Quality work can only get you so much word-of-mouth marketing. To get real results, you need to be working to actively get your name out there. Here are a few tips that can help.

Studies confirm that word-of-mouth marketing is more effective than traditional marketing  - and every tradesperson knows that satisfied customers generate repeat business and new customers through word-of-mouth referrals. But a passive approach will only get you so far: with the right strategies, you can start conversations with potential customers that help you become the local service provider of choice.

Get active locally

The key is to proactively engage with the people who live where you deliver services, rather than just sitting and waiting for the phone to ring. Local residents love finding reliable tradespeople and service providers, and they respond well when these providers sidestep conventional marketing and go straight to the people.

Join social media groups or forums

Online sites offer a great way of reaching large numbers of potential customers in your area. Gated online communities like Melbourne's Facebook®-based 14,000-member Bayside Community Hub , for example, are run by moderators who restrict access to proven residents in the area. Online site Nabo® claims local self-organised forums serving over 8000 neighbourhoods across the country , while Community Hubs Australia  maintains links with dozens of local community groups.

Marketing-savvy brands have also enjoyed great success building electronic word of mouth (eWOM) by joining customers in Facebook forums , online chat sites, Pinterest® groups, video-sharing sites , and other spaces where likeminded consumers congregate.

Customers that actively engage with brands online are more likely to review services and post positive reviews  - and the longer they have been customers, the more likely the reviews are to be positive.

Think grassroots

You can, of course, build awareness of your services by sponsoring a local football team or sausage sizzle, or generate business by offering discounts for new customers or cash rewards for referrals. But awareness and engagement are different things - and studies show  that businesses are most trusted when they actively engage with the communities in terms that are meaningful to the community. 

This means not only getting involved with local activities, but committing regular time out-of-hours to staying abreast of the issues that matter to people in the area. Attend local council information sessions, peruse the minutes of development meetings, and visit resident forums to keep tabs on neighbourhood concerns and priorities.

Once you are aware of what's going on, engaging with local action groups and grassroots committees can help work for some common community outcome - be it the preservation of green space, the upgrading of footpaths in a shopping strip, the installation of benches at the local oval or the removal of graffiti around a local school.

Get creative

Some entrepreneurs have built their reputation through competitions, as Geraldton, Western Australia's WA Country Builders did in 2015 with Brickstory, an integrated campaign to mark its 20th anniversary in the community. The firm spent 4 months encouraging the community to vote on the landmark they felt the town needed most. Participants were recognised online  and prizes like a new car boosted numbers. The campaign ultimately won WA Country Builders Platinum Everlast partnership status from the Geraldton Council - which cannot have hurt its prospects for future work.

This sort of recognition can be invaluable for any local service provider, acting as word-of-mouth in its own right. Many tradespeople and service providers seek similar recognition by participating in professional associations like Strata Community Australia® (SCA), whose members represent massive potential markets and whose endorsement reflects what CEO Chris Duggan calls "high barriers to entry, and a very robust process of being able to terminate membership" for unprofessional conduct.

As a result, owners' corporation managers regularly turn to SCA for referrals to proven, reliable local tradespeople: "they have a more direct connection to the local community in terms of being able to get tradies that understand the area," Duggan explains. "People want customer service as a core focus, and locally delivered service is often a desired value."

Take a stand

The best word-of-mouth comes when potential customers see you not for what you are, but what you stand for. Service providers that deliver that value are likely to be recognised as valued participants in the local community. Since local leaders tend to be quite outspoken and well-networked, they're likely to tell their friends about you.

Indeed, they are already talking about someone - so why shouldn't it be you? By providing exceptional service to just a few people in the right communities of interest, you will quickly grow from being one of many names on a list, to being the go-to service provider for the entire local area.

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