What did you think of your order?

Over the past couple of months, I have been purchasing a number of items from one particular shop and have started to receive emails from them asking me to review each of those items for their website.

It isn’t the first time I’ve received such emails, and it appears to be something which is becoming more common as major retailers recognise and try to capitalise on word of mouth advertising. Basically, they want to use my comments to encourage other consumers to buy the products – almost as if I’m stood next to the potential customer telling them they should.

It is a long-established form of marketing and one which has always been useful and successful for both consumers and sellers. It is also now far more usual for us, as consumers, to use such marketing online – for example, you check your hotel on Trip Advisor before booking, or the product reviews on Amazon before purchasing, almost as second nature in all transactions.

As a small business, you may not be able to put client testimonials on your website, but if you have a Facebook or Twitter, you can encourage your customers to leave your business comments and reviews there. Don’t be afraid to ask key customers to send you a review, especially if they are leaving your business satisfied.

Using your existing customers to verify how good your business, products and services are is an easy way to encourage other people to use your business and to ensure ongoing promotion at little or no cost, and shouldn’t be overlooked as part of your overall marketing activities.

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Boosting Your Small Business Profile Using Awards and Showcases

One easy way in which you can boost the profile of your small business is to keep a watch for opportunities in the media, via networking groups or within your business community to highlight your successes via business award ceremonies. Entering awards or showcases will take some time to put together, but pitch them right and you will not only receive the resulting profile, but can use the accolade for ongoing marketing for usually up to 12 months.

For example, if you enter and win a small business award in your local region, you will usually receive profile from the local newspaper or media sponsors, and can then use that award to promote your business as being a cut above your competitors on social media, in your advertising and to market directly to new or existing customers in newsletters, emails and letters. In short, it gives you something new to sell about your business.

If there is nothing locally which you can enter, you could look at campaigns such as the Guardian Small Business Showcase, which also provides experiences and stories from other small businesses for you to be inspired by.

If you don’t win or aren’t featured when you enter an awards ceremony or showcase, don’t be put off. The opportunity to write down your experiences and share them is a great way of benchmarking your achievements, realising the route you still need to take and acting on it. Then, when you enter next time, maybe you’ll have more luck as you can see, chart and bask in your business progression.