When I worked in advertising, I contacted hundreds of small businesses a year to discuss their advertising budgets and when I would ask them how they currently advertised their business, the overwhelming majority of small business owners told me they relied on word-of-mouth to bring in customers.

Of course, many of these businesses were on the verge of closing up shop, so it was evident that either word-of-mouth wasn’t working, or the word wasn’t very good.

Even though I have a history in advertising, I’m a believer in the power of word-of-mouth – both good and bad. Good word-of-mouth can mean a daily line out the door of a local restaurant. Bad word-of-mouth (or in most cases, no word-of-mouth) can mean layoffs and cutbacks and unpaid bills.

So what are people saying about YOUR business? Is it what you want them to say? Are they even talking about you at all? How are you HELPING people talk about your business? (Later in the series, we’ll talk about what I mean by “helping” people talk about your business and even provide some tips.)

If you’re not sure what people are saying about your business, there are simple tools you can use to find out.

1. Listen. If you don’t directly deal with your customers, take some time to observe the transaction process. Spend a day answering phones, working the front counter, or responding to customer emails. Some of the most successful small business owners make sure to spend a lot of time interacting directly with their customers. Think about it. The best restaurant owners walk around and greet diners. And they’re LISTENING to what their customers are telling them about their experience. Think about how you can spend more time with your customers and then do it. It’s worth your time.

2. Google yourself. And not just you, the business owner, but your company. Are people reviewing you on review sites? Are people blogging about you? Google is an easy yet powerful tool, so use it. You might be surprised at what you find.

3. Survey. Ask your customers to rate their experience on a satisfaction surveys. Send them to your database of customers, or if you don’t have one, leave them out in the open at your establishment or on your website so people can see them. The majority of people probably won’t take your survey, but people that have extremely positive or extremely negative experiences will tell you about it. You just have to give them a way to do it and ask for it.

4. Observe your employees. Employees are an often overlooked source of some of the most important kind of word-of-mouth. If your employees aren’t happy, chances are they’re badmouthing you or your business to their network of friends and family. Even little things like “He’s always late for his appointments” or “our competitor is cheaper” can make a huge impact on a prospective customers perception of you and your company.

For more information on word of mouth and small business visit us at http://www.DiamondHeadStrategies.com.

News Reporter