This should not be a newsflash for business owners. Businesses have been advised to 'think outside the box' for years. But with the current market the way it is, you have to take it one step further. You have to drive your clients wild!
The differentiator is the relationship that you have with your current clients. They are the key to keeping your business alive and thriving. If they are happy, they stay and they will refer others to you as well. Concentrating on the connection between client referrals and the bond you form with your clients is essential.
When you drive your clients wild, they will be so impressed with you that they will simply want to introduce your business to their friends, family, and colleagues. Want to get in on the action? Read on for marketing tactics that will drive your clients wild (and win you plenty of referrals):
Become the Media
One of the most powerful ways to gain exposure, increase your credibility, and get people talking is to get media coverage. This can be difficult to do on a regular basis, though. Busy schedules and, well, work, can get in the way. And often times, people are hesitant to put themselves out there because they are unable to control what the media says about them.
One way to get publicity via the media and still have control over the content is to host your own radio show. In essence, you become the media; and you can do so by using some new tools that are available for free and right from your desk. One popular resource is the web-based company Blog Talk Radio (www.blogtalkradio.com), which hosts Internet talk radio shows that anyone can use easily – and for free. All you need is a computer and a phone.
This is a unique way to extend your brand and communicate with other experts, prospects, and advocates. By linking to your shows from your website, clients can listen online live or to archived recordings. They can even download your material to their iPods or other portable devices. There are countless advantages to employing a service like Blog Talk Radio to enhance your brand.
Say Hello (Again) to Seminars
Most businesses have written off seminars as an expensive strategy that has not been successful for quite some time. But the truth is that they are still working! From dinner seminars, to referral-based seminars, to the tried-and-true presentation; seminars are a great way to get your message – and expertise – in front of your target audience. And according to companies that are currently hosting these types of events, the response rates are up and the feedback is all positive.
If you want your clients and prospects to know what you can do for them, you have to tell them. Getting in front of a group of thought leaders and decision makers in your industry is a literal gold mine. If you can prove to them how knowledgeable you are, and how valuable your service or product can be to them, then you can create a very profitable relationship. Do not shy away from setting up an event or offering yourself as a speaker for your client’s events. Put yourself out there; you will not be disappointed.
Rake in the Referrals (without ever even asking!)
Have you ever sat through a workshop designed to improve your referral-generating skills? Did you develop your script, role play with others; ask yourself if you are referable, et cetera? Although this exercise can be extremely valuable for acquiring referrals, the reality is that most people would rather not ask their customers for referrals. With that in mind, there are two proven referral-generating strategies that do not require asking that every small business owner should know:
- Don't Miss the Boat: Similar to a client appreciation event, but the only people invited are those clients who have referred others to your business. The key is to hold a can’t-miss-it event that clients will want to attend again and again – meaning they will be prompted to make referrals again and again.
- The Fuel Card: The manner in which you thank clients who refer people to you can actually generate even more customers. If you send a small gift that the referrer can use right away, it will prompt those same clients to give more referrals. For example, if you send a $20 fuel card as a referral thank you, when do you think a client will use it? Right away! And who do you think they will be thinking of when they use it? You! Most of your good clients want to recommend you to others – they may just need a friendly reminder. A fuel card or other small gift provides them with an immediate reminder of you.
Ultimately, receiving recommendations is all about the way you make clients feel and how often that happens with positive results. Remember, referrals are a cornerstone to garnering new business, and you really cannot afford not to have them.
Make a Charitable Connection
If you want to take a slightly different approach to developing referrals from centers of influence in your business, consider focusing on your involvement with charitable events and causes. Instead of a more traditional gala or client appreciation dinner, offer instead the same date to a charity to do a fundraiser for them. In most cases the charity will be incredibly grateful – and may even hand over a list of the charity's top donors to invite them to your event, which means a list of potential clients being delivered right to your doorstep. Invite current clients as well and use the event as a great chance to get in a little one-on-
Hosting fundraisers, big or small, can create a winning situation for everyone involved. It allows you to develop many new relationships with high-net-worth individuals, and it enables the charity to raise valuable donations. It may turn into one of the best financial and personal investments you ever make.
Build a Better (Stronger!) Brand Through Awareness
The most successful businesses often have a strong brand that can be described very simply. Your brand is what people say about you. It is not your logo, tag line, or "elevator speech." It is how someone else describes you, your business, your staff, and your offerings. Your brand exists whether you like it or not, but you do have the power to control it. Your clients are the leading source for letting you know what people think your business is all about, and you can control your brand through your clients almost entirely through your communication with them.
Impactful contact with your clients leads to confidence and trust. It will differentiate you from others, make your clients feel important, give them something to talk about, and bring you the referrals you deserve. The stronger your brand, the more credible and visible you are, and the easier it becomes for others to do business with you.
Take Care of Your Community
Being an active member of the community establishes name recognition and positive awareness. It is no coincidence that many top businesses are also very involved in their towns and cities. It is almost like magic – when you give back and develop a positive brand as a good member of the community, business naturally comes your way. Consider taking a leadership role in your local Chamber of Commerce, sponsor a local charity or school, or volunteer to work a booth at the town's annual Fourth of July picnic. It is a great opportunity to meet new faces, to tell others about the work you do, and to support the community that, in turn, will support you.
Do not overlook the clients and potential clients who may be right under your nose. You can make big waves right in your own community if you simply take the time to reach out to them. Your involvement in the community around you will set the tone for how you are viewed by the people around you, and that makes a big impact towards building your brand and connecting on a very important level.
Make Waves on the World Wide Web
When a prospect or client searches for you online or arrives at your website, do they see what they want to see? Does the material you provide serve to answer their questions and meet (and hopefully exceed) their expectations? Most importantly, does it create a connection between the visitor and your business? Research shows that you have seven seconds to make a great first online impression, so you have to make sure that what you have in place is working for you. Here are a few key elements that every good website should have:
- A Clear, Concise Message. Make sure that your homepage has a clearly stated message that is specifically aimed at your target market.
- A Call to Action. The success of your site is determined by the amount of visitors you convert into customers. Create a call to action by offering something of value in exchange for their filling out information.
- A Thorough Evaluation. Find out if people searched for your site, what key word they used, how long they stayed, and if they were repeat or new visitors by using analytics software like Google Analytics (www.google.com/analytics). Use the information to continue to improve your homepage and entire site.
Be a Viral Video Star
Meeting with customers face-to-face is vital to earning more referrals, but can often be a difficult task given busy schedules, long distances, and the sheer number of customers you service. A new and innovative solution to this problem is to deliver messages to prospects and clients via video. Services like AdvisorTLC.com allow you to quickly and easily create and deliver personalized, emotional, and relevant video content to clients – and then send it through e-mail. You can use video for a number of things – to provide education; give referral introductions; transmit thank-you messages; and announce special events, wishes, product information, and updates.
The biggest benefit to using video – beyond crafting a more personalized message – is the ability to go viral. For example, one businessman videotaped himself singing 'Happy Birthday' – a video that each of his clients received via e-mail on their respective birthdays. He has already counted 14 referrals from clients who have passed it along to their family and friends!
Do Something Really Out of the Box
By now, you know that "thinking outside the box" is a valuable tool that, when done right, can set you apart from your competition. But in today's market, it is not good enough anymore. Everyone, especially your competition, is thinking outside the box, so you have to take it one step further in order to get noticed.
Sit down with your employees or business partner and have a brainstorming session. Do not throw out any ideas because they are "too out there." After all, sometimes you have to do something a little crazy or shocking to garner attention. And if you have the reputation and service to back you up, once you have people's attention, you will close the deal every time.
Think about what would get your attention if the tables were turned. One example is a business that sent a 'Show & Awe box' to qualified prospects. They delivered a box by private messenger that included a table of contents that described the box's items – a service guarantee, mission statement and a list of services, a package of Omaha Steaks, a referral worksheet, a temporary tattoo with the company name on it, and a Rolls-Royce Limousine Service certificate good for a ride to the office for the client's next appointment (among other things!). When a prospective client gets a box like this, they can hardly ignore it! A real 'out of the box idea' – with tangible results!
There are a lot of different methods for setting yourself apart and driving your clients wild. Do not let yourself become overwhelmed by trying to do them all at once.
Pick one that you think will work for your company and give yourself six months to a year to try it out. Focus on the task at hand and execute it well. If it does not work, try a new one. The key is to keep the ideas flowing and fresh, and to continue to make relationships a priority. Your clients will love you for it, and your business will be booming in no time.
Maribeth Kuzmeski is the founder of Red Zone Marketing, LLC, which consults with Fortune 500 firms on strategic marketing planning and business growth. An internationally recognized speaker, she shares the tactics that businesspeople use today to create more sustainable business relationships, sales, and marketing successes. She is also the author of four books, including, The Connectors: How the World’s Most Successful Businesspeople Build Relationships and Win Clients for Life. She has frequently appeared on TV and radio, and has written articles on marketing strategies for hundreds of publications including BusinessWeek and Entrepreneur. For more information, please visit www.redzonemarketing.com.