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The power of ‘word-of-mouth’ referrals

the power of word of mouth referrals

There is more to having a successful hypnotherapy practice than having awesome qualifications and a great website (although they are useful!) No matter how amazing you are at what you do, you will need clients to work with, and there are a number of ways that clients will search for hypnotherapists. It is important that a hypnotherapist considers these within their overall marketing and advertising strategies, because people need to be able to find you, to know that you exist. There are three common ways that someone might find a hypnotherapist: word-of-mouth, local advertising and the internet. Which order their search will take will often depend on a person’s usual way of gathering information and there can be some crossover (for example, someone might use a local neighbourhood app, or a local Facebook group, to ask for a word-of-mouth recommendation). This blog is going to focus on word-of-mouth marketing approaches. We will cover local advertising and internet-based advertising later, in separate blogs.

Imagine that ‘Mary’ is a potential client that lives in your local area. Mary has a phobia of flying and wants to be able to go on holiday with her family in a few weeks’ time, and she is looking for a therapist to help her overcome this issue. Now, you might think that she would automatically undertake an internet search and pick the therapist with the best website or credentials (maybe you), but in many cases, that doesn’t happen. This is because, one of the most common ways of finding a solution to a problem is to ask people you know, or those who you think may have an answer.

Do you remember having an amazing meal at a local restaurant, and then telling all your friends about it? Or, perhaps you may have been looking for a good movie to watch, and you asked a friend for suggestions of what they have enjoyed? People ask friends, family and colleagues for information and advice all the time. You may be surprised at quite how common and how influential personal recommendations are.

Word-of-mouth is perhaps the strongest form of marketing. Not only is there no direct cost involved (helpful for a hypnotherapist’s budget), but it incorporates social proof in the form of a positive review of a client’s experience. A study in consumer trust found that 92% of people will consider a recommendation from a friend or family member as more credible that an advert. A report published in 2018 by Business Wire found 97% of people consider reviews before making a purchase. It seems that just having product/service information (e.g. on your website) is no longer sufficient. However, product/service information is still essential so that your clients can be informed as they make their way towards signing up with you. A personal referral helps someone think of you as a reputable practitioner, shortening the sales process, and completing the transitions from ‘awareness’ (of you) to ‘consideration’ (of using your services), through to ‘purchase’ (booking a session) and then ‘brand loyalty’ (recommending you to others/booking subsequent sessions) more smoothly.


Social proof

I just mentioned the term ‘social proof’ above, which is a popular term for peer evidence. Just for a moment imagine that you are on holiday looking for somewhere to eat. You come across a street with two restaurants next to each other. The first is packed with people, the second is totally empty. Which restaurant would you choose to eat at? As a rule, people like to follow the actions and choices of others. Common ways that hypnotherapists can make use of social proof include direct word-of-mouth recommendations, client testimonials, ‘influencer’ endorsements, online word-of-mouth recommendations (such as social media comments) and professional awards and other forms of recognition, where an external organisation promote your services as being high quality.

Studies show that social proof has even greater power when it is between people who know each other. A past client telling others how you helped them lose weight or stop smoking shows that you can work effectively. As such, it is a powerful component in your marketing strategy and something to be nurtured. Around 70% of people will say that a positive recommendation will generate trust in the service provider. As a result, it helps generate rapport before the prospective client even phones you or emails you with an enquiry about your services and, when they do contact you, it can feel as though they already know something about you. No longer are they contacting a stranger but someone their friend knows. This perceived familiarity can help you stand out from your local competition. An enquiry coming as a result of a recommendation is considered a ‘warm lead’. They have already been primed or warmed up for you as a result of their discussion with a trusted (by them) source.

Who would you prefer to contact, someone you found from an internet search but know nothing about, or another person with comparable services but who comes with a glowing recommendation? One of the wonderful things about hypnotherapy and its role in achieving positive change is that others will often be able to see the benefits and success for themselves. Your clients may no longer smoke, or may look healthier (even with before/after photos), or perhaps no longer scream if a bee/wasp flies past. These tangible changes that come as part of the hypnotherapy process, add visible evidence to verbal social proof.

Interestingly, social proof can be an even more effective form of advertising than ‘paid adverts’. This is because the recommendation tends to happen within a conversation where there is already rapport and mutual engagement. The recommendation is presented congruently and is therefore more likely to be well-received. Whereas, an advert can be encountered ‘cold’ and the style of the advert may not resonate as well with the individual.


A long term marketing solution

Social proof and word-of-mouth recommendations offer an organic method of naturally promoting information about your services. Apart from there being zero cost, another advantage of word-of-mouth marketing is that it is ongoing. People may not see more than one hypnotherapist in their life (especially if you are good at what you do), yet they will talk about a positive experience for many years. How can a hypnotherapist make use of this type of marketing? Apart from the obvious point of giving a great service, there are strategies you can employ to enhance your service, and thereby improve the chances that your client will remember and talk about you.

Firstly, keep connected with your clients. By making contact with clients weeks/months/years after the therapy session, you are offering great customer service, and it helps them feel that they are important. It might be that you keep them engaged (with their consent), with a useful seasonal newsletter or a quarterly beneficial MP3 or some other form of contact. This helps to build brand loyalty, as well as maintaining engagement. Interestingly, by encouraging clients to refer you to others, they are also more likely to come back to you for future work rather than go elsewhere. Those who give recommendations are generally more loyal, and have a higher ‘lifetime value’ as a customer.

Secondly, actively show that you value the fact that they’re sharing their positive experiences so that others can make the right choice. This strategy is also good when seeking formal reviews (e.g. for your website or review site). Even just sending a quick ‘thank you’ email can inspire the client to continue to spread the word about your services to others.


Word-of-mouth ‘referrals’

As well as direct word-of-mouth marketing, which is free (and not directly under your control), there is a form of personal recommendation which does have a cost element, and can be easier to control/monitor. This is sometimes called ‘referral marketing’ or ‘affiliate marketing’. The key difference is that word-of-mouth marketing happens naturally when clients promote you without any prompt or suggestion to do so, whilst referral marketing occurs when you incentivise or encourage others to talk about you. Here clients and other businesses are encouraged to refer clients to you and they receive a reward for each person who then becomes a client. This may be something as simple as a free relaxation MP3 for a past client, or a monetary reward for a local manicurist referring someone for hypnotherapy to overcome their nail-biting habit. As the reward is likely to be much less than the therapy session fee, there is a high level of return on investment (ROI) with this approach. However, for this to work well, the ‘reward’ needs to be large enough so that it’s worth doing – £5 probably isn’t going to cut it!


VIP word-of-mouth

A final version of ‘word-of-mouth’ is influencer marketing and gaining endorsements from celebrities and social media influencers. Influencer-based marketing strategies are becoming increasingly common on social media, although there are also social influencers in many more environments than you might think, from the ‘mum who is well-connected’ and gets a discount from her hairdresser to recommend friends, through to the local newspaper’s editor or social commentator and the local radio DJ, all sharing their views. There are advantages and disadvantages to this form of social proof. From a positive perspective, these influencers will have a wide following of people who have likely already connected on some level with the influencer. However, there will be less of a personal connection than with a family or friends’ recommendation. Influencer marketing on some social media platforms is particularly effective. For example, a report indicated that users trusted influencers on Twitter almost as much as their friends, with a reported 5.2 times increase in purchase intent after seeing promotional content from particular influencers with whom they resonate. It is also reported that there is 8 times more engagement in content shared by influencers that that shared directly by brands. However, there is now a growing trend towards more ‘authentic’ influencing rather than blatant advertising approaches.

For a hypnotherapist, you may wish to do some research and find out who your local influencers are. Consider whether they are already talking about similar things or complementary things that can be related to your service, as well as whether their personal brand (or ‘ethos’) is compatible with yours.

The various methods for word-of-mouth marketing are generally highly cost-effective and have minimal ‘time demands’ on an ongoing basis. Give your clients a reason to vouch for you. Having a great quality service is a good start, helping the client recognise their own success story can help add personal validation. Remember though, rather than assume clients are always thinking about you or will remember you, keep them engaged and make it as easy as possible for people to recommend you. The results will pay dividends in the end!


We hope that this blog about the power of word-of-mouth referrals has been helpful. If you have any questions about this topic or anything else for that matter, do please get in touch, because we’re always happy to help!

– written by Dr Kate Beaven-Marks
(HypnoTC Director)

Dr Kate Beaven-Marks HypnoTC the Hypnotherapy Training Company

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