Word of Mouth Marketing | woman looking at phone

How I Built My Network Into a Word of Mouth Marketing Machine

When new “work” friends ask me about my business, I am invariably asked how I get clients. I always feel super lucky to respond, “Referrals. I have an awesome network.”

Even better: I don’t attend networking events anymore.

Better than that: People tell me they’ve heard my name mentioned in conversations.

For any small business owner, word of mouth marketing is our secret weapon to growth. Potential clients who are referred to us are the best, because:

  • They trust the referral
  • They have likely heard great things about us
  • They obviously need our service (or product)

Building up your network into a word of mouth marketing machine like I did takes time and effort, but it is totally doable. Whether you are a new small business owner or just thinking about going out on your own, here’s how to get started:

Have a client-centric elevator speech

First things first: You need an awesome elevator speech that quickly and succinctly communicates “why,” aka, your value proposition. Note I said “why,” not “what.” Of course, what you do is important to share, but that’s not an elevator speech. That’s just your line of business.

That means saying something along the lines, of, “We are a residential cleaning service” ain’t gonna cut it. There’s no “why” in it. Why do you exist? What benefits do you offer? What do you differently than other cleaning services? Your elevator pitch needs to include these elements.

Network like a maniac

Make it a point to attend one event a week if you can stand it, but at the very least, go to two events a month. Keep going to events until word-of-mouth marketing kicks in, which could take a few months or a couple of years. Make the most of each event by talking to as many people as possible, and be sure to ask as many questions as you answer.

Be picky about events

The best place to start networking is at chambers of commerce events – they typically have monthly events that are open to the public. As you talk to people at these events, ask them what other events they like to attend, why they like those events, and who is typically at those events. Be picky about the events you attend, or you could end up wasting a lot of time.

Turn on the charm

Walking up to random strangers and talking to them comes naturally to me (thanks, Dad, for always talking to random people wherever we went!). But I know a lot of people cannot fathom doing this once, let alone several times, in one evening.

I hate to say it, but put on your big kid pants and just get out there. Keep in mind that other attendees are probably as nervous and uncomfortable as you. Just smile, turn on the charm, and walk up to people and say, “Hi.” They are there to meet new people just like you!

Follow up – immediately

Within 24 hours of the event, shoot each person you met a quick note to say hi, great meeting you. If you think the person would be a good source of referrals for you and vice versa, ask to meet for coffee or lunch.

When you meet someone at an event who expresses interest in using your service, prioritize them over everyone else! Send them a longer email recapping your discussion and offering next steps (typically an in-person meeting at their office).

Keep in touch

Use these networking events to build both your email list and LinkedIn network – both of which will keep you top-of-mind.

To build your email list: In your follow-up email, let them know you have a newsletter, what you share in it, and how to sign up. Always let them opt-in – don’t automatically add them. That’s a big no-no.

To build your LinkedIn network: Send an invite with a quick note that you’d like to keep in touch. Once a week, publish a though leadership article you have written or share an article you really like and explain why. Whenever you do this, you’ll show up in your networks’ news feeds.

Meet in person every once in a while

Because I am so busy, I reserve my in-person meetings for people I genuinely like and enjoy spending time with. I also like to meet people in person because it gets me out of the house and around people (writing is a very lonely profession, especially for an extrovert!).

Nurture the strongest links in your network

Over time, you’ll quickly figure out who the strongest links in your network are – they’re the ones who send you the most business. Pay extra careful attention to them.

Take them out to lunch. Send them articles you think they’d like. Introduce them to people in your network. Do whatever it takes to show you appreciate them, think about them, and want to help them. They’ll continue to return the favors.


Got any questions about word of mouth marketing or networking? Shoot me a note.

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