Technology has opened a whole new medium for reaching your target audience, but word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) is not dead. In fact, many customers rely on their inner circles to provide them with the most honest, reputable references. According to a 2012 global study by Nielsen, 92 percent of consumers are most influenced by recommendations from friends and family.

You can save on advertising costs and grow your business by educating and providing your social circles with the right information and tools.

First, make sure your friends know what you do

Have you ever attended a family wedding and had six different relatives ask you what you do for a living, only to repeat the same information at the next gathering? Sometimes simply telling your family what you do doesn’t cut it. Try showing them.

If you haven’t already, ask them if you can help them with their next apartment or house hunt. If you’re a seller’s agent, this might be a time to think about a commission cut — just make sure this isn’t something your friend is going to advertise as a bonus for working with you.

If you have a solid relationship, family and close friends should have you in mind as their go-to agent, but if they don’t, ask for some constructive feedback. They can give you the most honest, direct answers. If they’ve worked with you before, raw, customer-based insight helps you learn and develop.

Be sure your circles know your personal Web address. Make sure your content is digestible and enjoyable to a general audience — so that when it is inevitably shared, a larger pool of prospects can relate.

Regularly update your social profiles to reflect your most recent real estate venture, so those who you don’t keep in regular contact with know how business is going.

Then, ask them to help you market yourself 

Everyone has their own life and agenda, and even though you have the opportunity to grow your business with the help of your inner circle, it’s not their priority. Never set expectations, unless you’re hiring a family member or friend as an assistant or you’re providing some sort of incentive, like a referral fee.

When money is involved, be mindful of the drawbacks of going into business with friends and family.

Whatever the structure, give friends and family your business card for them to hand out to potential new clients. Those who work with different people every day (Uber drivers, bartenders, hair stylists and so on) who are more likely to strike up personal conversations at work should receive more tools than your friends who work in an office setting.

After all, there are only so many new people they can introduce you to until you’ve essentially spread your name around the whole office. Besides, their co-workers might get annoyed with constant promotions.

If you’re feeling bold, ask your friends for their friends’ email addresses. You can add addresses to automated email marketing services, like Outbound Engine, that create two unique email campaigns per month without interfering with your regular schedule. Essentially, you’re utilizing WOMM to connect and email marketing to maintain the relationship.

Speaking of integrating WOMM with technology, you could hack into friends’ and family’s social media circles without their knowledge, but acting surreptitiously can backfire. In fact, it’s best to inform them if you’re contacting one of their connections, even when you aren’t name dropping. If the prospect clicks on your profile, they can easily find mutual connections to pinpoint the middleman themselves.

When sifting through second or third connections, keep in mind that many people remain social media “friends” after losing touch, or even worse, suffering a damaged relationship. You’ll want to know of any discrepancies before you private message. Also, going over someone’s head will likely lead to lost trust and, potentially, one less client.

Email Jennifer Riner.

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