Don’t let the bells and whistles of the digital age – like social media – deter you from the powerful tool that is word-of-mouth marketing for small business.  

One of the oldest forms of marketing, word-of-mouth is also incredibly potent. A quality referral can be an instant hot lead for your business, which is hard to come by (i.e. almost impossible) with other forms of lead gen through social media platforms or email.

The bread and butter of building a profitable business is customer relationships. Building lasting, authentic client relationships isn’t the sexiest marketing work but it’s a measure that will pay off time and time again.  

What is word of mouth marketing?

Word of mouth marketing is when people literally talk to each other about your product or service and recommend you to others (a.k.a potential customers).   Word-of-mouth marketing is the real grassroots work we can do as small business owners to help set us up for success. As consumers, when we are looking to make purchase decisions, stats have shown that a recommendation from a trusted friend or family member is proven to be more effective than any other form of online advertising.  This is why it’s considered one of the most impactful ways to market your small business.

And let’s face it, when people say wonderful things about you and your brand when you aren’t there – it’s a pretty sure-fire sign you’re nailing it!

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Why WOM marketing is such a powerful tool in business

Have you heard of the phrase ‘mum grapevine’ before? If not, it is one of the best ways of organic word of mouth marketing. Word spreads like wildfire between mums. Positive reviews carry some serious weight between women who are single-handedly keeping generations of people alive.   Mums know the value of a positive experience and will take your recommendations as gospel. The mum grapevine is an example of the power of word-of-mouth marketing. From a small group of people can come exponential referrals and new customers. 

It’s all about the 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 a friend or family member recommending our business to others, they already have the know/like/trust factor.  So the customer rapport that would take you weeks, months or years to build from scratch with a cold lead, they establish for you in an instant. A solid word-of-mouth referral is a sure-fire way to build trust, quickly.

And although word-of-mouth marketing can be hard to quantify, its something that features in the most effective marketing strategies.

How to build word of mouth referrals

Don’t be afraid to tell people about what it is you do! Word of mouth advertising is just that – word of mouth!

And look, 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 – it can be as innocuous as telling someone about your biz when they ask what you do for work.

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 bulk coin, without wanting to create genuinely happy customers by solving a problem, then you are barking up the wrong tree here.   Move along.


12 of the easiest word-of-mouth marketing strategies for your small business


1. Tell people what you do

It really is as simple as that! Don’t be afraid to own your skills and how you can help people – back yo’self!

2. Thank customers for their reviews

When you receive glowing customer reviews you could do a shoutout on your social networks, send a thank you card or give them a call!  It doesn’t have to be something super bougie. Even just responding to a lovely review on your Google Business Page can go a long way in your word-of-mouth marketing strategy.

3. Volunteer your skills

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 social 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. Referral program

Nothing like a little incentivising when asking your clients to refer you on to their peers.  A lot of big brands do this really successfully and it isn’t hard to implement. Offer incentives for your satisfied customers to share your brand with their online community. You could supply unique discount code, special offer or free gift with purchase – making them feel like a VIP.

5. Influencer marketing

Engaging influencers or brand ambassadors again leverages their know/like/trust factor they (hopefully) already have with their audience. This also works well in combination with an affiliate or referral program. Influencers are the most powerful marketing tool when it comes to using social media effectively for brands.

An influencer’s social media post featuring a positive review – especially when they have a large, engaged following  – is such a good way to boost word-of-mouth advertising.

6. Local market stalls

More suited to product-based businesses, a local market is such a fantastic marketing opportunity for small businesses.  It is where your target audience and current customers can meet you in person, get to know you and get a sense of your brand, too.

7. Host an in-person workshop or event

In-person events are like the service-based business answer to market stalls. If you have the capacity, hosting a workshop or event for your small biz is a great way to gain loyal customers and cheerleaders for life.  There’s just something about face-to-face connection that trumps online experiences, every time. The bonus with in-person events is that you often get great content that you can then use in your social media marketing and across other advertising campaigns, too. Winning!

​8. Networking

I’m obviously a huge fan of networking and believe that it’s all about quality not necessarily quantity when it comes to meeting other business owners.

To see the biggest benefits with networking – opt for smaller events with likeminded people where the focus is on building authentic connections, instead of simply a ‘what’s in it for me’ mentality that often comes with more traditional networking setups.

This is why I started up my Honest Biz Brunch events. Not only are they good for the soul – they’re good for the bank balance, too!

Some of the women who have come to these unique, small group networking events have gone on to make serious sales in their businesses – all from a group of less than 10 people. The best part is – they aren’t even trying to sell!

The focus is on sharing their unfiltered stories and building genuine, lasting connections.

9. Create a unique hashtag or two

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. Add your hashtag to your marketing campaigns and ask your customers to use it alongside their user-generated content.

Bonus: you can repost their content (with credit) to your own feed = instant content without having to think about it.

10. Online reviews

Second to personal recommendations from our social circles, online reviews are the next most trusted source for making purchase decisions. Don’t forget to follow up with your previous customers and ask for a positive review. You can automate this process to make it even easier. This kind of social proof is also handy to use in future content creation – we’re all about that repurposing!

Having something like a Google Business Page with reviews is also a good way to get bumped up to the top of the results in search engines – it’s like SEO without needing to do proper SEO.

11. Facebook groups

I know this is social media but the Facebook groups just hit different. How many times have you seen a callout looking for XYZ business in Facebook groups? It’s a multiple-times-a-day occurrence in most local community pages. The recommendation I see far more than others is people looking for a cleaner (side note: this would be a great business to start).

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

  • Cleaners, cleaners, cleaners!
  • Baby products or things to help XYZ with your baby (parenting groups)
  • Beauty services like brows, facials, skin treatments and makeup artistry.
  • Graphic designers for logos.
  • Help with social media strategy.
  • Babysitting.

Don’t be shy and make sure you put your business forward in the comments along with the others.

Even if you don’t get a lead straight away, it’s all about those multiple marketing touch points. If people see your business name pop up enough, you’ll be front of mind in the future.

12. Overdeliver with excellent customer service

Lastly, when you do provide a product or service for someone, make it count.  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.

By providing an outstanding customer experience you’re building your loyal customer base which will lead to more word-of-mouth recommendations than you can poke a stick at.


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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