“A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.”  ~Michael LeBoeuf, author.

What’s the best way to advertise your business?

TV?  Nope.

Radio? Sorry.

Print? Seriously?

Social Media? You may think so, but wrong again.

The absolute best form of advertising is staring you right in the face. Literally, staring you in the face.  It is the most inexpensive, most trustworthy, and best return on investment, because it’s free.  That’s right…FREE!!

If you haven’t guessed it by now, IT”S YOUR CUSTOMERS!  They are by far your best source of advertisement.  They know your business first hand, know your level of commitment, know if you take them seriously, and know that if there’s a problem you will make it right.  Right the first time and in a timely manner.  They will write about you on different social media platforms.  They will tell their family.  They will tell their friends. Personal recommendations and referrals are what every business covets.

So you need to make sure you treat all customers with the respect and business approach you would want to be treated. You need to deliver what you promise. You need to create the type of experience you would expect.

Have you ever stopped doing business with a company because of the way you were treated?  I know I have.  Maybe the product or service did not live up to expectations.  Or if there was a problem, it was not fixed in a timely manner.  Or not fixed at all.  Maybe the customer service people were rude.  And if that happened, I made sure to tell many family, friends and neighbors about my bad experience. Did you know 91% of unhappy customers will not willingly do business with you again? (Lee Resources)

And the opposite is also true.  If I have a great meal at a restaurant, or experienced great service at a local company, I would also make sure to sing their praises.  I would want to do business with them again, because I would know what to expect.

I come from the hospitality industry, and in my world we need to deliver a product and service that is perceived as a great value.  If it’s not, our customers will go elsewhere.  But if it is, and you create an Exceptional Experience that Exceeds Expectations (I love alliteration), your customers will tell the world.  Loud and clear.

There are many review web sites and apps on the internet (Yelp, Trip Advisor, Cruise Critic, Goodsnitch), where, with the click of a mouse, your customers can sing your praises or help start your downfall into business failure.

I participate in a great web site called Nextdoor (www.Nextdoor.com).  It is where families in small neighborhoods or communities sign up to communicate with each other.  Like a neighborhood watch group.  Neighbors can post questions, or ask for a recommendation for a particular service, such as a good plumber in the area.  Or Florist. Or Veterinarian.  They can post garage sales, or talk about safety and security warnings for the area.  It’s a great web site made up of all your neighbors.  Giving lots and lots of recommendations.  And if you run your business correctly, and provide a great product or service, IT’S FREE ADVERTISING!  I learned of a great person to fix my leaky roof, as well as a very reasonable and qualified electrician.  There are no limits as to what people are looking for. We tend to believe the recommendations of family and friends over complete strangers.  So when one or two of our neighbors recommend the same person, we take notice.

These businesses know they were recommended by neighbors, and they received free advertising they would not have normally received.  They also know they need to deliver the same quality product and service, or the neighbors will also tell the community to beware.

If you know your customers are pleased with your service or product, don’t be afraid to ask for their recommendation or referral.  You could even make it worth their while by offering a discount to them and to any new customer they bring in. Make it a part of your Loyalty Program.

Give your customers something positive to shout about, and watch the referrals roll in. It’s a win-win for everyone, and isn’t that why you’re in business?

Paul Rutter is a customer loyalty, repeat business and customer service expert, a keynote speaker, corporate trainer and business author. He has had the unique opportunity to live with his customers and co-workers for months at a time traveling the world, and shares his experiences with land based businesses. For more information on More Than Perfect® Service, contact Paul at Paul@PaulRutterSpeaks.com, follow him on Twitter on @RealPaulRutter or visit him on Facebook/PaulRutterSpeaks.

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