Marketing Ideas Small Business Owners Can Use to Get More Referrals

Many professionals and small business owners want more referrals. They know referrals are a big part of their marketing strategy.   However, many people are reluctant to ask for referrals. It makes them feel needy, greedy or pushy.  But it doesn’t have to be that way!

What is the number one question people ask you?  It doesn’t matter what you do for a living.  The question is always the same.  Ready?  It is:  “How are you?” 
 
If you are like just about everyone, your answer is always the same: “Fine.”  That is a dead-end street.  Next time, use that as an opportunity to talk about your business. 

 
Try something like: 
 
“I’m great.  I’m working with a new client who (describe your client).  I’m helping him by (fill in what you are doing to help that client).  I really like working with people like that because (say why).”
 
Now here’s the important part. Ask for a referral.
 
“Do you know anyone who (describe your client again)?  If you do, let me know.  I’d love to help them, too.”
 
Need an example?   
 
Here’s something an accountant might say.
 
“I am great.  I am working with a client who wants to retire and sell her business in a few years.  I’m helping her get her finances order now, so she’ll be in good shape when she is ready to sell.  I like this type of project because I know with my help, she’s going to get a lot more money when she does sell her business.  Do you know any business owners who are nearing retirement age?  If you do, send them my way.  I’ll be happy to review their books and see if there are areas that need updating.”
 
Need another example? Here is something a restaurant owner could say.
 
“I am great! I just introduced a new menu. It has some heart-healthy entrees on it and my customers love it! I like providing food that tastes fabulous and is good for my customers, too. It makes me feel like I am really taking care of them. Do you know anyone who is interested in improving their eating habits? If you do, send them my way. Be sure they tell me they know you. I will be happy to give them extra-special treatment.”

 
With a little modification, you can also use this type of message in written communication (seasonal cards, e-mails, etc.) to your contacts. 
 
Give it a try!  You’ll soon find getting more referrals is a lot easier than you thought.

Key Small Business Tips for Success

Small business tips for starting your own business can put you on the path to financial success.

The SBA says that the term small business includes concerns that are organized to make a profit and have fewer than 500 employees. In this post, small business includes work at home, affiliate marketing, network marketing and online home based businesses, and I will explore small business tips to help you achieve your business goals. These tips will help you get customers and generate more sales quickly.

Here are key small business tips and questions to consider:

1. Why do you want to start a small business? Starting your own business requires commitment. So, don’t proceed to do so unless you are prepared for long hours and frustration while you are establishing your business. For many, enduring this is well worth the potential of financial security.

2. Will you market a product or service? A service business is one where you offer your expertise to clients. For a product business, you will need to offer a tangible product. Typically, a product business is more expensive to launch than a service business.

3. Do you have a simplified business plan? The thought of writing a business plan is intimidating to most aspiring entrepreneurs. However, it is possible to write a one-page plan that tells the what, who, how and where of your business. You should keep it simple. You can add details as you go. Just get it started.

4. Who is your customer? Describe your target customer in as much detail as possible. Know their needs and wants. Know how you can provide a solution to their problem. This profile will help you create a targeted marketing message and save you time and money in reaching prospects.

5. What is your pricing? Pricing is an art and a science. You need to cover your costs and generate a reasonable profit. Doing research to see what your competitors are charging can help.

6. Are you watching your costs? Many entrepreneurs tend to underestimate how long it will take for their small business to turn a profit. Don’t burden your business with too many costs too quickly. To keep costs to a minimum, hire interns and outsource or barter for services.

7. What’s your plan for getting customers? One of my coaches says the secret to business success is spending 85% of your time doing things that will lead to sales and 15% of your time doing everything else. You’ll need a marketing plan. How do you plan on attracting prospects and converting them to paying customers? Design your advertising to generate sales. Your advertising should always include an offer and an easy way for prospects to respond.

8. Are you using social media? More and more businesses are moving to social media because their prospects are on social media. Only about 25% of small businesses are using social media to build their business. So, creating a presence on social media will give you an edge. This typically means building a fan page on Facebook. There are many resources you can use to build a fan page.

Here are some small business tips to attract more customers online:

1. Be sure to add local content targeted for your specific area.
2. Make sure prospects can find you online and offline.
3. Be very clear about what your business offers.
4. Participate on social media consistently.
5. Watch what your competitors are doing. See what is working and what is not working.

These small business tips require you to be consistent. It takes persistence to establish a social media presence.

If you act on the small business tips above, you will increase your chances of success, you will effectively leverage your time, and promote your business profitably.

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!

5 Marketing Ideas Small Businesses Can Implement Now!

Small businesses often complain that a lack of budget restricts the opportunities to successfully market their businesses. Too often they confuse advertising with marketing and believe that placing an ad in the local newspaper will keep the customers coming in.

Below are five simple strategies that small businesses can implement TODAY. The cost to implement them is minimal if not free and they will do more to drive customers to your business than the majority of your current marketing activities. The list is by no means exhaustive, there are thousands of ideas out there but here are five to get you on your way.

1. Offer a guarantee

Guarantees often come in the form of money back guarantee. But by thinking laterally small businesses can provide guarantees that communicate their brand promise clearly and effectively. Guarantees also help to build trust, differentiate you from competitors and create a perception of a reduction in financial risk from the customer. Some examples include:

– Guarantee of product quality. “If your not completely satisfied with your haircut we will give you a full refund”
– Guarantee of service. “We will deliver your new bed tomorrow, guaranteed!”
– Guarantee of price. “We will beat any competitors advertised price by 10%”
– Guarantee of product range. “The largest range of lawnmowers in Sydney, guaranteed”
These are just some examples, the sky is really the limit but make sure your guarantee is strong and is consistent with your brand promise.

2. Create a simple special offer.

The best special offers are often the simplest. They can be as simple a offering a free item with every purchase or even a small gift for entering a store during a specific time. You can also cross promote with other retailers to drive customer traffic. Some ideas are:

If your targeting mothers aged 25-40 with your clothing store you could offer a free balloon (with your logo on it) to every child that comes into your store. It provides a positive experience for the mother and a useful point of distraction for the children so the mother can spend more time looking at (and buying) clothes. Offer a free coffee at a nearby coffee shop for every purchase over a certain value and provide products to the coffee shop for a reciprocal offer. Special offers don’t have to be expensive to, just try to make them valuable to your target audience and time sensitive to try and create a sense of urgency.

3. Start a loyalty program

When we think of loyalty programs we think of the Qantas Frequent Flyer Program or Woolworths Everyday Rewards amongst many others. The concept is the same in terms of generating customer loyalty but for small business they can be really simple. As an example, any coffee shop that does not have a “Buy 10 coffee’s and get one free” loyalty card available are losing revenue as we speak.

I’ve seen a coffee shop take this one step further and have a card file on the front counter where frequent coffee drinkers can leave their card. What a great idea! The card file ensures that their customers don’t forget to bring the card and that the card owner always returns to purchase the coffees. This idea can be applied across most small businesses including hairdressers, corner stores amongst many others. The key is to give your customers a reason to keep coming back to you and not your competitor.

4. Capture an email list of your best customers

Many local small businesses such as clothing stores, restaurants and hairdressers have a list of loyal customers that keep coming back time and time again. In many cases, the only contact small businesses have with these customers is when they return to the shop or salon. All small businesses should aim to capture a list of their best customers on the basis that they will be offered exclusive discounts and offers as part of being on the list. Wineries are particularly good at this where they offer exclusive vintages to their best customers. The winery is often able to sell through the vintage directly to the mailing list and the customer gets an exclusive wine that isn’t available at the local bottle shop. A win-win for both.

5. Host an exclusive event for loyal customers & friends

Loyal customers like your business already and by being loyal they are often the customers that generate positive conversations about your business. You need to make them feel special and give them an opportunity to introduce their friends to your business. Now that you’ve captured their email address, you can invite them and a friend to an exclusive event. Some thoughts are:

– An exclusive preview after trading hours of your stores new summer range of clothing with champagne, hors d’oeuvres and a 20% discount on all clothing. Exclusive only to those on your email list.
– You’ve just introduced a new type of manicure to the services you offer at your beauty salon. Invite your customers to an evening of free manicures and champagne to showcase the new service and say thanks for their continued loyalty.

Exclusive events are a great way to show your customers how much you value them and provide a great way to promote new offers within your business.

6. Under promise and over deliver

Yes it’s an oldy but still a goody. And to illustrate my point I only offered you five marketing ideas in the beginning but given you six. Over delivering does not have to cost you anything. It can really be anything that exceeds the expectations of your customers and creates a positive impression about your business. Some examples are:

– Tradesman that provide additional service over and above what was quoted.
– A discount given to loyal customers outside of sale periods.

The opportunities are endless. The benefits of over delivering are that it gives your loyal customers a reason to talk about your business. It also gives them a reason to recommend you to others and can stimulate referrals that lead to new customer relationships.

These six simple strategies are easy to implement and hopefully they have stimulated your creative juices to come up with ideas for your business. Let me know what you’ve come up with by leaving a comment.

Good luck!