospect.  His question was how he could use the introduction generation process I was teaching to capture that word of mouth prospect.

Great question—and one that most sellers are faced with.

Everyone would love to have their clients out talking about them.  They encourage their clients to tell their friends and acquaintances about them; they hope and pray that people are talking about them; they try to use social media as a springboard to get even more word of mouth marketing.

Unfortunately, even though you want word of mouth marketing and do whatever you can to encourage it, it has one primary disadvantage that is hard to overcome—you have no control over whether the person your client spoke to will take the initiative to pick up the phone and give you a call.

How much business are you losing because you never hear from the people your clients mention you to?

Right, you don’t know because you have no idea how often your clients mention you.

That’s the intrinsic problem with a passive marketing method—no control means no accountability, no way of knowing how effective or ineffective it is.  If you get prospects calling because clients mentioned you, you think that word of mouth is working.  If you don’t get calls you think your clients aren’t talking about you.  The problem is that those calls you get might be just a fraction of the people who are hearing about you from your client, and those no calls might not be an indication that your clients aren’t talking about you but instead might be an indication that their message isn’t resonating with those they are speaking to.

So is there a way to turn word of mouth encouragements into real connections?

Although you’ll never be able to track and connect with every word of mouth mention your clients give you, you can significantly increase the number of connections you have with those your clients have mentioned you to by simply becoming more proactive in the way you work with your clients regarding their word of mouth mentions.

In the case of the CPA above, he mentioned that he often received emails or verbal statements from clients saying something to the effect, “Just wanted to let you know that I mentioned you to Joe Blow the other day.”  Sometimes the client will mention the name of the person they spoke to, other times they won’t.  In both cases, however, the CPA knows that a client has spoken to someone about him and recommended they give him a call.

Like most sellers in that position, the gentleman at the presentation simply hopes that he’ll get a call.  Way too often the call doesn’t come—just another wasted mention by a client.

Fortunately this CPA and everyone else who has a client or anyone else mention that they’ve spoken to someone about them can easily turn that weak word of mouth mention into a direct introduction by simply ASKING for the introduction.  It’s really as simple as asking:

Client: “Hey, Joe, just wanted to give you a head’s up that I recommended you to Nancy Drew and encouraged her to give you a call.  I hope you hear from her.”

Seller: “Bill, that’s great; I really appreciate it.  I haven’t heard from her yet but I’d love to.  Come to think of it, would you be comfortable introducing me to her?”

Couldn’t be simpler. 

What are the chances your client will introduce you to the prospect?  Very high indeed since they obviously like your work and think that you can help the prospect—and they obviously have some type of relationship with the prospect. 

Before asking for the introduction find out what the relationship is between your client and the prospect and why they suggested the prospect call you. 

All the pieces are in place for a direct introduction.  And what happens if your client says no?  You’ve lost—nothing.

But what about all those suggestions they make to prospects to give you a call that you never know about?  How can you learn of them in order to try to turn them into an introduction?

These are certainly more difficult—but not completely impossible.

First, once you let your client know that you would love for them to mention you to anyone who might be in need of your expertise and services, let them know that you’d appreciate it if they’d let you know through a call or email when they mention you to someone.  Once they do, thank them and then ask for the direct introduction.  Don’t expect everyone to let you know when they speak to someone about you—but many will and that will give you the opportunity to ask for the introduction.

Knowing that many won’t inform you when they mention you, you can also take the initiative and ask your clients if they have mentioned you to anyone.  When speaking with a client simply ask in passing if they’ve had an opportunity to mention to anyone lately.  Asking will let you uncover any unmentioned recommendations they’ve made to prospects to call you and will also remind them that you seek word of mouth recommendations.  Again, you won’t uncover a mountain of unknown mentions, but you’ll uncover some which will give you the opportunity to convert them into introductions and it will allow you to gently remind your client to mention you whenever they have a chance.

Word of Mouth Marketing is hardly a marketing format to hang your business on.  That being said, by all means encourage your clients to mention you to those they come into contact with that might be able to use your products or services.  But at the same time seek to move those word of mouth recommendations into something far more concrete—a direct introduction. 

Don’t settle for being passive.  You can turn word of mouth into far more effective introductions without being obnoxious or overly aggressive—all you have to do is ask your client for an introduction once you know they’ve recommended you.  The key is learning how to uncover the recommendation.

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1 Comment »

  1. Thanks for addressing this Paul. Sometimes someone will ask me for a recommendation and yet they never end up calling the person. If I offer to make an introduction sometimes the potential referral feels they aren’t ready for that yet. By the time they are ready, they may have forgotten about your recommendation. It’s something I would like to get better at.

    Comment by Pam BurzynskiPam — October 24, 2011 @ 1:20 pm | Reply


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