When you start a small business, you typically can’t afford elaborate and expensive marketing tactics. And if you’re penny-pinching, growing your small business might seem impossible. So, how can you promote your small business on a budget? The answer is simple: word-of-mouth marketing.

Word-of-mouth marketing strategies

Word-of-mouth marketing can be a powerful asset to your company. Consumers trust recommendations from people they know. In fact, 90% of individuals trust brand recommendations from friends.

Even though marketing methods are ever-changing, customers will always be the best brand ambassadors. Traditionally, word-of-mouth marketing occurs when a customer recommends or promotes a product or service to another individual. Today, word-of-mouth marketing not only occurs face-to-face but across the web, too.

Take advantage of the five word-of-mouth strategies below to boost brand reputation and inexpensively build up your business.

1. Go above and beyond for your customers

Hopefully you are already taking advantage of this first tip. After all, where in the world would you be without your loyal customers?

To successfully utilize word-of-mouth marketing, you have to give customers something to talk about. This means going above and beyond customer expectations and motivating them to spread the word about your company.

There’s a reason why you rarely hear or read about average customer service stories. Customers want personalized service and an experience they can rave about.

When customers purchase your product or use your service, go the extra mile for them to make yourself stand out from competitors. And if customers have a bad experience, go out of your way to make things right.

Consider also following up with customers to ask about their experiences in store or via email. You can take advantage of surveys to find out what your business is doing right. And, you can utilize customer feedback to make improvements.

2. Humanize your business

The more people who can connect to your brand, the better. In this technological age, humanizing your brand online can be difficult for small businesses. To help fuel word-of-mouth marketing, add a human touch.

Building a strong connection with your current and potential customers is essential both online and offline. Show customers that your brand has a personality.

Engage customers through social media by regularly responding to mentions and comments. That way, customers know they’re talking to a real human being.

Be as responsive as possible on social media, review sites, and your business website. The more you communicate with individuals, the more likely they are to mention or recommend your business to others.

3. Create a rewards program

A little incentive never hurt anybody, right? Everyone likes free stuff. To get customers buzzing about your business, consider enticing them by creating a rewards or referral program.

Customer rewards programs are a good way to turn customers into loyal brand advocates. Offering customers special rewards or offers, such as a free item, can improve customer experience and keep customers coming back for more. And, customers who are hooked on great rewards programs are more likely to share their experiences with friends and family.

You can implement the same type of strategy with a referral program. Referral programs are a win-win for everyone. Customers refer others to your business, you get a potential sale from a new customer, and the customer doing the referring gets a reward.

4. Encourage user-generated content

User-generated content (UGC) is when consumers create and share their own posts about your business’s offerings. According to one source, user-generated content is 35% more memorable and 50% more trusted by consumers.

UGC is a secret weapon for small business owners. Because posts are shared by consumers, other individuals are more likely to trust the information.

An example of UGC would be a customer posting about their experience at your business by sharing a photo and recommending your company to their followers.

You can encourage UGC and promote word-of-mouth marketing by creating a unique hashtag for your business on social media. You can also incentivize posts by offering a free item or discount if a user likes, shares, or comments on your content.

5. Share and promote positive reviews

Customer reviews are key sources for individuals searching for positive and negative experiences. And, approximately 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Many potential customers scour websites and review platforms (e.g., Yelp) to check up on your business before they commit. To keep the positive word-of-mouth flowing, share and promote customer reviews.

Consider incorporating positive reviews on your business website or social media platforms. Share good reviews to showcase testimonials about your business. Consumers are more likely to trust this source of information.

Display customer reviews in as many places as possible, both in-store (e.g., posters) and online (e.g., social media posts).