Not too long ago I spent some time telling you how bad I was at selling. I can't think of a better way to spend a Friday morning, than to bash myself again. Well, maybe bash is a strong word. There's just another aspect of business that I've had to work at...it's just not something I find naturally easy.
That aspect is marketing. By marketing, I'm referring to the more traditional, Don Draper style of marketing. I'm not naturally good at coming up with a catch phrase and designing a visual marketing campaign around it. Thankfully, nobody looks for a bookkeeper to help them shoot their next commercial. If you're like me, and you run your own business, I've got good news for you. In the opinion of several people, including myself, this isn't the best way to find new clients and customers.
So, what's an introvert with a skill suppose to do? How do you grow your business if the idea of talking in front of a camera terrifies you?
Word of Mouth
There are 3 factors that led me to this post.
1. Life experience
No matter what crazy ideas I've had, or ads I've placed, most of my work over the years has come from a referral. Sometimes a current client will recommend me to a friend. More recently, I've had people read this blog, and recommend me to a friend.
This book really sums up what I probably knew, but just didn't know how to put into words. John Jantsch is the author of what has become one of my favourite business books. If you run your own business, but don't have a strategy to handle referrals, you should go get this book.
3. A recent post
I just read a good post at The Freelance Bookkeeper that talks about this very topic. It reminded me that I hadn't written about this before. Sure, it's about bookkeepers, but the information is quite universal.
Why is so effective?
It's simple, really. If you need a new car, do you trust the 53 spam emails from firstname.lastname@example.org telling you to buy a Toyota? Or do you listen to the one close friend who tells you that the Nissan they've had for the past 10 years has been amazing. Exactly.
The real beauty of this is what happens next. Are you really good at your trade, but lousy at marketing? Guess what? The thing that will guarantee you more referrals...is being really good at your trade. Your customers are much more likely to tell a friend because you did great work for them than because they really liked your newspaper ad.
Sure, if you are just starting out, and don't have any customers, you'll need to run some ads. But once you've got them in the door, the best way to grow is by treating them better than anyone else in your field does. A quality product will trump a big ad campaign. No matter how many times I see an ad for McDonald's, it will never make their burgers taste as good as the ones at Five Guys.
Do you have a referral strategy in your small business? I'd love to hear about it.