The power of direct marketing is significant, but like all marketing methods it has its limits. Seeing an advertisement or hearing a commercial will certainly make an impression on a customer. However, the difference between the impact of a commercial ad versus a personal recommendation is significant and shouldn't be underestimated.
Consider the phenomenon that is word of mouth. The opinion of a close friend or family member on a company or service is likely to be infinitely more convincing than the hearsay of a promotional campaign. Most consumers have become skeptical of advertising and are more likely to trust a personal recommendation. It is an unfortunate truth, but it has an upside that provides an advantage to small businesses.
To harness the power of word of mouth, it's important for small businesses to identify their core customer base: the frequent patrons as well as the satisfied customers. Once identified, this essential portion of an organization's target demographic should be made to feel welcome and appreciated. Personalized business gifts, promotional products or gift certificates can be given to loyal consumers as tokens of appreciation. A fun process that will engage customers, such as choosing a customer of the month or of the week, will put the focus on the consumer and highlight a small business' focus on its patrons.
By whatever means it is accomplished, businesses that work to build a reputation among a group of customers will likely find that their efforts pay dividends. These individuals will be compelled to share their positive experiences through word of mouth, improving the reputation of the organization and building a larger customer base.