Word of mouth is still the best form of marketing for any business. When customers talk about you, recommend you, inspire others to try out your company’s products or services, you win. You don’t need to advertise as much, and the advertising you do will often be more effective.

But referrals don’t just come naturally. You work for them.

Here are six ways marketers can aim to get more referrals:

  1. Better products. As marketers, it is our job to ensure that what we are selling is what the market wants and needs. By designing quality products that address the customers’ key pain points, we can ensure that we satisfy those needs. That way, they will be more likely to refer friends with similar needs to our brand.
  2. Better customer service. Nothing can kill a customer’s experience more than poor customer service. It’s important for marketers to make sure customer service is a top priority. Customer service agents should be encouraged to go above and beyond protocol to make customers happy and exceed their expectations. A great customer service experience can make up for a less than great product. We have become so accustomed to poor service than when we receive extraordinary service, we talk about it.
  3. Referral incentives. Nothing encourages referrals like an incentive. You can offer cash or discounts, more features on the product, or higher standing in a community, depending on what you’re offering. Companies like Dropbox and ING use growth hacking programs to get customers to market their services for them, and you can too. Think about how you can build referral incentives into your user experience.
  4. Customer loyalty and membership programs. Happy customers don’t necessarily refer others. But when you engage those customers, they become more likely to act as brand advocates. Creating loyalty programs or memberships allows you to follow up with your customers regularly, getting their input, giving them special offers, and clueing them into where you’re going and what’s new. The more you talk to them, the more likely they’ll be talking about you.
  5. Social media interaction. There is no surer way to keep social media chatter about your company quiet than not actively participating yourself. When your company has a presence on social media, and you interact with those people talking about your brand, you encourage even more activity.
  6. Ratings and reviews. Consumers read online reviews when they are considering what brand or product to buy. You can encourage reviews on sites like Yelp and others that list your business. And you can feature reviews on your own site as well. This allows customers to hear it from other people like them, and not just take your marketing message at face value. Those reviews can act as referral sources if you get enough of them.