Graphic Designers: Grow your Business with Word of Mouth Marketing. Referrals have always been a great way for graphic designers to gain new customers. Now, B2B review websites are bringing these peer referrals and word-of-mouth recommendations online, creating new opportunities for firms and freelancers to easily promote their services.

Reviews really do influence buying decisions

Several studies confirm that peer recommendations influence business buyers’ decisions more than any other form of advertising. Some 90% of buyers trust peer reviews and 70% trust online reviews, according to the American Marketing Association. Meanwhile, only 15% of buyers say they trust traditional advertising.

It’s clear from the Base One B2B buyers report data (below) that word-of-mouth marketing, as well as online information sources and social media, are key influencers in the business buyers' decision-making process.

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Source: Base One Buyersphere Report, April 2010

The bottom line for your business is that word-of-mouth and online channels work together to bring you more business. For example: You ask a few of your best clients for testimonials, which are published on an online B2B vendor review site (more on this below). Then, you spread the word about the reviews by posting them to your:

  • own website
  • portfolios and other electronic collateral
  • e-mail auto-signature
  • Facebook and LinkedIn pages, Twitter feeds and other forms of social media

Business owners who are searching for a graphic designer will see your positive reviews when they browse B2B review sites, perform web searches, and see others talking about your business online. All of this activity leads them back to your website and increases the probability that a prospective client finds you.

And what if you don’t have any reviews online? Testimonials can mean the difference between gaining a new client or losing that client to a competitor. The good news is that it only takes a few minutes to request reviews from customers using a B2B online review site (see more on this below).

Third-party reviews help build trust

Put yourself in the state of mind of a business owner looking for a graphic designer they’ve not heard much about, in an industry they’re not overly familiar with. Confronted with a new name, they wonder, “Who is this person? Can I believe what they say? What do other people think?”

They can find genuine answers to these questions directly from your clients, via online reviews. People trust word-of-mouth recommendations far more than messages that come from your own marketing materials. Praise coming from a third party feels more authentic and credible.

You can be proactive about getting good reviews

Clients will review your company whether you ask them to or not. Why not embrace this fact and be proactive about soliciting feedback from your best clients? Not only does this approach significantly increase your odds of receiving positive reviews, but it also shows clients that you value their feedback.

Most online reviews are positive

Research by Keller Fay Group and Bazaarvoice dispels the myth that online reviews are the dumping ground for people’s complaints. In fact, the study found that 87 percent of online reviews are positive in tone, and that 79 percent of reviewers share their opinions in order to reward a company they like.

Reviews give you a platform to show off stellar customer service skills

If you do receive a poor review, it’s a great opportunity to leap into action and make things right. This might mean following up with an individual client who left negative feedback, or it could mean making larger changes to how you do business. The key is to demonstrate to your clients that you are committed to listening, responding, and improving.

Reviews help you get found by search engines

Search engines like Google will bring up your reviews when someone searches for your business’ name. They could also be displayed when someone uses specific terms like “graphic designer” or other words that describe the services you offer.

Client reviews are like free advertising

Word-of-mouth marketing is frequently free, and, therefore, is more cost-effective than traditional ads and yellow page listings. Listing your business on review sites usually costs little or nothing. On ChoiceVendor, for example, it’s free to both list your business and invite your clients to review your service.

Sounds good, but how do you get started?

5 Quick & Easy Ways to Use Word-of-Mouth Marketing to Grow your Business

1. Ask clients to review your business

Get your word-of-mouth marketing plan underway by asking a handful of clients to review your service online. Consider this free advertising that takes little effort to implement.

Make the process as simple and straightforward as possible by telling your clients exactly where you’d like them to post their review. ChoiceVendor offers a quick way for you to email clients directly and invite them to review your firm on the site. The review time itself takes less than 2 minutes.

2. Use your reviews to promote your business.

There are many ways to use reviews to promote and grow your business. In email communications with your existing and prospective clients, include a direct link to your reviews. Add the link to your e-mail auto-signature so that your reviews go out automatically. You should also include the link on your company’s web site and on promotional materials, including online portfolios, brochures, and business cards. If you're using social media, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter pages, include your links there, as well. Adding these links helps would-be customers find you on the web when they’re looking for a graphic designer.

3. Make reviewing your business part of the buying process.

Every time a client makes a purchase, signs up for your service, or renews their contract, ask them for a review. Depending on your style of doing business, you could do this verbally, through a pop-up window on your website, at the bottom of an invoice, or via a follow-up email.

4. Reach out to your best clients.

It’s true that some online reviewers are looking for a public forum to air their dissatisfaction with a product or service – and they may be more motivated to write a review than someone who’s pleased. Give your best clients a gentle nudge to review your company. Most satisfied customers are happy to support a business they like!

5. Provide modest thanks to clients for reviews

Many clients will write reviews for you simply because they like you and want to spread the word about your business.  But some are busy. Offering a small token of appreciation, such as a discount on your product or services or a modestly-valued gift card, can go a long way in showing them you appreciate their time. Just tread carefully to make sure it's clear you're asking for an honest, unbiased review. And at minimum, follow up with a phone call or note of sincere thanks.

Now that you've gotten an overview of how to use word-of-mouth marketing to promote your business, visit ChoiceVendor to get started! For more useful business tips, please visit the ChoiceVendor Blog.