Word of mouth: why it's the most powerful marketing tool

“Two and a half years ago I did a loan for one of my first ever customers. Since then she has sent all of her family and friends to see me and they’re now my clients too."

Word of mouth. It’s arguably the easiest way to attract business, but the hardest thing to generate. How can mortgage brokers spread the good word around their community and make it stick?

We spoke to one young broker who has done in two years what many of us are aiming for: 80 per cent of her business comes from clients referring their family and friends.

Sharon Bal joined Loan Market Cannington as a Rookie in 2014. Since that time she’s built up a business that writes more than $50 million a year and she credits much of her remarkable growth to a commitment to her community. Here’s what she’s done.

A presence on the ground

“I don’t believe advertising your business will generate positive word of mouth unless you invest in activities where you can get involved. Rather than an ad in the local paper, I’ve sponsored the local footy club, the local school and neighbourhood fairs - places where I can be on the ground.

“People won’t remember my logo, or my business, if they can’t put a face to it. There’s no point spending money if my community can’t meet me and get to know me. Experiences with a person is what people will remember and what they’ll talk to their friends about."

Adding a personal touch

“I knew I had to create a business with personality, otherwise it wouldn’t be memorable and people wouldn’t talk about it. I chose honesty as the trait I wanted to be remembered for. It meant there are some people who don’t like what I say to them, but most appreciate an open, honest conversation.

“My commitment to honesty means that I do the right thing. I don’t put my clients in a worse position, I don’t recommend things that they don’t need or could get them in trouble down the track, like credit cards. I explain things openly, I’ll spend two hours with a new client if I have to. People won’t remember what you said, they’ll remember how you made them feel. If I’m helping them they no reason not to recommend me.”

Accept the invitation

“I spend a lot of time with my customers, and I end up knowing a lot about them. I’ve found that we often become friendly and they’ll invite me to their housewarming once they’ve moved into their new home. I always make sure I go along. It’s an opportunity to meet their family and friends as well as deepen our personal relationship.

“Some clients feel so close to me that I even get invited to their birthday parties and religious events. By becoming another friend to them, I’m creating a relationship that’s built on trust, and people will recommend a person they trust.”

Developing the right professional relationships

“I’ve aligned myself with a highly respected agent who has lived in Cannington his whole life. He is known for his honesty, and he knows everything about the area. Our relationship has developed to the point where even with his buyers who have gone straight to a bank for their pre-approval, he still encourages them to come and see me.

“Being partnered with a well-known local business identity helps connect me with more people, and it shows the neighbourhood that I operate under the same ethics he does, doing great things for my own reputation.”