It's Monday -- that means it's time to open up the mailbox and answer YOUR questions!

It’s Monday — that means it’s time to open up the mailbox and answer YOUR questions!

Hey there Rainmaker, let’s chat about how to get your customers to do the heavy lifting of finding prospects and customers for your business on your behalf — through “word of mouth” marketing…

That’s the topic of our Mailbox Monday issue for today.

And just as a reminder… Mailbox Monday depends on YOUR questions to be awesome. So if you’re reading this right now and you haven’t sent me a question in a while, why not?

You either have a burning need where you’d like to get my take on it…

Or a bigger picture curiosity about marketing, selling, business, or related topics…

Either way, shoot it my way at and I can answer it here!

On to today’s question…

Ian Denny, a Word of Mouth marketing expert based in the U.K. was curious to get my take on the topic…

What’s the most effective ways of encouraging clients to recommend you in such a way that the connection is made so you have an opportunity to sell?




I love this question because it’s an almost universal goal of businesses large and small!

Of course, the ideal situation is where you leave your customers so satisfied that not only will they come back to do business with you over and over again… But they will ALSO send friends your way, to do business with you…

So that the longer you’re in business, the less active prospecting, marketing, and selling you have to do.

A word of warning though: If you’re successful at this, the tendency will be to get lazy, and limit additional marketing. It’s almost bragging rights to say, “We don’t do any marketing, all our business is word of mouth.” But if you care about growing your business, you should NOT rely on this alone. Word of mouth should be one tool in your marketing and selling toolbox. You should also be prospecting cold, and selling to your current customer file, and… and… and… All in addition to word of mouth. If you have a good offer that serves folks so well that they’re happy to share with their friends, it only makes sense to NOT limit your reach to other people talking about you, and to ALSO do proactive things to serve an even greater audience.

Okay, enough warning, let’s get on to how to get full use out of the word of mouth marketing tool…

First, if you want people to talk about you, be worth talking about!

This is at the heart of the “skilled craftsman” business, where someone is so good at what they do, they’re able to build a business on that without ever getting good at advertising.

They’re not maximizing the business, of course.

But the reason you see so many of these businesses — and the reason they can earn a good living for the crafts-people who run them — is because great service will often be talked about.

Create a unique and great product.

Create a unique and great service.

Be exceptional. People love to talk about the exceptional. Go above and beyond for your customers, and they will tell others. This is the most natural way to create word of mouth, and can apply in any business.

You should be doing great things anyway… This is just your reminder that it yields benefits.

Along with this — and a hat tip to Ian for mentioning this in his article Pleasantly Surprise Your Clients To Get Them Talking — you can surprise them with upgraded service. You say you’re going to get something done in a week, get it done in four days and deliver early. They bought ground shipping, why not upgrade to 2-day? Give them a bonus you never told them about.

In short… Under-promise, and over-deliver. This may seem like an odd maxim coming from a copywriter who specializes in making big promises, but I NEVER make a promise that I don’t believe the product will fulfill on, and seldom make every promise that I believe the product will fulfill on, either. Having the client or customer be pleasantly surprised has enormous benefit, not just for Word of Mouth, but for your entire business.

Second, make sure you customers know you want word of mouth referrals, and WHO you want them to send your way…

This is very important. You need to build the expectation of word of mouth into your communication with your customers, if you want it.

Yes, you can rely on them to do a little bit. But the truth is we’re all lazy. (I say WE, not YOU or THEY. WE.) In general, humans prefer not working over working. And even though they may get joy out of recommending you, it may be seen as too much work (and this judgment is usually subconscious, not conscious). Especially the process of thinking up WHO to refer.

So, here’s what you do.

First, you have to tell them you want referrals… Even better if you can throw in benefits to them to referring you. Here’s an idea…

“You know, I love to tell my friends about restaurants, shops, and other businesses that have treated me well. It really brings me joy, and I imagine you feel the same way. So if you also get joy about telling your friends about businesses like ours, you’ll be happy to know we love serving your friends and colleagues, too! In fact, the more customers that come to us through Word of Mouth, the less we have to spend on advertising, so it also keeps our prices low — it helps everybody!”

Then, you need to let them know specifically WHO you are best fit for… So they don’t have to do the hard work of going through their mental Rolodex trying to find the fit themselves…

“Now if you’re like me, you may like to tell friends about a business, but when it comes time to do it, you simply don’t know WHO to refer. I understand…”

Interjecting, because I need a SPECIFIC business for this part… So, let’s say we’re talking about a high-end fitness studio that does one-on-one personal training.

“Let me describe our ideal customer. We’re looking for level-headed adults who are serious about getting fit and staying that way. We work best with folks like you who will commit to a long-term healthy lifestyle regimen, whether for sports, for health, or just to live a happier life. You may run into folks like this anywhere, but right now you might think of folks you know at work, in your family, at church, in community groups you’re a part of. They might be fit already — but they don’t have to be. The one thing going forward that will always make you think of us, is when fitness or health comes up and someone feels like they’ve tried everything and nothing has worked for them exactly like they wanted, but they’re really ready to get some results… Well, that’s the PERFECT person for us. And you can send them our way, and tell them to tell us you sent them.”

See how specific that is about the situation in which they should think of a referral? The way our brains work, they’re going to think of that referral whenever they’re in a similar situation — even if it’s a year from now.

But that’s not all!

Third, make your customers completely comfortable that their referral will be treated with the highest level of care and service…

This starts with how you treat your customers themselves.

If they’ve been treated with the highest level of care… If they’ve been delivered exceptional service…

Then they’re going to be naturally predisposed to believe you treat others that way, too.

But that’s not all.

You can also point to the service you just provided, and underscore that you provide that level of service to everybody AND you value their referrals so much that you will go to great personal effort to ensure everyone who comes in on their recommendation is treated as well as they were.

Even so, you want to make it abundantly clear how much you respect their trust in sending their friends your way. Because the last thing they want is to send someone your way, just for their friend to have a bad experience on their recommendation.

And so it’s best if you have a completely no-cost, no-risk, no-obligation offer that your customers can extend to their friends… Let’s use our fitness studio as an example…

“Of course, it would be one thing for you to just send your friends our way. But we know how important it is to you that if you’re going to send someone our way, that they have only the best possible experience. And so, when you send anyone our way and they give use your name, here’s what’s going to happen. We won’t ask them to spend a dime on their first visit. We will sit down and walk them through a no-cost, no-risk, no-obligation 28-point fitness assessment. We’ll look at where they’re at, where they’re looking to go, and how they might get there. At the end of the assessment, we’ll explain how our program works, and determine based on the assessment if it might help them reach their fitness goals. And then we’ll give them a tour of our facility to give them a feel for if it’s a place they’d feel comfortable working on themselves on a regular basis. We’ll spend about 45 minutes with them to figure out if they absolutely love us. If not, they still walk away with a better picture of their fitness — where they’re at, and what their goals are. And if they do, we’ll offer them the best possible deal on the level of service that fits their needs.”

The idea of this is you want to take all the risk out of the referral itself. Have a process in place for handling referrals, and make sure you’re able to present it to every customer.

Make this whole referral-getting presentation part of your regular customer interactions, and you’ll only stimulate more.

Fourth, consider rewarding the desired actions…

First — and I’ll credit Ian for this great idea, too — consider rewarding your customers just for being customers. Do little things that show how much you care. This goes back to creating a customer experience that’s worth talking about, but here we’re specifically talking about incorporating rewards into the customer experience.

Honest gratitude goes a long way.

Second, build referral rewards into your business. Not ALL businesses can fit, and in some professional service businesses it’s strictly forbidden. But in general, it can be very stimulative to referral activity to simply give a gift to the person who sent the referral.

A few considerations…

— Should you let them know about it beforehand? Maybe. Offering a reward in advance of the referral will probably generate more volume, but you risk folks referring just for the reward and diminishing the quality of the referrals.

— Should you reward the action or the result? If you can track it, it can be smart to reward people for trying to refer you, even if it doesn’t turn into business. This is rewarding the act of generating the referral, which should lead to them talking to more people on your behalf. The only downside is when you wait until a referral turns into business, you can use the profits from that transaction to pay for the reward. Weigh the costs and benefits.

— What should you offer? If your product or service is prone to repeat business, you could offer a gift certificate or some other reward from your offerings to folks who give referrals. Otherwise, think of anything that most people will like. An gift card would be nice for many. Food is usually a good gift, although be conscious of folks’ diets. If it’s a surprise, even a simple hand-written thank you is enough. While a reward of some value is appreciated, it’s the acknowledgment that matters most.


Okay, we’re now over 2,000 words on what’s probably the core foundational strategies of word of mouth marketing.

Now it’s time to try it yourself and discover what a breakthrough it can be for your business…

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

The Rainmaker, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets

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