Archive for Referral Marketing

LinkedIn’s New Navigation Bar

LinkedIn

LinkedIn has been making a lot of changes and updates to their user interface recently, so things may look a little different if you haven’t logged in recently. For the most part, I feel these changes make the interface cleaner and improve the product, but just like everyone else, it takes me a while to adjust when someone changes or moves “my stuff”.

Recent LinkedIn changes include:

LinkedIn has also made changes to the navigation menu, most notably making search more prominent and comprehensive. Here is a short video from the folk’s at LinkedIn demonstrating the updated navigation bar

LinkedIn just recently announced the update to the navigation bar, so it may be a while before you see these changes in your account.

LinkedIn Adds Facebook Like Mentions

LinkedIn

LinkedIn recently added a new, Facebook-like feature that allows you to mention others in your status updates and comments and have them be notified. LinkedIn actually announced mentions back on April 4. The functionality showed up in my account over the weekend, so most people probably have it by now.

How it Works
When you begin typing the name of one of your connections or a company in the status update box, a drop-down box will appear allowing you to select the person (or company) you want to mention. Here is an example of what it looks like when I begin to type the name of one of my connections (click the image to zoom in):

linkedin-mentions

Mentioning also works in comment boxes on the home page, making it easy to share and bring others into your online conversations. On the other end, the person that you mentioned will receive a notification so they can join your conversation.

The mentions dropdown box populates with your first-degree connections and other people engaged in conversations in the comment sections of homepage posts.

How will this help
Mentions are another tool to help foster communication online, so the possibilities for it’s use virtually unlimited. Here are a few ways I see small business owners taking advantage of mentions on LinkedIn:

  • Congratulating a customer who is in the news
  • Sharing a great blog post written by a strategic partner
  • Congratulating a connection on their new job
  • Sharing relevant news stories with your customers
  • Providing a referral “inline” with the conversation where a need is expressed
  • Recommending one of your connections for a job opening
  • Help highlight businesses in your local area

Those are just a few ideas. What ideas do you have for using mentions feature of LinkedIn?

How to Filter Connections on LinkedIn

[scroll down for a video demo of the steps in this post]

Have you ever tried to review someone’s LinkedIn contacts before a networking meeting to see if they know anyone you would like to meet?

If so, you’ll know that it can be difficult because most people active on LinkedIn have 100 or more connections (some have many more). Paging through their contacts 10 profiles at a time can be time consuming, particularly if you have to click through to the individual profiles in order to find basic information like their geographic location.

So what do you do? Recently I ran into some folks assigned the tasks of reviewing profiles to their admins or virtual assistants. Others have downloaded their contacts to an Excel spreadsheet and provided them to their strategic partners who could then use functions in Excel to sort and filter the data.

In most cases, you can save yourself a lot of time by taking advantages of LinkedIn’s search feature and the search related filters. The biggest trick to this can be finding the right starting place. I’m sure there is more than one way to do this, but the easiest way that I have found is to:

  1. Start by going to Advanced Search – click on “Advanced”, just to the right of the search box at the top right corner of the page.
  2. Enter the first and last name of the person whose connections you would like to view. Click the search button.
  3. Find the person you are looking for in the search results. Each search result consists of a “box” of information. At the bottom of the box you will see an indication of the total connections that person has. Hovering your mouse over that number should reveal a tool tip that says “View all connections” – click on that link.
  4. You should now be viewing a search results page displaying all of the connections for the person your began with. Look on the left hand side of the page and you will see a series of filters (check boxes, text boxes, etc.) that you can use to narrow down the search results. The number of filters you can use will depend upon whether you have a free or premium (paid) LinkedIn account. If you have a free account, you will be able to narrow the results using the following filters:
  • Company Name
  • Connection Level
  • Location
  • Industry
  • Past Company
  • School
  • Profile Language

If you have a premium version of LinkedIn, you can also filter the your search results by:

  • Group Membership
  • Years of Experience
  • Function (Sales, Finance, etc.)
  • Seniority Level (CxO, VP, etc.)
  • Company Size
  • Fortune 1000
  • Recently Joined

Let’s pretend I’m meeting my friend Dan (I use Dan in the sample video below) to determine how we can help each other grow our business, specifically, if we can introduce one another to prospects we would like to meet. Rather than trying to wade through Dan’s 500+ connections, I can use the search filters to come up with a very targeted list of people he knows that I would like to meet.

Let’s pretend that I only want to meet local people (I don’t but we’ll pretend for this post). The first thing I might do is check the Kansas City box in the location area of the filters. With a premium account, I could also narrow the list down to owners, presidents, and vice presidents if that is my target market.

Another thing I like to do is check the “2nd Connections” box. I found this a little confusing to begin with, but what this does is remove the people in Dan’s contact list with whom I already have a 1st degree connection. This works because the connections filter refers to my 2nd connections, not Dan’s.

Here is a short video demonstrating this:

Now that you know how to filter an individual’s connection list, hopefully you can spend less time preparing for you one-on-one networking meetings and more time making business building connections.

Word of Mouth Marketing: Book Review

Andy Sernovitz’s Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking (Amazon link) is a practical, hands-on guide to building your business through word of mouth marketing.

Word of mouth marketing isn’t something is difficult to do – you just need to 1) get started, 2) do it consistently, and 3) pay attention to what is working, what isn’t, and adjust accordingly. Andy’s book give you the tools and advice you need to do those three things. Here is a quick overview of what you will find in the book.

The first part of the book outlines the “essential concepts” of word of mouth marketing. Chapter 1 defines word of mouth marketing, outlines what makes it work (and what doesn’t), and explains how word of mouth marketing is most likely already your best source of business, even if you have been calling it something else.

Chapter 2 discusses the “deep stuff” relative to marketing and the increasing importance of word of mouth in growing your business. Part 1 of the book wraps up with a Word of Mouth Marketing Manifesto – 13 key points to keep in mind when designing and operating your word of mouth marketing campaigns.

Part 2 of the book focuses on “how to do it”, namely, how to implement Sernovitz’s 5 T’s of word of mouth marketing:

  1. Talkers – those who will tell their friends about you
  2. Topics – what they will talk about
  3. Tools – you can use to make it easier for the message to travel
  4. Taking part – or joining the conversation
  5. Tracking – measuring and understanding what is being said about you

The book provides several examples and worksheets to help you use these 5 T’s to implement your own word of mouth marketing campaign. You can also download the worksheets from the books website – http://wordofmouthbook.com

Other Notes

I think this is my favorite take away from the book:

“… if you choose to be a better business, you will do bigger business.”

and my second favorite quote is:

“Advertising is the cost of being boring.”

Don’t be boring, it’s too expensive.

How does Word of Mouth Marketing apply to small business and independent professionals?

This probably (hopefully?) seems like a silly question because, as pointed out on page 32, word of mouth has always been your best marketing.

So pick up a copy of Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking, and choose to be a better business.

One last note

While this book isn’t about social media, per se, if you are looking for guidelines for creating a social media policy for your business, take a look at the Honesty ROI starting on page 27. In this case, ROI stands for relationship (say who you’re representing), opinion (only say what you really believe), and identity (never lie about who you are). Following these simple rules and teaching them to your employees is a great social media policy as well as for building a business people want to talk about.

Dan Sullivan’s Referability Habits

Referrals play a key part in every small business marketing system. In fact, for many business owners and professional service providers, a strong referral system may be the only marketing needed to meet their goals. In Duct Tape Marketing we emphasize the importance of referrals as on of the main players in our lead generation trio (along with advertising and public relations).

I often write about various tools and techniques for implementing a referral system on this blog. These tips usually consist of ways to identify referral partners, techniques for having conversations about referrals, and tools for helping us consistently stay in touch and follow up with our referral partners. But what about us, personally. Are we referable? Have you ever stopped to think about what makes a person referable?

Over the weekend I was listening to an interview with Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach. In the interview, Dan talked about his concept of referability — being someone whom your best customers want to introduce to other people like them. He further outlined these 4 “Referability Habits”:

  1. Show up on time.
  2. Do what you say.
  3. Finish what you start.
  4. Say please and thank you.

Sounds simple, right? Simple, but maybe not all that easy to deliver upon day in and day out.

We hear a lot of talk about the importance of building relationships. Most of us think of this as common sense but we are often unsure how to go about doing it. I believe whether or not you follow Sullivan’s 4 habits will determine whether you make (or break) your relationships – both personal and professional.

Focus on relationships by making these 4 habits and integral part of your daily life and your business will rise along with your “referability”.

Getting Better Results from Your Networking Efforts

Networking, whether in person or online, is still one of the most effective ways for lawyers, accountants, and other service based companies to build their business. However, many of these folks are frustrated by their ability to get consistent results from their networking efforts.

business networking handshakeA common scenario that I hear when talking to business owners is that they meet people at networking events, they have a nice follow up meeting (coffee, phone call, lunch etc.) but nothing ever happens after that.

One of the challenges is that in order to get referrals, people have to be thinking of us when they meet someone who we can help. In other words we have to be “top of mind” before the need arises if we want them to remember us when the need does arise.

Achieving Top of Mind Status

In order to achieve “top of mind” status with someone you recently met, you need to interact with them at a higher frequency than you do once they have gotten to know you. A good rule of thumb to start with is to interact with a new connection 4 times in the first 30 days after you meet them. Here is a sample schedule of what that may look like:

  • Week 1 – Invite them to connect on LinkedIn
  • Week 2 – Share an article or resource
  • Week 3 – Introduce them to someone in your network
  • Week 4 – Invite them to attend a networking event with you

Some of these items may not make sense for your business or circumstances, but you get the idea.

As you go through the process above, you should be evaluating whether or not this  is a person who should remain in your relationship building system. Not everyone will be a good fit for your business and it is important that you have enough time to cultivate the ones who are a good fit.

Staying Top of Mind

Networking - Staying top of mindOnce you have achieved top of mind status, you must continue to cultivate your relationship if you want to remain there. The good news is staying top of mind requires less effort than getting there in the first place. The key is to be consistent and to continue to provide value.

Two of my favorite tactics for maintaining Top of Mind Status are:

1. Newsletter – consistently reaching out via a newsletter is a great way to stay top of mind with your strategic partners. People often reply to my newsletter with a message that is unrelated to the content of the newsletter. The newsletter reminded them of something they wanted to talk to me about so they just hit “reply”.

2. Quarterly phone call – or some other form of personal interaction is also a great way to remain top of mind. Use your CRM system to keep track of your interactions and to schedule your quarterly calls.

Of course, phone calls are only one way to reinforce your relationship through personal interactions. Here are a few other tactics you can use:

  • Lunches
  • Personal Notes
  • Introductions to people in your network
  • Articles
  • Special Reports
  • Commenting on and\or sharing information via social media

Create a systematic approach to achieve top of mind status and remain there and you will start to generate quality referrals on a more consistent basis.

What are some of your favorite ways to cultivate relationships with prospects, customers, and referral partners?

Get More Referrals With This Free E-Course

ReferralTipsDid you resolve to generate more business from referrals this year? If so, you will want to grab this free e-course, 5 Tips For Successful Referral Marketing.

The e-course consists of five lessons, delivered via email, that will show you some proven techniques for generating high quality referrals on a consistent basis.

Here is a quick outline of what you will learn:

  • How to get referrals even if you are just starting out or when you are trying to break into a new market or industry
  • How to increase referrals while providing value to your community
  • The six components of a fully functioning referral marketing system
  • 5 real life examples of successful referral systems
  • One referral tactic that could become your core point of differentiation

The course is completely free. I’m not going to try to sell you anything at the end of the course. I’m not even going to automatically add you to a mailing list (I will invite you to my newsletter, but it will be up to you).

So go grab your 5 Tips For Successful Referral Marketing and start generating more business today.

Marketing Between the Sale and Delivery

easybuttonLast week I participated in a conversation on Facebook about a topic that I that I think a lot of business owners face, so I thought I would share it here.

The gist of the conversation had to do with the fact no matter how clearly we try to spell out the terms and conditions of our services, most people don’t read them before finalizing their purchase. The frustration comes when something happens that surprises the customer causing them to complain, even though it was clearly outlined in the terms and conditions.

While we can’t please everyone 100% of the time, I think marketing can help reduce this frustration and improve the overall buying experience with something I’ll call, for lack of a better term, marketing between the sale and delivery.

When we think of marketing as a synonym for selling, then marketing between the sale and delivery may seem inappropriate for addressing this situation – particularly in a B2B setting.

If we think of marketing as education, communication, and expectation setting, then I believe marketing has a lot to offer in addressing the issue outlined above. We worked hard to create expectations via marketing before the sale; we need to continue setting and managing expectations after the sale.

“But I already outlined exactly what will happen and what they should expect.” you say. I’m sure you have, but just like other forms of marketing, communication, and education, you message is more effective when delivered more than once and using different media.

It is important to remember that when someone buys your product or service, they have a lot of other things going on in their life. I’m sure you are a busy person – let me ask you a question. Would you rather have another project put on your plate or have 2 items added to your action list for today? Most people that I know would opt for the 2 action items; they don’t have time for another “project”, even if they don’t know that that entails.

Are you giving your new customer a project? If you give me a 3 page document of terms and conditions, you’ve given me a project. I need to ready it, figure out what I need to do, figure out what order to do them in, schedule them, and complete them.

Regular readers here know that I like to talk about the difference between being efficient and effective. Documenting a list or terms and conditions and including them in an information packet that is given to the customer at the time of the sale is an example of being efficient. Taking the time, before, during, and after the sale to make sure the customer knows exactly what to expect and what is expected of them is being effective. Being effective will get you more repeat businesses and more referrals.

You can still be efficient. Many of the marketing technologies you used to make the sale (i.e. email marketing, mobile marketing, direct mail, etc.) can also be used after the sale. Use these tools to deliver information in small, bite-sized chunks of information that people can quickly consume and act upon. Rather than giving me a project, give me a task, complete with a deadline and the resources I need to complete the task. Wow, you made it super easy for me to get that done, thank you.

In Duct Tape Marketing, we are fond of saying that if you want to get business from referrals you need a referable business. Use the time between the sale and delivery to separate yourself from your competitors and become a business that people love to refer.

Using CRM To Be A Better Connector

Whether you call it networking, word-of-mouth, or referral marketing, making new contacts through people you already know is a big part of building a professional services firm.

Most sales and marketing databases, whether a complex CRM system or a simple spread spreadsheet, provide some way for tracking referrals. They tend focus on the receiving side of referrals, providing standard fields like “referral source”. Since the golden rule of networking is “Givers Get”, I believe our tools should also help us manage the giving side of networking as well.  I find that adding a few extra fields to my database can really help me be a better connector of people in my network.

Industry/Area of Expertise – I’m sure you are every bit as busy (if not more so) as I am. I don’t know about you, but the more time it takes me to find and contact the appropriate person in my network, the less likely it is to happen. Being able to quickly identify and introduce the right people in your network will go a long way to helping you become the person people turn to when they have a need. Since people tend to express their needs in terms of industry and\or need (I need a vet who specializes in horses), that is typically how I will search, so I’ve added a few custom fields to my database to capture and search on this information.

The ideal customer profile of the person I’m  referring – The other side of the coin to making good referrals is making sure the person I’m referring actually helps the type of person I am referring to them. In the example above, if I am referring someone with a horse problem to a dog vet, I’m not doing either one of them any good. Therefore, I like capture some notes about the type of customers my contacts help along with the particular problems they solve for these customers.

The referral relationship – I like to follow up and make sure I am doing a good job of making referrals, so I like to store information about the connections I have facilitated. I also like to capture similar information when someone sends a referral to me. In addition to helping me manage my follow up activities, this information helps me know who my best referral sources are as well as what other services my customers typically need.

Different CRM systems have different ways of customizing the data you capture and reports you create but I think you will find that most will allow you to capture the data mentioned above and help you become a better connector of people in your network.

What other information to you keep track of to help you be a better connector?

5 Ways to Use Your CRM System to Get More Referrals

ShakingHandsMost professional service firms rely heavily on referrals to grow their business. Having a systematic process for requesting, giving, and following up on referrals is essential if you want to consistently receive quality referrals. When designed and used properly, your sales and marketing database can be your secret weapon for giving and receiving referrals. Here are five ways you can use your database to get more referrals:

  1. Achieve top of mind status – Have you ever had a coffee or lunch meeting with someone who you thought would be a good referral partner but the relationship never developed? When developing new referral relationships, it generally takes more contacts or “touches” early in the relationship to help you establish top of mind status. Use your database to record things you learned about your contact in your meeting (their needs, likes, contact preferences, etc.) and set up a reminder system to contact them 3 or 4 times in the first 30 days. Rather than calling to “check in”, use the information you recorded to provide them with helpful resources and connections.
  2. Stay top of mind – by having your system remind you to touch base with your contacts on a regular basis. The more relevant your stay in touch messages are, the more effective they will be, so use the information you have captured about their likes, interests, and preferences to deliver relevant and effective messages.
  3. Quickly identify people by expertise and relationship – One of the keys to building your business through referrals is to give referrals to others. Having a database that allows you to quickly identify and connect people in your network who will benefit from meeting one another will help you become the “go to” person people turn to when they are looking for help.
  4. Provide feedback on referrals you have received – if you want to improve the quality of the referrals you receive, it’s important to provide feedback to your referral sources. Set up your database to remind you to always provide feedback to your referral sources. Let them know why someone was a good referral and how you were able to help them. If they referred someone who was not a good fit, take responsibility for that by explaining that you haven’t done a good job of educating them about how to spot your ideal customer. Thank them for the referral and explain who it is you are best suited to help.
  5. Know and nurture your best referral sources – do you know where your most profitable customers come from? Many of us can name our top referral source, but may struggle to name the 4th or 5th best source. Focusing attention on those who already refer us is often more productive than looking for new sources.

photo credit: Nicola Corboy on Flickr