With Content Marketing the Talk of the Town these days, Don't Abandon Ole' Reliable.

I don't need to tell you how much hard work and time can go into identifying the correct businesses or people to market to. You can have the greatest content in the world, but if you are putting it in front of the wrong people it will not do you any good.

One of the oldest, most reliable, and effective marketing tools out there is still Referral Marketing. Technology has definitely broadened the way we can use referral marketing, but never discount the weight that a literal word-of-mouth recommendation carries. Make no mistake, content marketing is blowing up, and if you ask most successful businesses today they will tell you that they expanded their budgets for it in 2018. This is a smart strategy, but you better have your target market dialed in, and referral marketing is one of the best ways to do this.

I think that is is safe to say that if someone is already a customer or client of yours that they are probably in your target market. Great! Now go hunting for another client that you think may be similar to them and spend some time and money to do so, right? Well not completely wrong, as you should always be always be looking for new business and strategically marketing as much as you can, however why not capitalize on the fact that you already hit the bulls eye right in the middle of your target?

Your current clients and customers are your ultimate CREDIBILITY resource, as long as you provide and excellent product, service, or experience that is. And while every human is unique in their own way, we tend to associate with others that at least share some of our same interests. Generally the same goes for businesses and the people that run them. When you do a great job, you open up a door to other potential clients, and you are armed with the best weapon (sales person) of all, the happy client!

Think about this....... Let's say you are a small business owner and your business is doing okay. But you really want to expand, or at least see what you need to do to expand and you are not sure where to start or how to expedite the process. While looking around online you see an ad posted for a business consultant that looks pretty good. You may even click on it and get some information on that company and it seems like a practical thing to explore. This is a fairly common occurrence and obviously the ad is doing it's job. However, a little later you are talking with one of your friends who's business is doing very well and just expanded, even hiring a bunch of new employees. They tell you about the small business consultant that they brought on and how well it was working out. You have decided that you are going to hire a small business consultant at this point, so now you are faced with a decision:

A.) Do I go with the ad that I saw and seemed like a pretty good idea?

B.) Do I call the small business consultant that produced terrific results that I can see with my own eyes, and is also highly recommended by someone that I know and trust?

Obviously the answer is B. This is a hypothetical scenario of course, and just used to prove a point. I'm sure if you were really going to hire a consultant with help on your expansion you would do a lot more research and ultimately have more than two options (at least I hope you would). The point still remains the same however, when faced with a buying decision, a referral from a source that you already trust will always carry more weight than any other type of marketing is capable of.

So now what?

I guess you could always just do a good job and hope that your clients and customers tell their family, friends, co-workers, etc. about you. If you are one of my competitors, I hope this is exactly what you do! Now, even without you trying, this will occasionally happen where you will gain business because a happy customer recommended you. It's great, you didn't have to lift a finger or spend a dime. But if you truly sit back and hope for this you are leaving money on the table.

If you don't have a referral marketing program in place it is time for you to do so. Start out simple with this plan. Use actual word of mouth by providing incentives to your current clients to spread the word. There are many ways to do this:

  • Offer something extra (additional product, extra service, bonus package, etc.) for the client and whomever the client refers

  • Offer a discount on the next product or service for your client, and the same discount for whomever they refer.

  • Offer a free product or service for a designated number of new clients that were referred by a current client

These are just three examples of ways to give incentives to get the word out about your business. Be creative with this and adjust the principles to make sense with whatever product or service you offer.

I referenced earlier that technology allows us to use referral marketing in an abundance of new ways. So now that you have the beginning of your program in place let's get a little more technical. The following snippet comes from and article written by Amy N Barkman for www.techfunnel.com . Click on Amy's name to see more of her article, or click on the website to go check out more insights and what they have to offer!

Social Media Referral Marketing

Social media is also a great way to easily spread the word about the products and services you offer because so many people share their thoughts about products and services and even share the products and services they love throughout social media. It is also handy when it comes to referral marketing and even refer-a-friend marketing. One way to use this type of referral marketing is to post something to your business social media page and then suggest people share it.

Now, any old boring post won’t do as it is likely to go unshared? Instead, post something engaging, something that will grab peoples’ attention, and perhaps even something with a prize attached. For example, post a photo of a gift basket or gift certificate from your business and suggest that every like/comment/share puts them in the running for the prize shown. Without even knowing it, people who may have never even stepped foot in your building are referring you to their network of people on social media. Hundreds, or potentially thousands, of new eyes are now noticing your social media presence.

There is not a faster way to reach that number of people with just one posting. You will also notice that Amy did mention content here as well. At this point referral marketing and content marketing merge. You will need that compelling content for this situation, or people will just scroll on by. Also, Literal word-of-mouth now turns to clicks and recommendations. That is perfectly fine however because in the same way you trust a recommendation from your neighbor, you had to choose to follow a particular account on social media, or subscribe to a particular blog or publication. While the same level of personal trust isn't there, something coming from that account compelled you to follow them, and keep following them. This will still carry more weight than other marketing tools.

Keep your social media up to date and post regularly. It is the only way to build to a point where you are reaching a high number of people consistently. Be patient, if your content is good, it will happen. Also, don't forget to have subscription pages, recommendation buttons, like buttons, and links to your social media on your website. When you use all of these together it will help drive traffic where you want it, but also gives people more ways to "get the word out".

Nerd is the new cool

You have yourself a fairly comprehensive referral marking program at this point. Use it to its fullest, add to it, and milk it for everything it is worth. And thanks to technology, it's easier to do just that by tracking where most of your referrals online are coming from (track your traditional word-of-mouth referrals too, but you'll have to do that yourself). This next snippet comes from Kristi Hines' blog posted on www.kissmetrics.com . You can click on Kristi's name to read the whole article, or on the website to see other postings. Or CLICK HERE to go to her personal website.

What Are Referral Paths?

In Google Analytics, when you view your Referrals under Traffic Sources, you see the main domains that traffic to your website originated from. When you click on any of these source domains, you see the specific pages where people found your links and clicked on them. These are the referral paths. While not all of these will be terribly informative, some do hold additional specific information about where your traffic is coming from.

Using analytics will help you see where most of your online referrals are coming from. This way you can focus on that particular path and make sure you stay active there. This does not mean that you should ignore the other paths. Maybe you just haven't found what works the best on that platform, or your following isn't as strong there. Work to build that as well, it is worth it when you can get all paths running strong.

Some of you might be reading this and thinking "way to point out the obvious, Drew". Six months ago I would have been thinking the same thing. However over these last few months the amount of businesses I have talked to that seemed to put this on the back burner for the latest "hot" new marketing ideas was a little bit worrisome. By default they were taking advantage of some of the online referral marketing strategies, but were completely taking for granted the personal interaction aspect of it, including literal word-of-mouth.

As usual I really enjoyed putting this together, and I hope you enjoy reading it just as much. Please pass this on to anyone you know that could get some use from it, and I look forward to seeing what you think.

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