Your best marketing consultants are closer than you think, and they probably won’t charge you a penny. Your clients and customers can give you insight, advice and actual one-on-one marketing you couldn’t get anywhere else – at any price.

Here are just a few ways to make your customers part of your marketing team.

Build a powerful testimonial archive

Testimonials are one of the most persuasive marketing tools you can use. Always be on the lookout for testimonials and take an active role in soliciting them.

If someone expresses their pleasure in dealing with you, ask them to jot it down in a note and let you use it. Snap a photo while you’re at it to accompany the testimonial.

Send out notes asking for comments and for permission to use them.

Let ’em gripe

To improve your product or service – and your marketing – look at everything about your industry or market segment that frustrates or irritates customers.. Ask what bugs ’em. Experience their frustrations… then use this to improve your product and sales.

Do the same with your own product, service and customer service. If someone has a complaint or concern, take it to heart and make changes to avoid it happening again.

Ask customers to redesign your website

Your website should put your best foot forward and make things easy on your customers. Particularly if you offer e-commerce, your customers can let you know what works – and what doesn’t – to make their shopping experience a pleasure. Invite their feedback – explicitly – using a very brief survey or a single question asking for input on the browsing, shopping and checkout process.

Pre-test your keywords

To get people to your website, you want solid content with the right keywords and phrases peppered throughout. Ask your customers and clients what terms they’d use to search for products and services like yours. Test these on search engines, and see what results you get.

Discover your marketing edge

Being so close to your business, it can be tough to identify what makes you unique, interesting and attractive to your customers. So ask them! You may be surprised at what you find out.

Have happy customers? Get them to spread the word

Make it easy for customers to share their happy experience – online or on the street. Include social media links on your website to allow them to share info about your company. Consider printing an introductory offer on business card stock they can pass on.

Thank people when you do receive a referral from them. And considering offering incentives (a coupon or gift) for a sale attributed to one of your referrals.