Getting the most from word of mouth recommendations

By Adam Austin - 12th November 2014


A word-of-mouth referral is a very powerful marketing tool, but how do you make the most of them, And how do you encourage more of these recommendations?

They say good news travels fast, and for good tradespeople, good news travels fast to new customers.

When your quality of work is high, you’ll find customers are happy to recommend you to their friends and family.

As a result of being recommended, your chances of winning that new work is much higher.

That is the power of word-of-mouth referrals, but how do you make sure it’s working for your trade business?

What do we mean by word-of-mouth?

A word-of-mouth recommendation happens when a customer you’ve completed work for in the past recommends you to one of their friends or family members.

That friend or family member has then contacted you about work they would like to have completed.

That’s a word-of-mouth recommendation.

For the majority of people, there’s a sense of satisfaction from passing on their good experiences for others to share, and this is often enough to drive word-of-mouth recommendations.

What makes a word-of-mouth recommendation great?

There are several reasons that successful tradespeople find word-of-mouth recommendations great for business:

  • Increased chance of work. If a friend or family member has recommended a tradesperson, there’s a higher chance that that tradesperson will win the work. In a time that cowboy traders are well advertised, recommendations are well valued by customers.
  • Reduced spend on advertising. Getting new leads can be costly. Word-of-mouth recommendations come to you with an already glowing reference! You don’t need to spend a penny advertising to those customers.
  • Social recommendations work. Word-of-mouth is a powerful tool because social recommendations come well trusted by customers. If someone they know has been happy with your work, chances are, so will they be.
  • Good level of trust from the start. Building trust is an important part of building a strong relationship. When you have been recommended, you already have a common ground with your new customer – your previous customer! You won’t be a complete stranger.
  • Testimonials not required. Although it’s still a good idea to offer testimonials and examples of previous work, your word-of-mouth recommendation comes with a glowing testimonial from your previous customer, so the quality of your work is known from the start.

Besides word-of-mouth recommendations making good business sense, what’s the alternative? Paying for advertising and trying to win over cold leads is an expensive business.

According to behavioural psychologist Adam Ferrier, humans are motivated to take action by two things: pleasure and pain. We either chase pleasure or we avoid pain. Sigmund Freud also called this the Pleasure Principle.

Word-of-mouth customers are avoiding the pain of choosing the wrong tradesman by selecting you based on a recommendation.

There’s a good chance that word-of-mouth recommendations are already working for you, but how do make the most of these recommendations?

How to maximise your chances for word-of-mouth recommendations

To increase the chance of your customers recommending you, excellent service is a must. That includes:

  • Excellent project delivery. Make sure you’re on time, every time, to budget, and to specification. Meet and exceed the expectations of your customers by delivering all your projects in a professional way.
  • Great customer service. Delivering your projects to a high standard also helps you deliver great customer service. Keep your customers happy with good, clear communication throughout the project.
  • Strong relationships. Great customer service and professionalism helps build strong relationships. A relationship built on trust is more likely to lead to your next recommendation.
  • Market yourself. How easy is it for your customer to pass your details onto friends? Leave some business cards or leaflets and let them know they are for any of their friends or family who need a similar service in the future.
  • Ensure there’s more to your work than a cheap price. Remember – you don’t need to compete on price. Emphasis your service and the end result of your work (which includes happy customers!) and leverage the recommendation to cost the work properly.

It doesn’t end once with one referred customer. Your new customer could give you your next recommendation, and that customer could recommend you again, and again, and on and on.

Make sure you continue to deliver work to a high standard and keep encouraging those referrals…

5 easy ways to encourage more word-of-mouth referrals

Here are our top 5 tips to encouraging more word-of-mouth recommendations from your customer.

1. Make it easy by doing great work

Do great work and recommending you will be a no-brainer for your customers.

Remember why your customer would recommend you to others – because they’re confident the quality of work will be good and you will be reliable.

Great work will lead to recommendations.

2. Ask for feedback.. and referrals

If your customers know that you truly care about their opinions, they could be more likely to tell a friend.

This is especially true if you act on what they have to say. Leave comment cards or setup an online survey. If you receive a useful tip and implement it into your business, contact the customer and thank them for the suggestion.

Ask your customers if they know anyone who could benefit from your service. You’ll be surprised at how happy customers will help you do the same great work for their friends and family.

3. Use social media as a referral channel

Social media can be the perfect channel for encouraging customers to refer your business.

One great review on Facebook could get your business in front of a person’s entire social circle, including family, close friends, colleagues, and work contacts.

One study shows that 81% of social media users say that their purchases are impacted by friends’ social media posts.

Make sure you make the most of recommendations via social media by asking your customers to post some pictures of your work on Facebook along with a review if they are happy with the work.

4. Finish the job the right way

If you’ve delivered a great job, then once you’ve finished your customers are likely to be at their most happiest.

Take this opportunity to follow-up with your customers and keep you in their thoughts as they tell their friends how happy they are with their new heating system, extension, windows, garden fencing – whatever service you offer.

Here are couple of ideas for finishing off in the right way and keeping yourself in your customers’ mind:

  • Send a job completion letter or email to your customer. Thank them for the opportunity to deliver their project and ask them for any feedback and referrals they might have.
  • Invite your customers to complete an online survey about how they  found your work.
  • Leave your customer business cards and leaflets to give out to anyone else interested in your work.

5. Promote your feedback… even to strangers

Testimonials from strangers can still work towards a recommendation.

Ask your customer for testimonials and promote them on your web site or social pages.

Show that you’ve got happy customers, and potential customers will start becoming more confident about becoming your next customer.


Further reading on word of mouth

There are lot’s of great articles and resources around the web to help you grow your business using word of mouth referrals. Here are a selection to get you started:


About the author

Adam Austin is the CEO & Co-founder of - The easy way for service businesses to save hours on admin and paperwork.

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