Don’t let the bells and whistles of modern technology like social media, deter you from the power that comes with word-of-mouth matketing for small business.  Perhaps one of the oldest forms of marketing, word-of-mouth is also incredibly potent, with a good referral meaning an instant hot lead for your business, which is often hard to come by with other forms of lead generation like social media or email.

When it comes to building a profitable business, I believe the key is to learn how to connect with your customers in an authentic way so you can begin to build relationships.  Through these relationships you can then help your clients to solve a problem or add value to their business/life and in turn make some actual money in your business.

The magic that word of mouth marketing brings

What are word-of-mouth referrals in business?

Word of mouth referrals are when people literally talk to each other about your product or service and recommend you to their peers.   Word-of-mouth referrals are the real grassroots work we can do in our business to help set us up for success.  Because to have people recommending your business or saying wonderful things about you and your brand when you aren’t there is a pretty sure-fire sign you’re nailing it.

Why word-of-mouth is such a fabulous lead generation tool.

I don’t know if you’ve experienced the mum grapevine before but let me tell you – word spreads like wildfire between mums.  A good (or bad) referral carries some serious weight between women who are single-handedly keeping generations of people alive.   We know the value of the spoken word and will take your recommendations as gospel.

It comes back to that know/like/trust factor.

Whether you’re looking for a good book or sensational brow artist – we hold the opinions of those closest to us in high esteem.  When we have someone recommending our business, they already have the know/like/trust factor amongst their peers.  So what would take you weeks, months or years to build from scratch with a cold lead, they are establishing for you in an instant.  A solid word-of-mouth referral is a sure-fire way to build trust, quickly.

A few quick ways to gain insights into content ideas:

  • Poll your audience on your instagram stories.
  • Search Facebook groups with your target audience and see what questions get asked on repeat.
  • Ask people in person, if they fit your demographic you could do some market research face-to-face.

Once you have a good understanding of your audience, you can begin tailoring your content to be as relevant and engaging as possible.

How to start building word of mouth referrals.

Don’t be afraid to tell people about what it is you do!

I totally get it, it can feel icky and stretchy to put yourself forward when someone is asking for a recommendation but it doesn’t have to be that way.  For starters, it could be as simple as a scenario where you’re chatting to the other parents at school and Tommy’s mum asks you what you do for work – tell her!  Or it could be that in your local community Facebook group, someone is asking for a recommendation (not sure about your locality but this happens all the time in ours).

These are some of the call outs that I see regularly in Facebook group pages:

  • Asking for a recommendation for a cleaner.

  • Looking for baby products or things to help XYZ with your baby

  • Beauty services like brows, facials, skin treatments and makeup artistry.

  • Graphic designers for logos.

  • Help with social media strategy.

  • Babysitting.

Don’t confuse self-promotion with spam

I want to add the caveat here that when I say engage in a bit of self-promo, I don’t mean spam everyone that you know asking them to buy from you.  This is about generating authentic relationships and wanting to truly help people.

If your MO in biz is simply to make coin, without wanting to genuinely help people or solve a problem, then you are barking up the wrong tree by listening to me – please unsubscribe.    That’s not how I believe we should be doing business, at all.


Ideas for building word of mouth referrals for your business:

1. When someone asks what you do, tell them.

Don’t be afraid to own your skills and how you can help people – it doesn’t mean blatant self-promotion, it could be as simple as when someone asks you what you do for work, you tell them instead of brushing their question off or referring to ‘I just …’

2. Surprise and delight past customers/clients by thanking them for referrals.

You could shout them out on socials, send a thank you card or give them a call!  It doesn’t have to be something super fancy, simply thanking someone can go a long way to establish rapport and encourage further referrals.

3. Volunteer to use your zone of genius in community groups.

If you have the capacity, engage in some pro bono work and help a community group or not-for-proft organisation.  Not only will you be making a difference assisting them in the work they do, you are guaranteed to have a group of biz cheerleaders keen to recommend you to their circles.  It is also an opportunity to score a sweet testimonial as well, which helps further the know, like and trust factor for other potential clients.

4. Gift a discount code for your previous customers to forward on to their friends.

Nothing like a little incentivising when asking your clients to refer you on to their peers.  A lot of big brands do this really succesfully and it isn’t hard to implement.

5. Using brand ambassadors or creating an affiliate program for referrals.

Using brand ambassadors and affiliates means utilising the know, like and trust factor that they have built with their audience – taking the legwork out for you.

6. Nab a stall at a local market.

Not suitable for all business types but a local market is such a fantastic marketing opportunity for small businesses.  It is where your customers can meet you in person, get to know you and get a sense of your business brand, too.

7. Host an in-person workshop or event.

If you have the capacity, hosting a workshop of event for your business is a great way to gain loyal customers and cheerleaders for your biz.  There’s just something about face-to-face connection that trumps online experiences. 

8. Build genuine, authentic connections at a networking group.

Networking has been pivotal in driving customers towards my business.  I believe in the kind of networking that is meeting with likeminded people to build authentic connections, instead of simply a ‘what’s in it for me’ mentality that can so often come with traditional networking.

9. Create your own unique hashtag.

Hype up your brand on social media and spark interest by creating a unique hashtag for your customers to use to help their peers find you.

10. Overdeliver + knock their socks off.

Lastly, when you do provide a product or service for someone, come back to why you’re doing it in the first place and overdeliver for them.  Give them an unforgettable experience so that they can’t help but refer you to those around them who may need what you have to offer, too.


And because I want to help you simplify your marketing – I urge you to audit the ways in which you currently get leads in your business – is word of mouth one of them?  

If it is, fantastic! You can start to double down and maybe add some of the ideas I’ve mentioned above into your strategy.

If it isn’t something that currently gets you leads, is it something that feels good that you could start to use more in your marketing strategy?  Where are some areas you could start to utilise some word-of-mouth marketing, it could be as simple as the next time someone asks you what it is you do for work, you tell them instead of brushing it off or not telling them at all.

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