How to Turn Your Customers Into Marketers

If you aren’t asking your loyal customers to get the word out about your products or services, you’re missing a free — and highly effective — marketing opportunity. With some gentle prodding, they could help you bring in more business by recommending you to their friends and colleagues.

Here’s how to get your customers to pick up some of your marketing load.

  • Raise the idea with your regulars. People who love your business presumably want it to thrive. Thus, they may be willing to write a positive Yelp review, a testimonial for your website, or an email to their neighbors about your company. You just have to ask.
  • Build an online community. Encourage people to chat about your business on social media by posting compelling information that they can’t resist sharing. For example, if you’re a personal trainer, ask your Facebook fans to fill in a blank, such as “You know you’re a gym junkie when ____.” If you run a pet-sitting service, post photos of animals and ask followers to write funny captions. The idea is to get people talking, to remind them that you exist, and, ideally, to let their followers learn about you.
  • Call out for support. If customers feel invested in your business doing well, they will have a reason to talk about it. In September, owners of Hobson’s Homemade, a Massachusetts bakery, used Kickstarter to get their hands on much-needed commercial equipment before they expanded. The bakers not only surpassed their $15,000 goal, but also created a community of eager customers (grassroots marketers!) who want to see that their money is being put to good use.
  • Give customers reasons to blab about your business. Ask your customers to repost your latest news (such as a grand-opening announcement) to their social media accounts in return for a discount or a first-in-line spot at a sale. Consider doing the same for users of mobile apps that reward customers for “checking in” at certain stores, such as Shopkick or Kapture.
  • Frequently flaunt what you do. Are you a wedding photographer or an independent hair stylist? With your clients’ permission, post a few shots online and ask them to share the images with their networks. Or run a photo contest: Ask your customers to take a silly snapshot of themselves in front of your store, share a historic picture of your town’s Main Street, or upload an image of themselves using your product. Post the results on Pinterest and on your blog, and they will likely return the favor.

About Sarah Johnson

Sarah Johnson is a business writer and editorial consultant. Her work has appeared in CFO and CIO magazines.
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