Word of mouth is an extremely effective way to build awareness about your business. Nothing beats positive reviews from people that have utilized your services and have come away satisfied. But if you’re just starting your career as a web designer, you might not have many clients to give you feedback. This is where your friends come in.
There are two types of friends you can rely on to spread the word about your business: your “real life” friends and family and your online friends on social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Getting help from these two groups requires a different approach, but in the end, both offer unique ways to help you market your business. In this article, we offer a few tips for getting your offline and online friends to talk about your business.
Lay the Foundation
Before approaching any of your online or offline friends to speak on your behalf, you need to explain what it is that you do. Telling them that you’re a web designer isn’t specific enough. Do you have a niche you prefer to work in? Do you provide any other services, such as graphic design? What are your fees? Providing this basic information will help your friends do a better job of promoting your business.
Another key step you need to take in order to get your friends and family to promote your business for you is to make it easy for them to do. They are doing you a favor, so their involvement in your marketing scheme shouldn’t be something that takes up a whole lot of their time. Besides, giving them ways to talk nonchalantly about you and your business will make their recommendations seem more genuine and less like a sales pitch.
Get Props from Your Friends and Family
What better supporters of your business venture than your “real life” family and friends? Your friends and family are excellent marketing tools because they know you well and will be enthusiastic in talking about your business to others. Chances are they’ll talk about your business without much (or any) compensation, so that’s a bonus as well. But you can’t just send them out the door unprepared. Much like with your social media friends, your offline friends and family need to know specifically what you do so they can make informed recommendations to others. There are a couple of ways you can help your offline friends start those conversations.
Hand Out Business Cards
Business cards are a tried-and-true marketing tool that can be made much more effective if a friend or family member can add their recommendation. Give some cards to your friends and family and ask them to distribute them when the time is right. This needs to be a process that isn’t too contrived, otherwise their recommendation of you might come off a little too brash. Casually handing out your business card while mentioning a service you provide or a new idea you have is likely the best way for them to go.
Give Them a Digital Gift
Chances are your offline friends and family have their own set of online friends. Taking advantage of these connections will help you expand the impact of your friends’ recommendations. A nice way to help your offline friends share with their online friends is to provide them with some sort of special image. This shouldn’t be your business’ logo, rather, it should be something special and relevant to your friend. Design a graphic for their birthday or create a holiday card for them to send to their own friends and family. Whatever you create, include your signature or branding, or your website or phone number, that way people that see it can contact you once they see what impressive work you do!
The image above was shared on my Facebook timeline by one of my friends for my birthday and it says “Happy Birthday Erez”. He’s not a designer, but this is a great example of something that made me laugh, was a personal gift, and is something I would gladly share with my friends and followers, even if he would have placed a logo or a small text with his website URL.
Give Them Something to Talk About
Another effective way for your friends to bring your business up in conversations with their friends is to talk about the success you’ve had. Have them discuss a site you just completed for a local business. They can talk about how you donate your time to designing and maintaining a site for a charity organization. Ask them to have a conversation about some free resources you’ve posted on your blog. It’s much easier for people to recommend you if they have something tangible to bring up, even if it’s a relatively small accomplishment. But you and your friends need to share these successes with a good measure of modesty. Again, keep it simple and straightforward so it sounds less like a late-night infomercial and more like a genuine, well-thought-out recommendation.
Get Them Online
Online review tools are all the rage right now. In fact, according to Nielsen, 92 percent of consumers worldwide say that they rely on online reviews more so than any other form of advertising when making a decision to purchase a product or service. Fortunately, there are many great online options for your friends, family, and future clients to talk about your business.
Customer Review Sites
There are a number of websites that allow consumers to leave feedback for businesses. Although some, like Angie’s List, require you and your customers to have a paid account, there are many free sites where your friends can leave you feedback and offer reviews of the services you provide:
- Yelp! – Yelp! is a free site that allows consumers to rate businesses on a scale of zero to five stars. With 139 million monthly visitors, it’s a great place for your friends to build your reputation.
- Google Local – Google is the most widely used search engine in the world, so having your friends write some nice reviews on Google Local is a great way to boost your profile. Any reviews left for you can be shared in your Google circle, and the reviewer can share it with people in their circle as well, expanding the scope and impact of the feedback left for you.
- Yahoo! Local – Similar to Google Local (although with far fewer users), the listings on Yahoo! Local allow customers to post reviews about your business and services using a five-star rating system.
If your business isn’t on Facebook, it should be. An incredibly powerful marketing tool, Facebook has a handy recommendation feature that allows clients to post feedback to your timeline. In essence, your entire Facebook profile is a giant recommendation anyway. Since more people have Facebook than not, it’s an easy way to get your friends to give you some props. You can easily create a business page so your friends, family, and clients can leave you likes and comments. If you work independently under your own name and prefer to use your personal page for business, just be sure your page is publically viewable.
Twitter might not come immediately to mind as a place for your friends to chat your business up. However, it’s actually a great platform to do so. Friends can tweet about your business to their followers, which you can then re-tweet as a recommendation. You could even start a hashtag for your friends and future customers to use to shout out how happy they are with the work you do. Those tweets would be indexed by Twitter and would pop up when someone searches for your business. Here are a bunch of guys doing a great job posting design content on twitter.
For all your creative professional friends, LinkedIn is a good place for them to talk about you and the services you offer. There’s a recommendation feature built right into the platform, so your colleagues can easily give you a shout out. If you have a LinkedIn profile for your business, there’s a handy place for your friends to leave feedback on your specific products and services as well.
You might need to incentivize your social media friends to participate in your marketing plan. Offering a commission is a good place to start. If you don’t have the funds to pay your friends for their services, try bartering. In exchange for talking about your business with their friends and colleagues, you can offer to design your friend a logo or other graphic, create a business card for them, or perhaps design a new logo for their business. You could also offer to market their business on your social media channels. Free stuff generally works as well. If you’ve got any merchandise with your logo or name on it, offer it up as “payment” and send it to your social media buddies. You might be surprised at the lengths people will go to for a free t-shirt!
If you’re utilizing your friends for promotional purposes, you might as well double-down on the free publicity and dedicate part of your website to customer reviews and testimonials. You can embed tweets or Facebook posts that offer nice reviews of your services. You can also incorporate a form so future clients can leave unsolicited feedback. This is an especially desirable option if you don’t have accounts on Yelp! or other feedback sites. An added bonus is that you have total control over what’s posted.
Did you create your own website yet?
Spreading the word about your business doesn’t have to involve a lot of output of money on your part or time and energy on the part of your friends and family. Word of mouth is an excellent marketing tool that will increase your business’ exposure and convince people that you are worthy of their business. To pique people’s interest, come up with fun, creative, and unique ways to market yourself. And be sure you utilize that same fun and creative spirit to create unique work that will make you and your business memorable for potential clients.
Do you have a creative way to utilize your connections with others for marketing purposes? Let us know your marketing secrets by leaving a comment below. Also sign up for our monthly newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest design trends and to get more great tips for growing your business.
Image Credits: With a Megaphone by a Wall by Garry Knight via Flickr Creative Commons Emerging Media – Twitter Bird by mkhmarketing via Flickr Creative Commons Business Card Wall by Dustin Ground via Flickr Creative Commons The Sweet Smell of Success by wackystuff via Flickr Creative Commons