Everyday Marketing Tips
By Mark Kakkuri
Find all the best marketing strategies and use them, but remember one thing: Word of mouth still reigns supreme for getting people in the door of your store. Consider the last time you heard a word of recommendation from a family member, friend or some other trusted person. Perhaps he or she compelled you to try a new restaurant, purchase a particular vehicle, attend a unique event or simply to consider a different idea about, well, anything. Even if you didn’t act immediately on that person’s recommendation, you listened at the very least. You gave it time and thought. Why? You consider them a trusted source with a valid opinion, a well-thought-out or experienced person. The bottom line: Their personal testimony mattered to you.
This of course is how “word of mouth” works in marketing. You want customers to hear something from a trusted person and have them think highly of you or your store. Enough so they’ll take the next step — either figuratively in their mind or literally toward your door — to further engage. And of course you hope there’s a sale at the end of this process. The whole contemplation and resulting action can occur within seconds: “Hey, you should go into this store and talk to so-and-so or check out such-and-such,” a trusted person says while walking by your storefront. “Okay, let’s do it,” comes the hopefully instant reply. And then they enter.
The trick, of course, is getting the all-important “word” to flow from one person to another. Here are four ways to help make it happen.
1. Put the power of personal testimony to work in your store.
This is simply a matter of getting the right people to say the right things to the right customers. The right people are your current staff, current customers and a recognized local professional.
Staff members are the front line of your sales effort, and should be well-versed in whatever products your store carries. As such, get them to think about and distill, verbally, their experiences into a few key points: how a product sets up, key aspects of using it, issues to be aware of when caring for it, etc.
As for current customers, find out their experience with your products and services and see if they’d be willing to trade a short testimony for 10 percent off their next purchase or some other perk. Have the customer answer two simple questions: How he or she uses the product and what his or her experience with it has been.
And for a recognized local professional, try to find a trainer or law enforcement agent who has used a product you sell (or who would use it) and record their comments on their experiences with it. The testimonies don’t have to be elaborate orations but they do have to be trustworthy.
As for how to capture all this good info, simply use your mobile device to record a short video. Record their testimony right there in the store or, better, record them actually using the product in the field. Post this video on YouTube and then share it on your website and social media channels. Make sure all the staff have quick access to the video link so they can show it to a customer, too. Ask customers to record their own videos and send them to you. To incentivize them, offer something in return for allowing you to use the video in your promotional efforts.
2. Institute a referral program.
You’ve had customers stop by because someone told them about the great store or the friendly staff or the wide selection of products — or perhaps some combination thereof. Although it may be difficult to track how these reports and referrals actually come to be, it’s possible to do so.
One method: Give out a special business card to a customer, have the customer write his or her name on the card and then later hand it off to someone who may be a potential customer. If the card makes it back to the store because of the new customer, find a way to provide both the original referrer and the new referral a perk or discount. Make it a really good one if both show up at once with the business card. The idea is to get a current customer to do the work of providing a trustworthy recommendation to someone who may not otherwise hear of your store.
3. Find out how your customers heard about you.
There’s always a reason why someone stops into your store. Find out what it is. Even if it’s as mundane as seeing a sign for the store while driving by, you need to know. But there’s usually more to it. Typically, it’s because someone heard from someone else who they considered trustworthy. In any case, just learning the story behind the visit and circumstances leading to it may help inform how you market the store in the future.
Questions to ask every customer: How did you hear about us? Depending on the answer, a follow up question may be about what prompted them to stop by today? And depending on that answer, another follow-up question may be about what they’re hoping to learn by this visit, what would make it a success in their mind and what would bring them back? Of course, there’s a needed genuineness and seamless friendliness to ask questions like this. But it is okay to pry and probe a little, provided you exude an attitude of care of helpfulness.
TESTIMONIES DON’T HAVE TO BE ELABORATE ORATIONS BUT THEY DO HAVE TO BE TRUSTWORTHY.
4. Maximize word of mouth in the digital age.
Word of mouth of course includes the literal spoken words coming from a customer’s mouth and going to the ears of another person who is nearby. But it is also the communication inherent in recommendations getting passed along via text, email, social media and more. And while you can never truly replicate a customer’s natural, unprompted recommendation to another, you can do a few things to get really close.
Consider the power of capturing, say, a customer who has purchased a new firearm by taking a picture of him or her in the store with the new gun, out of the box, product in hand, a nice smile and a simple, well-written caption: “Jill, with her new subcompact handgun for CCW” or “Fred, with a new pocketknife he bought for his 12-year-old nephew’s birthday.” Post the picture and caption (with the customer’s permission, of course) on your website or social media channels or even in print form in the store. Ask them to share it on their own social media accounts, too. If a customer isn’t keen on having their picture taken and posted, ask for them to provide the simplest of recommendations by liking, following or sharing your store’s info on social media. Every click counts and you can even encourage additional engagement by holding a random drawing to award a special gift to any new follower or sharer within a given time frame.
What word-of-mouth strategies have proved effective for your store? Let the SI team know: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Kakkuri is FMG Publications’ Online Editor and an independent marketing consultant. You can connect with him on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/markkakkuri.