How to Increase Your Word of Mouth Referrals
Back when I was young and foolish - now I'm just the latter - I wrote for an educational children's show that achieved critical acclaim, a Peabody, but no commercial success.
While I wasn't too concerned about what the future held, my co-writer, an older woman, most certainly was. While I focused on and made it my job to write scripts, she made it her job to write scripts and collect emails from everybody. This included everyone that we met in relation to the show: producers, actors, engineers, big names at award banquets, you name it.
In a genius move of self-promotion without even the benefit of a marketing degree, anyone remotely associated with show business who was willing to share an email received, in return, bi-monthly issue of 'Close Personal Friends,' a newsletter ostensibly about show business, but really about her. As for me, I declined. I liked her and we got along well, but I'm an introvert and just didn't want to be bothered with networking.
When last I heard, she is now out in Hollywood writing scripts for a hit show and I'm writing this for you. Can you hear me sigh from where you are? (Introverts sigh a lot, you know.)
So what's the moral of my little story? Well, even if you're an introvert, you still have to summon some extroversion from somewhere inside you and market yourself. In other words, if you're even willing to talk about yourself, you can't simply expect others to do it for you, no matter how good your scripts are. Word of mouth matters. Networking matters. And in the end, what really matters is that they culminate in word of mouth referrals.
Whether you're a freelance writer or the owner of an online store. It doesn't matter. What matters is that people, (i.e. potential customers or employers), are aware you're there and how good you are. So, self-promotion, here are some tips on how to get good at it, written from someone who could have used the advice ten years ago.
Networking Begins at Home
Networking, like charity, begins at home. Your family and friends, neighbors and acquaintances, are more than just your family and friends, neighbors and acquaintances: They are your marketing force. Without being annoying about it, admittedly a bit of a trick that, make sure these folks know about the great work you do and can accurately and convincingly relate it to others.
To test them, try donning a fake mustache, dark cape, and low-brimmed fedora and, in a fake Italian accent, ask around the neighborhood about yourself; just don't get caught as that would definitely risk being annoying.
Don't be a wallflower at work. If there's a professional association for your industry, join it. If there's a newsletter, subscribe. Even better, if possible, contribute, making sure you get a byline. The idea is to get your name out there. If there's a little league in your area, sponsor a team.
Your business name goes on the back of the jerseys and, at games, what a great way to start up conversations with parents. I see your kid's wearing my company logo. What a star. I could use a kid like that when he grows up. Feel free to butter up the parents a little, just don't overdue it.
Start a Blog
A blog need not be complicated, in fact, it would be better if you keep it simple. However, like my former colleague's Close Personal Friend concept, a blog would allow you to easily showcase your knowledge in your field. Think about it. How impressed would you be if you were to attend a professional conference and a speaker pulls up her blog on the web and shares a power point presentation which succinctly and effectively covers a relevant issue in your field? There's no reason why you can't do that as well.
Further, a blog is a great way to keep in touch, allowing former colleagues and customers to log on and view an event, article or website of interest. A blog is also a GREAT way to give back, helping those who have helped you. You can post an article extolling the work of a colleague along with that person's email allowing those interested to contact that person directly.
Walk the Talk
Finally, the most important rule for generating great word of mouth buzz is to genuinely be good at what you do. Remember, there are two kinds of chatty customers who will spread your name around like warm butter on hot bread: unhappy ones and happy ones. To get the latter kind, do a great job on time and at a fair cost, but don't neglect the little things: doing an unsolicited little something extra for the customer at no extra cost and 'Thank You for Letting Us Serve You' card in your customer's mailbox.
What the little things might cost you in time, extra materials and a postage stamp, they will more than make up for in generating an advocate of your services in a satisfied customer. Encourage these customers then to pass along your name to others and, if you can afford it, even offer them a small referral fee for any paying customer that they can send your way.
Just remember, do right by others and, generally speaking, they will do right by you. Do your best to give great referrals to those who have done good work for you and send them more business and, human nature being what it is, there's a good chance that they'll do the same for you.
Guest Post By: William Harwood