For any business, there simply is no better form of advertising than word-of-mouth—whether it be a friend on Twitter or a co-worker at the office. A personal referral from someone whose opinions others trust and respect goes a long way. If you’re a small business owner with a small or non-existent advertising and marketing budget, word-of-mouth referrals are your best friend.
There’s many ways to start and keep a positive buzz going around your business, but you can’t always control how and when the referrals will come about. Here’s my chick’s guide to show you how to attract high-value, low-cost word-of-mouth referrals.
Yes, we all either loved them or hated them in high school, but we’re past that now and we need a little Rah! Rah! in our business lives. So, work on building a team of supporters for your business—friends, family members and colleagues who are known to talk up your business to their friends and connections. Make sure that they know enough about your qualifications and capabilities to make an accurate and convincing case to others.
If you’re not sure your mom can explain your online business to a friend, just have her say you are very well known or that she knows you can help, then have her direct them to your website or blog to do the convincing.
Network, Network, Network
C’mon ladies, we are KNOWN for getting social and should be dominating the networking scene. Start getting involved with professional associations in or related to your niche. You’ll get to know experts and colleagues in your specific market. And, they may know of immediate or potential opportunities for your business. Other good networking opportunities include local or regional business associations, Chambers of Commerce and non-profits aligned with your field.
Capitalize on Your Current Clients and Customers
At the end of every successful project you should be thanking your customers for their support and making it clear that you would love to work and collaborate with them again in the future. Encourage them to pass along your name to others. You might even consider offering a discount to anyone they refer if your operating budget can handle it. Women love referring other women owned businesses, and we should!
Become the Source
This may not be what you want to hear if you’re struggling to make ends meet with your business right now, but do take advantage of opportunities by offering free presentations or articles to show your experience and capabilities. Start by contacting businesses, professional and community organizations and publications. Make sure that your presentation/article is relevant to listeners’ interests and not just a way to be a walking commercial. How many times have you sat through a “presentation” that was just plug after plug for someone’s coaching or other business? Don’t be that guy…errr, “chick”.
Communication Is Key
Everyone wants to believe that we are truly forming friendships and not just business partnerships. Show you care about your customers, don’t wait for them to call you. A nice email or call from time to time to see how things are going in both their professional and personal life goes a long way to show what type of person you are.
If you have a hard time remembering issues or trends they were dealing with, then make it a habit to take some quick notes on your phone or planner when you see them. That way the next time you call you can bring up some of the things you talked about. You can contact them to alert them to an event, article or Web site that they may be interested in. Also consider issuing a newsletter to current and prospective clients with relevant news, tips and other information that can help their business, or simply brighten their day. (Something I’ve been busy on these last few weeks to prepare for the next year. Be on the lookout!)
You Reap What You Sow
Don’t forget to be the one on the giving end whenever you can. This is what networking really is and truly what a “source” is all about. Every chick should have a network of colleagues and contacts that you can call on to give a little of the workload to. You may not have the experience or be able to provide the service someone is looking for, so always be ready and willing to refer one of your contacts. You’ll find this will almost always result in “reciprocal referrals” to you.
Do Your Best
When you find a nail salon that can get you in and out in 30 minutes or less, shape your nails perfectly, never once nick you with those nasty power files, and leave your fingers looking beautiful…what’s the first thing you want to do? I want to tell someone that I just found the best nail salon in town! There is no better source for a positive referral than a happy customer.
The quality of your service says as much about you as the quality of your product. Responsiveness, helping out with tight deadlines, and a willingness to do those all-important “little things” (working in small jobs for no charge) builds goodwill and a good reputation for your business.
That’s my chick’s guide to word of mouth referrals. Don’t be a stranger. Leave a comment with your best tips or just your feelings about what I shared here. If you run your own blog and would like me to do a reciprocal comment, I have to know you were here.
To Your Success,
December 17, 2009 16 Comments