How Small Businesses Can Use Word-of-Mouth to Stand Out from the Competition

Mississauga Board of Trade
Mississauga Board of Trade


May 19, 2015


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lisa-kemberBy Lisa Kember

Anyone in business knows that word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool they have. But traditionally word of mouth has had its challenges. There are little or no ways to tell what people were saying about you. You can’t track who is talking about you. And unless you ask people as they come in the door, you don’t know how they got to you or who is talking about you.
Yet we all want more word of mouth activity. The reason is simple: if someone comes to your business on the recommendation of someone they know, then you have the strongest possible opportunity to make a sale.

If you ask a typical shopper what’s different about shopping at a small business as compared with a large chain, they would probably say something like ‘They really know their product.’ Or maybe something like ‘The owner greets me by name’. A large chain with multiple layers of management and low income staff cannot replicate that experience.

And it is the experience that someone has at your business that are what they remember and like to tell others about. This is what word of mouth is all about. It’s not the product – that could be sourced elsewhere. It’s all about the way that product is sold.

These days, word of mouth activity is not only happening over the backyard fence or around the kitchen table, it is also happening online on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. People are sharing their experiences immediately and passionately. And the impact on the small business can be huge.

The new ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing has huge advantages. Where you used to have very little knowledge of or control over what was said about you, today you have multiple ways to see how people are talking about you, how frequently, and track that impact over time using analytics available in social media and online marketing tools.

You can also use social media yourself to influence how people talk about you, simply by providing information, photos and other content that they can share while talking about your business.

Over and over, research has shown that about 80 percent of customers come from a 5-10 kilometer radius around your business. What that means is that what people say about you actually doesn’t have to travel very far. It also means that the more you connect with people locally in your community on these social sites and in online environments, the more you increase the chance that your prospect will run into one of your existing customers. And that is good news, if you want to drive word of mouth.

While connecting with your existing customers is critically important, the other option is to look at the power of generating word of mouth through other business owners. One thing to consider is how you can help other small businesses with a non-competitive focus by talking about them online. That in turn will grow the profile of your organization, as you seek to support and strengthen fellow small businesses.

There are so many different ways to drive business today, but one thing is clear – the words your customers use about your business and they way they talk about their experience with you is critical to the future success of your business. So help them tell your story by delivering a “wow” experience and giving them content they can share about your products and services.

Lisa Kember is the Regional Director for Constant Contact in Eastern Canada. She can be reached at

About the Author

Mississauga Board of Trade
Mississauga Board of Trade

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