Editor’s note: This post is adapted from a presentation given by Derek Andersen at the 2019 Traction Conference in Vancouver. Derek is the founder of Startup Grind, one of the biggest communities of entrepreneurs in the world that’s aimed at educating founders and helping them build successful relationships. He is also CEO and founder of Bevy, an online platform created to support Startup Grind’s activities.

The way consumers buy products and services is changing. That’s because people are becoming increasingly skeptical of what you tell them. In fact, according to one study, 30 percent of millennials and 22 percent of Gen Xers don’t trust what they read online. Practically speaking, that means that while traditional and digital advertising campaigns are still important, they’re often not enough to convert prospects into paying customers. 

At a time when people are less trusting of traditional approaches to sales, word of mouth is becoming an increasingly important tactic to get people interested in your product and ready to buy. So how do you promote your business using word of mouth? 

To do so, you need to turn your existing customers into your advocates who will tell your story and sing your praises for you. And while that may sound daunting, the reality is that as long as you’re delivering great customer experiences, it’s not nearly as difficult as you think.

The fact is that 84 percent of B2B customers say that they would share their perspectives with a buyer, while 82 percent say they have written a review. Even more encouraging, 14 percent of customers say they have served as a reference, while 11 percent have provided a testimonial and 9 percent have taken part in a case study. Simply put, if your customers are happy with you, they’re often also happy to help out.

So if you’re a small company, what can you do to tap into this opportunity?

A playbook for your company

When it comes to tapping into customers to help promote word of mouth, Derek recommends applying the SPACE model:

  • Support success. Create a space for members to answer questions and solve problems for each other in order to be more successful with your product or service.
  • Product ideation, innovation, and feedback. Next, create a space for members to share ideas and feedback that will be used to drive innovation and product improvements.
  • Acquisition, advocacy. Then build a network of ambassadors and/or advocates who drive awareness and growth for the business.
  • Content, programming. After that, gather people who contribute information, goods, or services that make up the product or assets within the product.
  • Engagement. Finally, create a space for people who have a common interest that is related to, or focused on, your brand or product. In the process, deepen internal employee engagement, or engagement between suppliers or vendors or other teams that contribute to your company’s end product.

But following this framework is just the start. To inspire your superfans, you also have to have a mission and values that genuinely inspire people and that are prominently displayed on your website. Build an educational program — not a sales program — that comes from the heart and is aimed at helping people get the best out of your product. Identify your product superfans and do everything you can to help them both professionally and personally.

Remember, your customers will do more if you treat them nicely and authentically, and build communities that you both care about. Your customers are one of your best resources, so let them advocate for you.

To learn more, watch Derek’s full presentation: