The Path To Recommendation – What Every Small Business Needs to Know

By owenl | Small Business


By Paul M. Rand

Think about the last time you got a new client or customer.

There's an overwhelming likelihood that your new business came from someone recommending you. In fact, 92 percent of all consumers report that a "recommendation from people I know" is the biggest influence on their purchase behavior, according to a recently released study from Nielsen research. This percentage is well ahead of TV ads (47%), newspaper ads (46%) and even radio ads (42%).
While recommendations have always been important, social media has fundamentally shifted the marketing dynamic. Today, consumers can share their positive — and negative -- word of mouth recommendations with hundreds, thousands and even millions of other people.

Overwhelming Choices

Every day, there is a new social media tool, process or platform being announced. And Google, Facebook, Groupon and a host of social media marketing platforms and providers are promising a never-ending stream of new business by marketing through their platform.

No question. Each of these tools has their advantages. But the real power lies in knowing where, how and why your customers are recommending your brand — and helping them do more of it.

Five Steps To Driving Recommendations

Becoming recommended is not complicated, but it can be hard. It means that you have to take time to understand what your customers really want. And then making sure you are giving it to them — along with easy ways to talk about and recommend you to their friends and family.

We talk about this process as the "Path to Recommendation":

  • Know - Know where and how your brand and competitors are talked about and recommended online — it's likely very similar to how they are doing the same offline
  • Plan - Develop a comprehensive brand strategy, articulate your story, and reasons to recommend — help people know how they should be recommending you
  • Activate - Identify the people whose recommendations influence purchase decisions — find out which of your customers are writing reviews or telling others to come and see you. And then give them reason to do more
  • Protect - Protect your brand by identifying and neutralizing negative voices and misinformation — monitor social media channels, particularly review sites like Yelp, and make sure you are addressing any negative comments
  • Measure - Measure continuously to evaluate program success and ROI, then adjust to take advantage of conversation changes

Every business and brand knows the importance of recommendations. The smart ones know that recommendations don't happen by accident. And the smartest ones know how to plan and proactively drive recommendations to become the most talked about and recommended brand in their category.

[This article is part of a series on online marketing, reputation, measurement and campaigns. Part 1: "Managing Your Reputation Is the Key to Customer Service"]

Paul M. Rand (twitter@paulmrand) is the president and CEO of Zocalo Group — a leading social word of mouth and social media marketing agency. Follow Zocalo Group at and on Twitter at

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