Small business owners rate word-of-mouth referrals as their number one source of new customers by a considerable margin. Accordingly, you should focus the majority of your marketing efforts on activities driving more referrals to your business.
Market to Make Connections
Referrals happen when someone who knows and trusts you puts their reputation on the line for you and your business. So it’s not something to be left to chance. It’s important to use every opportunity to build connections with people who are likely to interact with potential customers for your business; these people will organically amplify your marketing.
Customer connections: Existing customers are a great source of referrals. Providing a memorable customer experience opens up the opportunity to make personal connections with your customers. A great trick is to ask yourself, “Is every customer who is walking away from my business leaving with a little nugget of knowledge they might share with others?” If not, you’ve got your first area for improvement: be memorable.
Business-owner connections: How many times have you heard, “Do you know a great …” When a business owner has built a connection with customers, that business owner often becomes the go-to resource for other local products and services. (You know…the realtor who helps find electricians, plumbers, and restaurants; or the spa owner who recommends the auto detailing shop next door to have your car detailed while you’re getting a massage.)
Ask yourself, “How’s my business network?” Aim to make one new solid business-owner connection each month. One of my favorite Alignable member stories is when a business owner looking through the directory of nearby business owners recognized one as someone from her morning exercise class. They had literally been working out next to each other in the same yoga class for months!
Stay Top-of-Mind With Your Connections
If you forget about your connections, they will forget about you. Staying top-of-mind on a regular basis is critical for building trusted relationships. Affordable communication platforms like email marketing and social networks make it easy to stay top-of-mind with your contacts.
At a minimum you should share something of interest with your connections at least once a month. You’re nurturing connections into relationships so it’s okay to share an upcoming promotion from time to time. However, you’ll be better served by sharing nuggets that arm your connections with things they can talk about with others.
For example, a retail kitchen store sharing how to properly sharpen knives or an accountant sharing tips on unknown deductions make great conversation starters or fodder for when your customers are out and about in town talking with other locals. Each month, your nuggets should be subtly designed to say, “Remember me? Here’s some cool knowledge you can share with others about me.”
Trusted Relationships Lead to Referrals
Eighty percent of most small business customers come from within a five-mile radius of the business. As you build relationships with customers and other nearby business owners, your local network has the potential to become a referral machine with nearby prospective customers.
Here are three tips for success:
- Refer to others. The best way to encourage others to refer their customers to you is for you to start the cycle by sending someone their way first.
- Stay top-of-mind on a monthly basis. Share something of interest with your network on a monthly basis to keep your business fresh in the minds of your network.
- Sharing isn’t selling. Resist the urge to always hit your network with your latest promotion. Instead, give them something to talk about with others– an upcoming event or even a nugget of knowledge from your experience is best.
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