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Word of Mouth marketing: making customer loyalty work for you

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Word of Mouth marketing: making customer loyalty work for you

Securing space – and loyalty – in the hearts and minds of clients remains a formidable task for most businesses, regardless of their size. With competition in many sectors intensifying, developing and maintaining positive client relationships is critical for companies to survive and, ultimately, thrive in the formal economy. What does one do with customer loyalty once it has been achieved however? And how can you actively convert this and use it to market your business?


While marketing your business should be an ongoing priority, the current consumer landscape is changing – making finding ways to really engage and connect with target audiences more of a challenge. This is the case especially for small and newly-established companies that are focused on growing their client base as a means of becoming sustainable.


For most of these businesses, investing a large amount of money to simply advertise their offering is not a viable option and, in Property Point’s experience as a business incubator, not always the right solution for them as it doesn’t speak to their strategic marketing objectives. It also won’t encourage them to effectively leverage the touch-points they already have in place, including those of existing clients – and getting these clients to market their business on their behalf.

As a company owner or manager, it’s important to view – and use – your current clients as a key source of sales leads and potential new business. It’s equally important not to simply assume that they are actively recommending your company and making referrals unless there is clear evidence of this. How can you “activate” loyalty in these instances though? And encourage “passive” but happy clients to become word-of-mouth marketers of your offering and brand?


In our experience, it’s often simply about having a very honest conversation with the clients that you are comfortable approaching about this. As a small business, your success (and the fact that the client has partially enabled that) speaks to their success, which is something they will usually want to celebrate. Asking key contact points if they can act as a reference for potential new clients and if they know of anyone who might need your service offering can add a new dimension to your relationship, and generate renewed interest in your company. It’s usually a conversation worth having, especially over lunch or a cup of coffee.


Depending on your relationship with the client and the type of projects you have completed for them, another option (which could complement or act as an alternative to the above) could be to include them in a press release or media interview. In this case, you would probably need a PR company to help you with this. The thinking here would be to generate a “public testimonial” about your brand, positioning your service offering in a positive light. While this will require an investment from you, this money can end up being well spent – especially if you then use it as additional marketing material, including the interview/ press release in your company profile for example, as well as on your website. Most clients will be happy to receive this type of “free” positive publicity, further cementing your relationship with them.


Another simple way to encourage clients to promote your company and talk about your brand is to do the same about theirs. By referring them to potential new clients or making them aware of opportunities you have heard about in the market, you will add unexpected value. Reciprocity will also usually be a by-product of this referral – without your actively having to have a conversation about this in most instances.


 While these are just a few of the approaches some of the businesses on the Property Point programme have had success with, perhaps the most important thing to note is that the starting point for any word-of-mouth requests has to be developing and maintaining positive relationships with your clients. Unless you take the time and make the effort to build brand loyalty, you cannot just expect it. You have to get to know your customers and make each interaction with them count. In this way, you’ll get a very good sense of who you can ask to be a potential brand ambassador and how best to ask them – and could end up well on your way to opening the door to new customers and markets.

Last modified on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 15:28
Shawn Theunissen

Shawn Theunissen

Shawn Theunissen is the head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Growthpoint Properties. He is the founder and manager of Property Point, Growthpoint's enterprise development programme, which focuses on the holistic development of small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) and the creation of market linkages within the private sector.

Shawn has over 15 years' experience in senior management roles in both the corporate and non-governmental sectors. His diverse enterprise development expertise includes designing and implementing business support services; creating market linkages between SMMEs and large corporate entities; and providing capacity building support, and process and learning journey facilitation.

Shawn obtained his Master's Degree in concept-making and people-centric innovation from 180 Academy in Denmark. He has a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from the University of Johannesburg, South Africa. He has been a facilitator and guest speaker at various business schools and business forums in South Africa and abroad.

You can connect with Property Point on or alternatively follow them on their blog or Twitter .


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