Tap Into the Power of Your Customer’s Voice Erin Posey One of the most potent ways to promote your small business is through your customers. You’ve got a reason to promote your product or service-more sales. But your customers don’t and that makes them influential, credible evangelists for your business. That’s important, because today we all rely on platforms like Yelp, TripAdvisor and Angie’s List–or tap our connections on Facebook–to guide our purchasing decisions. Here are some ways small businesses can tap into and leverage the power of customer voice: Encourage customers to post reviews online. Few marketing strategies are more effective than authentic, positive customer reviews. Not only do they drive customers to your business they also boost its search rank and reputation. (For more detailed information on how that works, and how to craft a “review acquisition strategy” see this primer from Shopify.) Most of us look at reviews before we decide to buy, so wherever your customers make their purchase–be it an online shopping cart, at a physical register or by invoice–encourage them to post a review. Have links to review sites at your online checkout and place a sign about those sites at the cash register. If you invoice customers, add a few lines asking them to post a review on your Facebook page, Yelp, Google Reviews or other appropriate sites. You can also encourage customers to “check in” on Foursquare—a social media app that allows people to share their location—and leave a rating or “tip” (Foursquare lingo for a review). Ask your customers what they think. Last year SurveyMonkey asked more than 300 small business owners if—and how—they measured customer satisfaction. They found that 83% of businesses who described themselves as successful measured customer satisfaction. Surveys are a great way to gain feedback, but you can also use a “contact us” form on your website, surveys on social networks like Facebook, or a customer service team that calls or emails to ask about satisfaction. Research from professors at New York University and Rice University actually shows that just asking for customer feedback is enough to make customers feel satisfied. It’s also likely to increase awareness of a business’ products or service and appeals to the desire most of us had to be heard–and indulged. Build community around your business. If you’re clear on your business’ value proposition and are trusted and respected by customers, you are in the perfect position to create a community around that business. Leverage social media—using Facebook and Twitter to talk about new products, services, the business and its customers. A blog is another great way to involve your customers in an ongoing conversation. Participate in local activities like charity fundraisers or races, and host workshops and events for customers. A neighborhood yoga studio, for example, might offer a free workshop on “Therapeutic Yoga for Back Care”. A local market could host tastings of new products. Promoting those events on social media allows you to build community both offline and online. Champion your customer. Perhaps most importantly, tell stories about your customers, making sure they are the heroes—not your product, service or brand. A café, for instance, might choose a “customer of the week” and feature their photo and information about them on a wall of the café and on its Facebook page. Celebrate your customers and share their stories and they, in turn, will share the story of your business with many others. The key is to let your customer’s voice be heard in your small business. By surveying your customers, having meaningful conversations with them and encouraging them to share their experiences with their community, you will quickly build a fleet of raving fans and a solid growth plan for your business.