The Inbound Marketing Age has liberated e-savvy consumers to seek out businesses that will appropriately meet their needs, and criticize those who fall short. Creating a quality product is the first, and most important, step in building a business. It is also equally important to be a company worth talking about. Achieve these two difficult steps, connect the dots for your customers to their favorite social platforms and watch them start selling for you.
In a discussion with author and brand consultant John Jantsch, marketing philosopher Seth Godin discussed the importance of developing a corporate personality:
“If the marketplace isn’t talking about you, there’s a reason. The reason is that you’re boring. And you’re probably boring on purpose. You have boring pricing because that’s safer. You have a boring location because to do otherwise would be nuts. You have boring products because that’s what the market wants.”
Recall a time you directed someone to one of your favorite restaurants and they enjoyed their experience: making this referral was deeply satisfying, not unlike the rewarding feeling of giving a gift. In The Referral Engine Jantsch describes the psychological reason we refer to others: “The hypothalamus registers pleasure in doing good and being recognized for it, and it is home to the need to belong to something greater than ourselves. This is the social drive for making referrals.”
By going out of their way to vouch for your business, consumers are helping others make good decisions while simultaneously increasing their social status. Because the process is natural to our own self-interest, once you give your customers the right tools they will automatically generate word-of-mouth marketing.
5 Surefire Ways to Generate Referrals:
1. Listen to your employees.
The sum of all employees’ knowledge is greater than the knowledge of those making leadership decisions. In order to fill the holes of your referral system, ask your employees what they think. SIGMA recently asked its employees to define SIGMA’s brand in a variety of different ways. The end result was an eye-opening view into our employees’ perceptions of the company’s brand identity, which allowed leadership to locate areas to improve our referral strategy.
2. Treat your employees as you expect them to treat your customers.
Happy employees are much more likely to represent the brand in a positive manner, and they’re more likely to make positive emotional connections with clients. Employees who have the tools needed to generate referrals are the ones who bring in business. Make sure everyone knows what is special about your business and provide the vocabulary necessary for them to communicate this.
3. Encourage personality moments.
Rohit Barghava, author of *Personality not included, points out that every interaction with a customer is a chance for a personality moment. Every status report, package shipped, or customer service call is an opportunity for an employee to be creative and show their personality. A good example of this, from The Referral Engine, is a small coat manufacturer in Vermont called Isis for Women; they insert a tiny slip of paper in the coat pocket that reads “You are a goddess!” This clever act, just a small and inexpensive addition to the sale, is unrelated to the quality of the coat: it is something worth talking about.
4. Share your story.
Every company has started somewhere. Perhaps it has been owned by the same family for 100 years, or the founder dropped out of college to work on the business, or the business has grown slowly and steadily in the same location for many years. Whatever your story is, clients want to hear it; this fosters relation and understanding, further attracting them to the ideals your business represents. It is also important to ensure that each employee has an understanding of the story and can easily recite it.
Suggestion: Make a short video that describes your company’s mission, touches on your history and highlights some of your employees. It gives your brand a face and is easily shared online.
5. Focus on trust
According to Jantsch, a referral is almost always the direct result of an individual’s trust in the company. Consistency builds trust, and therefore the repetition of authentic results and meeting expectations are imperative. Mistakes can happen, and so when they do occur, work diligently to fix them. A customer who was once unhappy can become the person who sings your praises the loudest.
These five tools are only the start to creating a referral-based business. The first step is embracing the idea of inbound marketing and learning about the benefits of a referral-based business. Take some time to discuss the 5 steps listed above; decide whether your business is already utilizing any of these methods, and what you can do to develop a robust referral strategy - and a winning corporate personality.
About the Author:
Alex Weiser is a Marketing Analyst with SIGMA Marketing Group.