Want to know the #1 reason your customers don't recommend you to their friends? It isn't because they don't like your product, or because they don't care or are too busy. The real reason is either because you don't ask them to, or you don't make it easy for them to do it. If you ask them in the right way, however, the word of mouth referrals and additional business you can get from the experience will easily be more powerful that just about any other advertising or marketing you could do. Here are a few ideas for getting your customers to promote you to their family, friends and social networks in a way that won't make it appear as if you're paying them to like you:

  1. Share the credit. When you create a new video using the software offered with the new Flip digital video cameras, there is an option at the end of the movie editing process to "share the credit" with Flip. Checking the box means that there will be a small screen that appears at the end of your movie saying that you created your masterpiece with Flip. It's a great and simple way to let their users "share the credit" with them (see image at the end of this post).
  2. Let them be a fan. For those of you who are active Facebook users, this phrase likely has the meaning of creating a "fan page" but beyond Facebook, people often want to their circle of friends (and sometimes to the world) to know the brands they love. So on Facebook and even offline, give your customers and employees some visual way to declare that they support your brand. Give them t-shirts or bumper stickers. Let them put a badge on their blog or join your group on LinkedIn. However you do it, find as many ways as possible for them to identify themselves with you.
  3. Encourage online reviews. It is no secret that online reviews can have big impact on whether someone decides to purchase something or not. Instead of getting customers to blindly fill out surveys or registration cards, try asking them to go online to a prominent site, or social network, or even their own blog and ask them to talk about their experience. Having these opinions searchable and public online will do far more for you than a great survey response.
  4. Refer a friend. At one point it was common to see a "tell a friend" button on just about every website. Though that practice may not be as common as it once was, you should consider bringing it back for your site. Offline you can achieve the same thing through giving people extra business cards or other materials to pass along to their friends. Sometimes all you really need to do is make sure you are giving your supporters enough material to share with others.
  5. Pass along an offer. Along similar lines is the idea of having a specific promotional offer that your customers can share with their contacts. Among the best types of offers are those which offer something for them AND something for your customer. One example is the friends and family discount that Clear Card offers. If you sign someone else up, you'll get a free month, and the person you sign up does as well.
  6. Offer useful content. Nothing can promote your brand quite like offering content that solves a need. If you answer a customer's question or help them share something useful, you'll be one your way to getting them to promote your point of view just by passing the content along.

Example of "Sharing the Credit":