Marketing Tip – Small Business Owners Need to Keep in Touch to Get More Referrals

The phone rings.  You answer it.  The person on the other line says, “Bob Smith suggested I call you.  He said you can help me.”  Ahhhh!  It’s a beautiful day!!!

How often does that happen to you?  Probably not often enough.  But with a little marketing planning, you can dramatically increase your referral business.  The result is bigger sales for your small business. The most important thing is to keep in touch with people on a regular, consistent basis.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  Most small business owners know they need to do these things.  But few have any type of marketing system for keeping in touch with the right people.  Even fewer small business owners know the right way to ask for referrals.

Who should be on your contact list?  

EVERYONE!  Past clients, prospects, business associates, friends, neighbors, even people who at one point thought they might use your services, then changed their mind.

The biggest mistake we make is to think, “Oh, those people know what my small business is. I don’t need to market to them.” 

Yes, your neighbor, your banker, and the people in your Rotary group probably do know about your business.  But when they think of you, they think of you walking the dog, making a deposit, or organizing a meeting. 
 
Because they don’t see you in your professional capacity, they don’t think of you that way–unless you use a smart marketing strategy to remind them.  And, as much as we’d like to think we are unforgettable to our past clients, they start to forget about us in as little as six weeks!

Obviously, when making a marketing plan to keep in touch with your contacts, time and budget need to be considered.  You will want to see some people once a week.  Others will simply get a monthly e-mail newsletter.  No matter what, talking about your business, mailing personal notes and cards, and sending regular e-mail newsletters to all of your contacts is vital to building business. 

 
By marketing to your contacts on a regular, consistent basis, you will ensure these people think of you whenever they hear of someone else who might need your product or service. The result? More referrals, more business and more sales!

Small Business Marketing Book Review – People and Your Business

What if somebody told you one critical key to business success was to practice the principle of the Golden Rule in your business? The idea seems to somehow run counter to so much of what we’ve been taught about business, doesn’t it? Yet, what if that same source convinced you through case-study after case-study that application of the Golden Rule in business actually leads to success?

Let us introduce Frederick Reichheld and his book The Loyalty Effect. While not a small business marketer, but rather an expert business consultant, what Reichheld teaches us about loyalty is worthwhile reading for any small business owner or manager.

Did we say “worthwhile”? Scratch that; pencil in the phrase “urgently essential”, instead. This book is that vital to a small company.

The Loyalty Effect focuses on three groups of people critical to business success: Customers, Employees, and Investors. For most small business, the investor is the owner, so for our brief review in this article we will focus on Customers and Employees.

Reichheld is a definite advocate of customer retention. He convincingly demonstrates time and again that small percentage increases in customer retention have huge impacts on profits. This read will be a just-right fit for those of you having problems focusing on the right customers. If you will take the time to trudge through this book, and really understand most of its principles (we found Chapter 8 to be the toughest) then not only will the marketing of your business improve, but so will your profits.

Isn’t that the reason for all this focus on marketing, anyway?

And Reichheld really opened our eyes to how important employees are in retaining customers. If a company treats their employees right, those employees become more efficient and productive in their daily tasks. Profits go up, retention increases.

Reichheld stresses again and again that a company’s prime mission needs to be creating customer value. Most of you in small business realize this, but it’s reaffirming to see hard-and-fast facts to back up what many of us intuitively know. Customers don’t come to a small business looking to boost our profits; they arrive seeking value. If we consistently create value, profit will come.

Another key point for small business owners is the importance of leadership. If you need to go down to the bookstore and browse through The Loyalty Effect before you buy it, flip over to page 246. Reichheld has studied several large and successful businesses, and concludes here that most of them had leaders with an “intuitive grasp” of how important loyalty is. This is critical for business success, regardless of business size. While not written to be a rah-rah inspirational book, Reichheld’s arguments and his examination of the role strong leaders play in forming great companies reinforces just how important to the bottom line it is for a small business owner to be a good leader.

So much of Reichheld’s book seemed familiar; akin to common sense…after we read it. Treat employees well and they’ll perform well for you; we’ll that’s pretty basic, now isn’t it? But we tend to forget, we tend to think we need to cut corners or just “improve efficiency” and that’ll lead to greater profits. In the short term it very well may, but Reichheld argues effectively that in the long run it’s only by creating value for our customer that we build profitable businesses.

Remember, People is the third element–along with Brand and Package–of any small business marketing success story. Taking a week or so and reading Frederick Reichheld over lunch or before lights out at night is a great way to hone your “people productivity”.

© 2006 Marketing Hawks

The Importance of Online Communities For Business

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” Albert Einstein. When it comes to sharing business content with your online communities, offering information to others that is of value will ultimately make your business successful.

There are many reasons why being a part of online communities contributes greatly to the success of your business.

  • Universal exposure: As part of an online community, you are able to reach people around the world and it is as though you are all in a room together, interacting on issues that are important and interesting to all of you. It is incredible that you are now capable (through social media) of reaching numerous people at once from one location. This allows you not only to market your business easily and successfully but also lets you do a large number of other things connected with your business. Remember that connecting with your online communities does not mean that you should be giving those people a hard sell. You should be sharing valuable information with them. You are educating the other people in your online communities about what you do and what you offer. You are allowing them to get to know you and your business.
  • Learning from others: As a member of an online community, you have the opportunity to learn new ways to market your business from other marketers. You should take advantage as much as possible of the expertise of other people who are members of your online communities and put their principles into practice, where appropriate.
  • Strategic partnerships: You will have many opportunities to form strategic partnerships with other members of your online communities. There will be a lot of synergies between you and others and if you find that your skills and expertise compliment those of people in your online communities, you should approach them and see how you can work together most effectively. Of course, you cannot form business partnerships with people unless you get to know them and they get to know you. Nobody will partner with another person unless they trust them and find them to be credible.
  • Make the most of your online communities: Remember that you need to market yourself and your business through your online communities. Make sure that your online profile is complete, which means that you need to include more details about yourself than your business. You should include a statement about your business but a more comprehensive discussion about your business offerings will occur after you have posted and syndicated your content.
  • Choose your online communities wisely: It is important to choose your online communities based on the members with whom you want to interact. It is not enough to choose an online community based solely on a demographic, ie, a geographic location or an age group. You should be very selective about your communities and make sure that the other members in your online communities have enough in common with you and your business and are really excited about interacting with you online.
  • Build your online relationships: It is very important to continue to develop relationships with those people with whom you interact online. A good way to do this is by continually sharing information with them that you feel they will find valuable and that will help them in some way. Not only will your online connections want to interact with you but they will also speak favorably about you to others online. The more comfortable and the closer your relationships with them become, the more opportunities you will eventually have of selling them your products and/or services. Make sure that you make the effort to not only establish the relationships but also make sure that you maintain them for the long term.

Conclusion

Being a member of online communities for business and continually establishing and maintaining online relationships is critical to the success of your business. With the extreme popularity of social media, many people are excited about interacting and developing relationships with others whom they feel they can trust and who they consider experts in their industry. At the heart of your success is the human element. Once people really get to know you and you get to know them, they will want what you are offering and will gladly tell others about what you are offering too.

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