3 Ways to Get Customers Talking About You

by Cindy Alvarez April 22nd, 2009 

We've heard it countless times – Build an awesome product, and your customers will shout from the rooftops. Solve your customer's big problems, and they'll tell everyone. If you build it, they will evangelize.

Unfortunately, it's not true. A very small percentage of the population is actively blogging and writing reviews. A slightly higher percentage may participate in ratings or sharing on social networks. The rest are passive consumers – reading and forming opinions silently and unlikely to influence other prospective customers.

Consumer Influencers

You need to actively combat this pattern in 3 steps to get customers talking about you:

1. Understand what excites customers about you and how they naturally describe it
2. Offer suggestions for how customers can talk about you
3. Ask for customers to talk about you and guide them on how and where to do it

If steps #1 and #2 sound a bit like a chicken-and-egg problem, it's because it is a chicken-and-egg problem. If no customers are talking about you, you don't know what will resonate with them and you can't know how to best encourage them to start talking. It may take a few rounds of asking questions and active listening to hone in on what's exciting about your product.

Understand what excites customers about you and how they naturally describe it

For new products, you will need to start with non-customers (people who are not familiar with your product) and get them familiar enough so they can provide feedback. Then prompt them to tell the story of how they would use your product – "Well, I usually pay bills twice a month…" "So that's when you would log in to the site, or…?" Questions like "what would you do next?" or "how do you think this would help you?" keep the conversation flowing.

Consumer Conversations
Ed Yourdon

You'll want to run at least five of these interviews, but you probably won't need more than a dozen to see the patterns in what users like and how they describe it. This isn't quantitative information; you don't need a big sample size. You aren't interested in a 1-10 rating, you are interested in the story of your product, starring your customer. You want to capture the phrases and the cadence of their speech as much as the concepts.

Once you've gotten them comfortable talking, it's time for the big question: If you were recommending this to a friend, what would you tell them to make them want to use it?

"What I love about this – well, this budgeting chart makes it so clear where my money is going. It makes me feel like I'm in control of my finances."

"I don't usually sign up for social apps, but this one didn't spam me and it helped me get back in touch with a bunch of old college friends that I wouldn't have found otherwise."

Offer suggestions for how customers can talk about you

Look at the feedback you got from users and figure out which elements best overlap with the message your company wants to send. You'll need to refine the phrases and stories customers use to get rid of "ums" or inappropriate language, but otherwise keep them as authentic as possible.

Word of Mouth Flowchart
Intersection Consulting

Post these stories on a "what people are saying about us" page. Put one next to the social sharing widget on your site. Twitter them. If you have a "invite a friend" or "refer a friend" page, put these stories in a drop-down menu so the user can choose which message to pass along.

What you don't want is a customer who wants to talk about you, but doesn't feel ready or motivated to write something that sounds smart. You want those customers to have words at the ready that don't sound like a press release.

"Since I've been using this service, I have never lost a file. I probably save five hours of re-work per week."

Think of a blogger staring at an empty white screen, trying to find a topic to write about. She just had a great experience with your product… but nothing's coming to mind but "really useful" and "definitely worth the money". Is she going to write a bland review, or choose to write about something else entirely? Think of the community site participant who would normally lurk – if it only takes a second to call to mind the right words, he's much more likely to post a response.

Ask for customers to talk about you and guide them on how and where to do it

Finally, you can't count on luck and customer affection – often, you have to ask for the mention. Be clear on what you want, where you want it, and a direct link to click or text to copy and paste and edit. MoveOn.org and other political action groups have mastered this – any time you're asked to contact your representative, they helpfully provide you with text that is factually accurate and well-written. Whether you choose to keep it or provide your own is up to the individual.

Kids Sharing

Some examples:

  • Kelly M. says "As soon as I signed up for the service, I got email alerts that saved me over $100!" Do you have a success story? Click here to share it on Facebook.
  • We reached the 500th download mark, but we don't have any user reviews yet. Have you used the auto-save function? Are you saving time with the export to blog post? Help us out by going to Software Site and writing a quick review. Let other users know!
  • Since you've been using the service, you've lost ten pounds. Forward this email to a friend so they can congratulate you and sign up.

For any of these "asks", the action needs to be obvious, no more than two clicks away, and you need to provide text but also the option to edit it or replace it entirely.

Most of these examples are targeted at consumer products and services, but they work just as well for enterprise customers. Even if you've had a relationship with a customer for years, try asking: "What do you find most valuable about us?" You may just be surprised – and the answer may help you win your next deal.

Cindy Alvarez is serious about launching great products. She blogs about product management and user experience at The Experience is the Product and runs the Smarter Product Managers book club.

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20 Responses to “3 Ways to Get Customers Talking About You”

  1. Nice post Cindy
    I take long time to make people talk about me, and I am continuing to make all that is possible for them to make even small comments about me ,
    I like your 3 steps Cindy

  2. Will says:

    Very good article. I especially enjoyed "Ask for customers to talk about you and guide them on how and where to do it". Obvious when you read it, but not enough sites do it.


  3. Jennifer says:

    Great post Cindy!!! I couldn't agree with you more. If you build it (write it) they will not come.

    "you can’t count on luck and customer affection – often, you have to ask for the mention. Be clear on what you want, where you want it, and a direct link to click or text to copy and paste and edit" this is so true. Most people are happy to take the action that you want – so long as you make it easy for them to do so.

  4. Great article, I need to get more involved in networking with my customers and creating a viral momentum forward. Thanks!

  5. Cool Gifts says:

    I think it's extremely important to keep your fingers on the pulse of the customer. Interacting with them as often as possible could only lead to positive outcomes.

  6. josephrajesh says:

    your article about understanding the passion of the consumer is MORE VITAL whenever a advertising campaign is launched! this helps save money and utilise money appropriately after learning the consumer needs and addressing properly thereafter. Great Post! Your knowledge and expertise in ecommerce is appreciable!

  7. alleycat says:

    customers will talk about you if -

    1. you have an awesome product/service
    2. your product/service solves a big problem
    3. you make it easy for your customers to talk about you

    if your business does not fulfill 1 and 2, then point 3 wont get you nowhere.

  8. Great post… really! Good analyse of marketing. The most important thing is find the way to do it!

  9. riquelme10 says:

    This is a great article is better to know your customer and what better strategy to know each other that let them speak about themselves, this kind of situation will build a trust between customer and you so that will be a great click that you will make with the customer doing your job easier.

  10. I think a program like 'You review I follow' can be an alternative too for customer talking about us. Also by offering reward perhaps will increase any other review from people. People like freebies, eh?

  11. Create something (an ad for example) that nobody understands and watch them as they discuss it in the showers trying to figure out what it is….


  12. Great post! Getting the public to talk about your business or product is still one of the best forms of advertising. I like the tips you have provided, thanks.

  13. Ann says:

    This is an excellent post. I am sure that is the best advertising when customers say about us. Thanks for the great tips on how to be the best in the business that we do and how to fascinate our customers.

  14. Kaye Dennan says:

    Word of mouth is the best advertising possible (as long as it is good of course, goes much faster when it is not!). I am still finding it difficult to get ongoing comments. Will have to keep at it.
    Thanks for your tips.

  15. Morgan says:

    Actually, when it comes to make conversation, commenting is a good way for bloggers to create alive discussion, just to know what is "hot" at the time. And hopefully after that ideas can come up just like that.

  16. Ron Edwards says:

    I think it’s extremely important to keep your fingers on the pulse of the customer. I especially enjoyed “Ask for customers to talk about you and guide them on how and where to do it”.

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  19. Matilda says:

    I completely agree with the points you're making here Cindy. If you make it easy for your customers to share their experience further, this is preciesely what a lot of them will do. Now you just want to make sure what you're offering is indeed a of high quality.

    I've also made a few point myself about getting customers interested in your business: http://www.nnc-services.com/blog/4-ways-of-getting-customers-interested-in-your-business/. Hope you find this useful as well!